A group of intrepid adventure runners set out on what can only be described as a contender in the ultimate test of physical endurance at 7am on Sunday – and at the time of going to print on Monday two of them were still running.
And they have beaten the old record of 33 laps by completing 34. Just over 160 runners lined up at the starting line of the third edition of the Delta Backyard Ultra (DBU) at Delta Park in Randburg.
Competitors run consecutive loops of 6 706m in less than one hour. Each hour a new lap begins. If a runner doesn’t complete in the hour, they are eliminated.
If a runner finishes in, for example, 45 minutes, they can use the remaining time to rest and refuel. This continues until there is one runner remaining.
The winner of DBU 2022 takes home R20 000 cash from PSG Wealth Rosebank, an entry to Ultra-Trail Cape Town 2022 and a pair of Altra trail running shoes.
Running through the day and Sunday night, at 10am yesterday morning there were only three competitors remaining: Dr Jacov Lalou, who is running to raise funds for CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA; Tembinkosi Sojola, a previous winner of the Backyard Ultra in Durban; and Wandisile Nongodlwana, who recently competed in the Boston, New York and Chicago marathons.
At this stage, the runners had already completed 180km over the course in 27 hours.
And they were still looking strong. In the running community, this is a race that is endearingly referred to as “the race that never ends”. At 7pm, Nongodlwana dropped out.
Race director Martin Crous said the popularity of the race was growing each year.
In 2019 there were 26 entrants and in 2021 there were 46 competitors. The format was invented a few years ago by US ultra-running legend Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell, founder of the Barkley Marathons.
The race is particularly challenging mentally, not only due to constantly repeating the route, but also since there can only be one winner.
All other entrants record a DNF (did not finish) next to their name on the results list.