Czech runner Radek Brunner was satisfied with his epic performance in the Quarantine Backyard Ultra, but sad it ended due to a simple mistake.
The race was based on Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra in Tennessee. Runners complete a 6.7km loop every hour and keep going until just one person is left running. With lockdowns and travel restrictions in place, the race was held online via Zoom, with over 2,000 runners competing all over the world. The final two left standing were Michael Wardian, doing laps in his neighbourhood in Virginia, and Brunner on a treadmill in the Czech Republic.
Spectators watched live as Brunner stood ready for his 63rd lap, anticipating the buzzer. But time ticked by and he still stood still. The rules are clear – if you do not start the lap exactly on the hour, you are disqualified.
“My Zoom link with HQ was on my laptop. But the problem was, my laptop sound was muted because I slept between loops,” Brunner said. “And on the big screen I had no timer. It was my problem.”
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He was streaming the timer on his tablet, but there was a lag.
“All other laps I started with the laptop, this lap I started with the tablet and it was bad decision,” he said.
The race directors, from coaching company Personal Peak, called him and said he missed the buzzer. He explained why and they allowed him to go on, but called again to confirm he was disqualified.
“I know this situation was my mistake, only mine,” he said. “Maybe this decision from the race director was harsh, but OK, rules are rules and I agree with it. I was sad because I can run longer than 62 hours. And Mike too. We both wanted to push together over the 68-hour record.”
Wardian was awarded the victory with 63 hours, 422km, run.
“I was very sad. I don’t have anything against the rules of the race. But this one minute changed it all,” Brunner said. “It was very hard. But it’s the rules. And I am runner and I must race in harmony with rules.”
Brunner only decided to take part at the last minute. He registered two weeks before the race but he ran 54km only a couple of days before, thinking he would not compete. On the day, he decided to run with the aim of reaching midnight on the first day, a modest 10 hours.
“After a few hours I had problems with my knee, but after the next two or three it was better and I forgot about it,” he said. “Maybe I wanted to quit in some laps, when there were a lot of other runners. But when they dropped out and it was only with Mike, I wanted to win.”
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Behind the scenes at the Quarantine Backyard Ultra race HQ! @tschillerbrown is getting ready with @db.bowie for race start (with special appearance from our cat, Cat). T-13 hours! #PPQBYU #quarantinebackyardultra #qbstartline #catsofinstagram
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“It was great race. I am very satisfied to be in this race to the end,” Brunner said. “Maybe it will be the only big ultra race in first half of 2020 because all other races are cancelled.
“I think Mike and I can go for more than 62 hours,” Brunner added. “Maybe over 70 hours. But it must be a perfect day. Ultramarathon running is a very hard sport. If you don’t have a good day, the result will be bad. This day was perfect, but fortune changed it. Maybe some day in the future will be the same and I can go farther.”