Backyard ultra runners test their mettle

Spare a thought for some hardy athletes in Arrowtown this morning.

While we enjoyed our weekends — including sleep — a group of runners set off every hour, on the hour, for a 6.7km run, from Butler’s Green towards Bush Creek and back.

They will not stop until there is only one person standing, able to complete the lap within the 60-minute window.

The inaugural Arrowtown Backyard Ultra attracted a full-capacity field of 150 starters when the horn sounded at 9am on Saturday.

As of 7pm last night, just 11 remained.

Arrowtown Backyard Ultra organiser Brandon Purdue pictured with the trophy destined for the...
Arrowtown Backyard Ultra organiser Brandon Purdue pictured with the trophy destined for the winner of this year’s inaugural event, which was still going as the Otago Daily Times went to print last night. PHOTO: TRACEY ROXBURGH
However, event organiser Brandon Purdue was confident there would be at least two among that group capable of breaking the New Zealand record for a backyard ultra distance.

"If they can make it to 9am [today], that will be 48 hours, or 200 miles, and I’ve been saying for the past couple of months, with this course and this strong field, I think we can push 48 hours. The New Zealand record is 46."

While "everyone’s dead equal" during the event, Mr Purdue said it would be hard to go past Sam Harvey as the favourite to take the inaugural crown.

It has been a massive year for the Cantabrian, who, in June, ran for 101 hours and covered 677km in the Australian Masters Backyard Ultra in Dead Cow Gully to equal the world record.

The following month he won the Krayzie Midwinter Backyard Ultra, in Christchurch, in 43 hours covering 288km, beating Mr Purdue, and last month he competed in the world championships in the United States, pulling out after 91 laps (610km).

"The next-best competitor we have here has knocked off 51 laps back in June-July, and then we have a bunch of competitors that have knocked off backyards in the 30s, somewhere, so I think we have the field that can push into the third day," Mr Purdue said.

"The cool thing is, with backyard, you need two people that are still going for the event to continue.

"So, as soon as the second-last person drops out, the last person running has to finish their lap and then they’re the winner."

Intending to run the event annually, Mr Purdue said he was thrilled with the support for this year’s first event.