Heartbreak & Triumph in 63 Hours

The ending was somewhat of a controversy and it all started with Radek Brunner walking towards his treadmill...

Heartbreak & Triumph in 63 Hours

We are back with an update. For those of you who are reading this, if you haven’t read our past post please do so now before you read on. This is a follow up on the outcome of the Quarantine Backyard Ultra that took place over the weekend and finished up rather abruptly on Tuesday (lunch time for us).

The ending was somewhat of a controversy and it all started with Radek Brunner walking towards his treadmill on the start of hour 63 but failing to hit start and therefore did not leave the “corral”. The rules of a Backyard style race are simple, you must run, walk, crawl the distance of 6.71km/4.17miles anywhere within the hour. However, you must be in the corral ready to leave before the bell and then you must leave on the bell. You receive three warning bells prior to the final bell. Should you sleep through the bell, or fail to leave on the bell you are disqualified.

Where things got a little confusing was this wasn’t a normal Backyard race, it had participants taking part from all over the world, using Strava, Zoom and photos to prove the distance and the laps they undertook. It all was working fairly well, apart from a few minor technical difficulties with Zoom dropping out, YouTube cancelling the live feeds, ultimately ending up with Personal Peak using Facebook to stream live the last 12 hours or so.

Radek Brunner, credit Tyden.cz

The last 15 hours was where it got more intense, with only two runners remaining. Mike Wardian of Arlington West Virginia and Radek Brunner of Prague, Czech Republic. It has to be said that these two athletes were unbelievable in pushing each other on the hour and every hour. A race like this only continues until there is only one person left. The Last One Standing. When the 63rd-hour bell rang and Radek on his treadmill did not move the yelling, the commentary on the live feed and the disbelief of what was happening was soul-crushing. That one failed start was all it took for the race to be over and Mike Wardian declared winner in a very confusing way. Radek was still on the treadmill running out his hour, mid lap he was on the phone to the race directors it seemed whereby what looked to be heated discussion took place.

All the viewers were left wondering what happened?

He was on the treadmill ready to go, was the button not engaging?

Was there a lag with the internet?

Did he just not hear or see the bell?

The live video ended with Radek walking toward the camera so who knows what conversation took place… we have reached out to Radek to hear his side of the story and hope to record a podcast with him soon.

One thing we do know is that Mike was just as confused as the rest of us, and the victory did not seem to be all that victorious in the moment. Mike Wardian in fact wanted to keep running to break the lap record being 68. That’s right, he was told he won and he wanted to keep running?!?

Mike Wardian, credit Injinji.com

This article is not to throw shade at the race directors in any way, it was an incredibly difficult situation to be in. Lazarus Lake articulated it well with this statement, “maybe in the world of people who are absolutely certain they know the right answer I am the only one who is glad to not be in charge today.”

The situation could not have been anticipated in any way, shape or form. The race directors also could not have envisioned the interest the event raised in the final hours. I believe the live video had 1,900 viewers in the final hour and trust me all these viewers had an opinion which they voiced through the feed.

The press statement released by Personal Peak was incredibly honest, apologetic and expressed thanks for all the support they received from around the world. We take our hat off to these guys, they did this race off their own backs, took no money from competitors and managed the race for the equal amount of time that the athletes were running too. For this, we congratulate Personal Peak on bringing the world together through Running. Well done!

Travis and Ashley, taken from Personal Peak

We will leave you with their response in full to hear it from Personal Peak themselves. Below message taken from the Personal Peak website blog found here https://personalpeak.ca/a-message-from-the-race-directors/

“We understand the upset. Over the past three days, these phenomenal athletes captured our hearts while we watched them overcome the most mind blowing physical feats. And what this race deserved was a fairy tale ending wherein one athlete reached their absolute limit, while the other achieved a new record. Both overcoming obstacles and coming out the other side triumphantly. That would have been the perfect ending to the perfect event. However, as it is in life, not everything ends the way you would like it to and no one wanted it to end like this. After weeks of preparation and 62 sleepless hours, Radek, Mike, the organizing team, and the world needed that fairy tale ending. And we (Travis and Ashley) took it away. It was our decision alone, and we made the call.

We fully believe it was the right call, but we also completely understand the disappointment and upset. Having never directed a race before, we were supremely naïve and thus ill-prepared for that pivotal moment. As such, we did a terrible job of navigating it. The way we delivered the news to Radek was appalling. We robbed Michael of a proper celebration, and we put Lazarus and Sandra in a very awkward position. All while the world watched. And we regret it wholeheartedly.

And although we make no apology for the official decision, we would like to apologize for how we handled it. To everyone who watched, participated, and helped us throughout this event, we are deeply sorry. For 62 hours we were a community together, rather than a world apart. The level of love and support during those hours was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced and when it all came to an end, we did not know how to navigate it. We fumbled. We failed. We let you all down, and for that we are deeply sorry.

We have so much more to say about this event. The last few days have changed our lives in a very meaningful way, and we have so many people to thank. People who put in just as many sleepless hours with frantic productivity as we did. People we owe the world to. But this event has taught us many things, and we are committed to learning those lessons. Primary among them is not trying to celebrate someone’s win while you’re in the middle of regretting another’s loss.

As such, we will save those thank yous until tomorrow when we can give them the spotlight they truly deserve. Thank you all,

Travis & Ashley”

READ MORE : Quarantine Backyard Ultra