Mike Huber was supposed to travel to Calgary in June to run an ultra-marathon in support of The Rare Disease Foundation.
Then along came COVID-19. The world was turned upside down and the marathon, like all other events across the globe, was cancelled.
However, the die-hard running community didn’t hang up their bibs. Instead they went the extra mile.
Huber along with 2,400 runners from 64 countries from around the world, took part in the first annual Quarantine Backyard Ultra – the brainchild of Albertan ultra-marathon runner Dave Proctor and a company called Peak Run Performance.
Every runner around the world started the race at the exact same time at their own home – either on a treadmill or on the road.
They had to run a 6.7 kilometre loop every hour, starting again at the beginning of every hour, until they could no longer run anymore.
If an athlete finished the loop early within the hour they got to rest for the remaining time before setting out on the next loop. However, if a participant did not finish the loop within the allotted time, they were eliminated.
“That’s the game,” said the 45-year-old realtor from Maple Ridge.
“It’s how much time do you have to rest versus not rest,” he said.
The strategy depends on the runner. Some people like more rest, explained Huber, and some people like less so they keep moving and their body doesn’t seize up. And then you have to eat.
A two minute warning would alert athletes get on their start line and if a runner failed to start at the exact time then they were disqualified.
Times were logged on an app called Strava through the athlete’s watches.
Runners also used the teleconferencing app called Zoom to allow them to interact with other racers and live feed while running.
“What makes the race really unique, and we joke about it in the running world, there’s only one winner,” said Huber.
“Everyone else, technically, did not finish because there’s no finish line. You run and run,” he said.
Huber started his race at 6 a.m. PST on Saturday, April 4, and finished at 7 a.m. on Sunday.
The winner of the race was a man from Virginia who ran for 63 straight hours and a man from the Czech Republic ran for 62 hours straight.
They ran more then 400 kilometres each.
“It’s not human,” said Huber.
Huber ran 25 hours straight, covering a distance of 170 kilometres. He was taking 15 to 17 minute breaks at the beginning of the race but by his last loop he only had about a 13 minute rest because he was starting to slow down a little bit.
“I stopped and finished feeling great,” said Huber, who had a goal of running about 160 kilometres.
“I could have run further, but I wanted to run the next day with my wife,” he said.
Huber said that although the totals have not been finalized yet, it looks like he finished within the top 50.
Which is pretty cool, he said, considering the top 50 runners are are elite athletes or getting paid to run.
Huber also can’t believe the community support he received.
His Thornhill neighbours started asking him what was going on after he passed them four or five times. By the 12th hour, he said, people were waiting to cheer him on.
Another neighbour wrote inspirational messages on the road in sidewalk chalk.
And others came out at night for a couple of hours to illuminate his way with lights on their bicycles.
“I didn’t organize that. It just kind of happened spontaneously and organically,” said Huber, adding that that was the best part of the race for him.
“When you run long every journey is different,” he said.
“It was really cool to have that type of a moment.”