I hadn’t forgotten about it. At the time it was just a goofy online race. But I was there.
This morning I was flipping through the digital pages of the December 2020 issue of Outdoor magazine. A sentence on an article titled “Unprecedented” caught my eye.
Something something backyard quarantine ultra something something.
Sunday Runday, and I was reminded of a chilly Saturday morning in early April 2020. I logged into a zoom meeting on my iPad. I laced up my shoes, pulled on my mitts and running toque, and swiped through screen after screen after screen of thumbnail video feeds from around the world.
The Quarantine Backyard Ultra was the idea of someone in Calgary, a few hundred kilometers south of where I live. It was this Alberta thing, we’d invited the world, and a bunch of my running crew signed up. Along with about 2,400 other runners.
Sure. I’d thought. A nice way to do something, anything, now that we were a couple weeks into a fresh pandemic lockdown.
We’d figured we were quarantine veterans then. Little did we know that nine months later I’d be sitting here, pondering yet another solo run on a Sunday morning, and thinking nostalgically back on the early days of social isolation.
I quit after a mere two laps. About fourteen kilometers of running. Not because I couldn’t have done a third, but because the Kid had made pancakes for me and they were steaming hot and ready to eat when I’d finished my second lap. Had I known how big this thing would be, I would have pushed for three or four laps I think.
Days later — yes, really days — a small subset of runners were still clocking laps. One lap every hour on the hour. I would log into the feed to watch for a bit, but livesteaming a stranger racing on a treadmill is only actually interesting in the abstract sense. The winner logged 63 laps and four hundred and some kilometers.
Nine months later I’m reading about this race in a magazine. I’ve heard it’s been written about all over the place. It was a thing.
The Quarantine Backyard Ultra sparked imaginations because of many things; the notion of it, the lengths some people went to push themselves, and the sheer goofiness of running a race around your own neighbourhood with a video conference as a finish line. But it also gave people a bit of hope. That’s what I got out of it, at least.