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Ultra determination, training leads to 288-kilometre run in Salmon Arm

BC Backyard Ultra returns to town with winner running 43 6.7-kilometre laps

Despite the added factor of hot 27-degree spring days, runners in the BC Backyard Ultra were unstoppable.

This, the second year for the grueling event in Salmon Arm, included 12 Shuswap residents in the approximate 60-participant total.

The race began Friday, April 28, at 8 a.m., and wrapped up Sunday morning, April 30, about 3 a.m.

The winning runner, Ryan Shephard, 39, from Abbotsford, ran 43 laps totalling an amazing 288.36 kilometres (179.18 miles).

Kevin Barata, 45, also from Abbotsford, received the assist this year.

Although there is only one winner recognized, Barata finished in second. The assist refers to the first-place runner being permitted to do only one more lap after the second-place winner decides they are done.

Barata stopped during his 43rd lap, completing 42, so Shephard could complete only one more lap – 43.

“I have no words – it was amazing. The amount of community and connection and grit and determination. It was indescribable,” said Kara Leinweber, owner and director of Lewiston Ultra Events which hosted the BC Backyard Ultra.

In 2022 the winner, Ihor Verys from Chilliwack, ran for 39 hours and 39 laps, covering 261.3 kilometres.

The youngest runner this year was 20, with two people aged 59 years on the other end of the age continuum.

Two different routes are used in the BC Backyard Ultra, one for the daytime – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and one for night, 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Every hour on the hour, runners must complete 6,706 metres (4.167 miles).

Three minutes before the top of the hour, three whistles blow. Runners get ready.

Two minutes before the top of the hour, two whistles blow.

“Take a deep breath and smile,” say race organizers.

One minute before the top of the hour, one whistle blows. Runners make their way to the starting chute.

“When the bell rings at the start of the hour, you must be present, ready to go and in the starting chute. If you are not in the starting chute and do not start when the bell rings, you are disqualified,” state the rules.

Just before 8 p.m. on Friday, Lewiston Ultra Event’s Instagram feed noted that 37 racers were still running, navigating the 11th lap before shifting to the night-time route.

“We are beyond proud of all our racers – the grit, the sunburn, the smiles & above all seeing community grow has our hearts.”

Saturday morning, 12 runners remained, settling into the daytime routine after having completed 25 laps.

“It has been an incredible 24 hours full of PRs (personal records), first timers (won’t be the last), human spirit, emotion, community & unreal grit,” reads the Instagram post.

Organizers noted the final female, Renee Caesar, 49, from Port Moody, completed 24 laps and 100 miles before she stopped.

Runners from the Shuswap included: Grace Cowen, 59, from Sorrento; Don Cundiff, 44, from Blind Bay; Joedine Desjarlais, 48, from Salmon Arm; Isaac Ellis, 20, from Sorrento; Ben Hall, 47, from Salmon Arm; Damon Kipp, 35, from Salmon Arm; Dawn Lefebvre, 43, from Salmon Arm; Sandra Major, 48, from Salmon Arm; Jim Novotny, 59, from Salmon Arm; Brandon Payne, 40, from Salmon Arm; Emma Rempel, 32, from Salmon Arm; and Jenica Sorban, 42, from Salmon Arm.

In 2024 the event will start on April 26 at Little Mountain.

Lewiston Ultra has planned another event for the Shuswap in 2023 – the Shuswap Ultra.

During the summer solstice, the event includes a 120-km, 60-km and a relay trail event connecting Salmon Arm and Sicamous. For more information, go to:

Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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