A running race format that is taking the world by storm is coming to southeastern Manitoba this weekend.

The Old Tom Backyard is a backyard ultramarathon that has an official start time, but no predetermined finish line. That is because the participants will run as long and as far as they can until they pull from the race. 

Steffan Reimer and his father Danny are the race organizers. Steffan says the race takes place on their family farm northeast of Blumenort. The Reimers have designed a course that is exactly 4.167 miles in length. The race begins on Saturday at 8 am. Runners have exactly one hour to finish the 4.167 mile loop. The next lap starts on the hour every hour after that. 

"They just go on repeat until they can't do it anymore," he says. "It's really a test, yes a physical, but more actually of mental of just how long can you will your body to the start line to start that loop every hour."

The reason the course is 4.167 miles long is so that after 24 hours a runner will have run exactly 100 miles.

"We have a lot of people that have openly said, they are hoping to go at least 24," says Steffan. "We might have people pushing 36, 48, we'll have to see."

Danny says this race format is really gaining popularity worldwide. He notes there was a real desire to offer this race in Manitoba and someone nudged him to consider organizing one. That is because the Reimer farm has a series of trails that were built by Danny during the pandemic. He says their neighbours also have trails and the weekend course will utilize those as well. 

Registration for this race opened in December and was sold out within one week. This year, the race is capped at 50 runners, with all of them residing in Manitoba. 

"Runners are coming from all over the province," says Steffan. "As we continue to hopefully grow the event, and get bigger on the national stage, that's our goal then to get people from all over the country."

He notes right now the strategy that seems to work the best for backyard ultramarathon competitors is to start the race ridiculously slow. Reimer says that means finishing a loop in about 50 minutes through a combination of running, walking, and shuffling. That then gives 10 minutes to sit down and refuel before hitting the start line for the next loop. Then, during the night, for those who make it that far, picking up the pace and completing a loop in 40 to 45 minutes allows runners to grab a 10-minute nap. 

The winner of this race is the last person to complete a loop within the hour after all others have given up. All those who give up are awarded a DNF (did not finish). 

Danny says one of the individuals who is fuelling the desire for a backyard ultramarathon in Manitoba, is Ihor Verys, a Ukrainian-Canadian runner who moved to Manitoba and has the second longest distance ever recorded for a backyard ultramarathon, with 107 laps. 

Steffan says the public is very welcome to come watch the event this weekend. The Reimer farm can be found along Old Tom Road, northeast of Blumenort. The road number is 35E and the civic address is 42072.

He notes it is called the Old Tom Backyard for two reasons. First of all, the farm and course are located along Old Tom Road. Secondly, being located on a turkey farm, a "Tom" is a male turkey.

Steffan says organizers are keeping a close eye on the forecast as heavy rain or lots of heat could certainly impact this weekend's race. 


With files from Michelle Sawatzky and Kenton Dyck