Vegan runner smashes his own record in ‘backyard’ ultra

Vegan runner Harvey Lewis has broken his own US record in the most gruelling of ultramarathon format.

22 June 2023

Backyard Ultras are also known as the race with no finish. Runners complete one lap every hour until they drop out. If you can complete one more than the last to drop out, you win. A lap is 4.16 miles (6.7 km) so they run 100 miles (160 km) per day. There’s no chance to sleep, and little opportunity to eat or recover.

The format was devised by eccentric ultrarunner Laz Lazarus, although he credits his dog. He says the race is the only case of a dog making humans fight to the death.

Harvey broke the world record in October 2021 with an incredible 85 laps. The run went into the fourth day and covered 354 miles (570 km). The world record has since been broken, but the run still stood as the US record as the race started.

Harvey travelled to Australia to race in this version of the race. He faced extreme heat, a world class field and a course that included tricky sections which would challenge the sleep-deprived runners, especially in the night sections.

As runners dropped out Harvey, a Cincinnati school teacher, was one of three remaining. They continued as they completed three days and approached some of the historically best times. Harvey passed his own US record and added more laps, finishing his 90th lap – 375 miles or 603.5 km.

The incredible run saw him add over 20 miles to the national record and leave him way ahead in the states. The other runners continues for more laps, breaking the world record, showing what is needed to beat Harvey.

Vegan runner

Harvey has been vegetarian for 25 years and vegan for 5. He’s won top ultramarathons including Badwater (twice) and earlier this year won a 24 hour race, hoping to qualify for the 24 hour world championships.

He recognises the range of reasons to go vegan including for animals, health and environment, and feels it helps his sport.

“I’ve been running ultras for 25 years, to be doing that and to be competitive. I’m not sure anyone in the US can match that – for so many years and still competitive.”

Harvey ate a lot of calories during his epic 375 mile run, including “avocado toast, veggie rolls, Asian noodle soups, mashed potatoes mixed with some vegetable broth, watermelon, Oreos, potato chips, blueberries, vegan grilled cheeze, vegan Mac and chez, olives, bananas, sweet potato fries, chia seed coconut pudding, cantaloupe, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and more.”

“You eat a lot across 90 hours to keep forward.” 

As well as the World 24 Hour Championships, Harvey also has his eye on July 4th as he has a place in the 135 mile Badwater ultra.

“Now the challenge will be healing and recovering to run the Badwater 135 mile race in 12 days” he said.

The race

Harvey’s Facebook