• Mark Villani


There are moments in running that define you.

There are moments that make you realize how lucky you are to have this “gift,” to have two legs and the will to move your body.

It’s a calming experience, something that takes your mind and (quite literally) your breathe away.

Running is a mood, a balance, and a conversation between you and the path ahead.

It’s not always how fast you’re moving... it’s where you're going.

I’m 47 kilometres into a virtual race and “I’m going to THROW UP!!


I was supposed to be packing my bags right about now and getting ready to fly overseas in yet another attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

The Hamburg Marathon was scheduled for April 19, I was well trained, confident and ready to go.

I thought the only thing that would prevent me from running this race would be some sort of an injury, but perhaps a global pandemic made for a second good reason to hold off.

The race was postponed until September,  but my determination is something that won’t go away.

So I signed up for another race in what’s perhaps the strangest event I’ve ever participated in.

I got a message a couple weeks ago from my coach Travis Schiller-Brown from Personal Peak Endurance Coaching.

He asked me if I wanted to participate in a “Quarantine Backyard Ultra.”

It’s a style of race where at the start of every single hour you run 6.71km, take a quick rest and then run that same distance at the start of the next hour.

And so on... and so on... until YOU DIE!! (Or in this case... until you just say “fuck this” I’m tired).

There is no second place. You DNF (Do Not Finish) or you win it all as the last person standing.

I had no chance in hell of winning, but I set a goal of running 50 kilometres. That would mean I’d have to complete 8 hours of running.

Here’s my painful story...


LAP #1 — 6.71km

I’m pumped!! I cranked up some music (Sandstorm by Darude is the obvious choice here) and I found some inspiration.

I don’t think I was taking the race too seriously at this point. While normally

I take an approach of being super serious and mentally tuned in, I decided to try racing a bit more relaxed.

The first lap was damn easy! 6.71km in 34:27!

I would soon realize that I was far too excited, started way too fast and I would regret this decision IMMENSELY!!

LAP #2 — 13.42km

This shit is EASY!! So simple... what a joke of a race right? I’m cruising!

I ran my lap in 35:45 and again felt solid. Nothing was stopping me here. I was hydrated and feeling strong.

LAP #3 & 4 — 26.84km

Ok.. I’ll admit it. My legs were starting to feel just the tiniest bit of fatigue here.

I was still feeling super strong and capable, but I knew I had to slow down.

I adjusted my strategy a bit after lap three and started going just a bit slower.

Lap three I ran in 37:33 and then lap four in 38:07.

I was still consistent, but I need replenishment.

Thank god for strawberries!

LAP #5 — 33.55km

Oh dear god! This is where it started to hurt!

Normally when I hit the 30 kilometre mark in a marathon I can start to feel my body fighting, but this was different.

I think it was the constant loss of momentum and the short breaks that were messing with my head. I didn’t have a good rhythm and had to really ease up on this lap.

I finished strong and went into a bit of a panic mode. I stocked up on salt and was so thankful for this plate of bacon!

But... as you can see... I knew I was in for a real fight to complete my goal of 50K!

LAP #6 — 40.26km

I actually started this lap with a bit of confidence. I felt comfortable for about the first 25 minutes and then had to slow up.

I was playing games in my head at this point.

“How many minutes left?”

“How many kilometres left?”

“Let’s count to a thousand!.... one, two, three.... OH DEAR GOD WHY???”

I was so dehydrated at this point. The sweat was started to dry up on my body and I was starting to get dizzy.

I was already on my fourth different shirt so I peeled off a layer and ran shirtless for the last 15 minutes of this lap.

I wanted to give up so bad, but I knew I had to finish at least this lap.

I made it to the finish in 44:01.... thankful for a slice of Pizza to refuel.

LAP #7 — 46.97km


I felt like Leo DiCaprio in Shutter Island at this point... I went to the washroom, looked in the mirror and could see the fear in my eyes.

I hopped in the shower to cool off and knew I needed to get my legs moving.

I channeled my inner Mark Wahlberg/ Mickey Ward and mustered up the strength to do one more lap.

“Head body, head body!”

But first.... a quick break (...or in this case a Kit-Kat bar).

I set off on my next lap and finished in 51:16... but had very little time to pull myself together for a final push.

Lap #8ish — 50km

So at this point I couldn’t move and I didn’t have the legs to finish 6.71km in an hour.

I’ve never done 50km in my life, but I knew I had to answer the bell and at least try to walk the rest.

And I did it.

It wasn’t pretty, but I reached my goal... DNF Toilet paper in hand!

Oh and if you’re wondering you won the race.... Michael Wardian from West Virginia ran 63 laps, running 422.73 kilometres!!

Oh yeah and one more thing... I lost to a 13-year-old...

Ben Tidwell (youngest competitor in the race) completed 25 laps, running 167.75 kilometres! ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE!

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