The area’s most unique running race enjoyed its share of success and broken records recently.
The third-annual Ode to Laz Michigan Backyard Ultra event held July 10 and 11 at Holly Recreation Area, had 142 runners start the race and only one finish it 170.83 miles later (41 laps on the 4.16-mile loop), earning Washington’s (state) Piotr Chadovich the event’s title. He defeated two-time event champion Sarah Moore, who finished 40 laps. The winner of the race is the runner that completes enough 4.16-mile laps at one-hour intervals. Whoever finishes the previous lap around the trails at Holly Recreation Area is allowed to start the next lap at the top of the next hour. This pattern continues until everyone quits except one runner who will end up finishing one more lap than the runner-up. This year that was Chadovich.
Race director Tad Machrowicz was excited by the success of the third-annual event.
“It was fantastic,” Machrowicz said. “We had interesting weather. It was a great day the first day, but we had a lot of rain leading up to the event. Fortunately, the course absorbed it well. ... And then it rain hit us day two, so that created another challenge.”
A record number of 143 athletes from all around the nation signed up for the event and that record number of athletes broke plenty of other records. The 2020 event winner, Moore, finished 28 laps (116.66 miles) to win her second title, but this year the top 10 competitors finished at least 29 laps (129.83 miles). Last year only six competitors finished the first 24 hours, completing 100 miles. This year 19 recorded 100 miles. In short, interest in the new type of racing event is growing and those already competing are advancing the sport quickly.
“The field is growing and the field is learning,” Machrowicz said. “Knowledge shared among runners is growing. The race is so different than any other races because everyone pulls for each other and shares knowledge. They are getting better training and are fed by a great atmosphere, a family atmosphere.”
Each loop is approximately 4.16 miles with the first 12 being done on trails around the park and then the next 12 (night time) around the roads in the park. The event continues this pattern as long as needed until there is a winner. The mileage of a lap is created with purpose because in the running world, finishing 100 miles in 24 hours is a benchmark. Consequently, completion of the 24th lap will earn a runner 100 miles.
The event takes a lot of volunteers and is time intensive in terms of set up and the event itself since no one really knows when the race will end. In this year’s race, eight runners remained after 125 miles with no one really knowing how far or close the race was going to last. The fourth-place runner, David Carta, finished 33 laps, and from there the event was completed relatively quickly. David Compton placed third with 37 laps, Moore with 40 and Chadovich with his winning 41 laps. As runners master this new race type and more interest grows, the number of runners capable of finishing 100 miles and capable of breaking past records in terms of distance should become commonplace. Depending on weather, it’s likely the length needed to win the event will only increase most years. The fact this is true, shows the importance of an enthusiastic volunteer staff.
“A race like this can’t happen without volunteers, sponsors and the best state park around,” Marchrowicz said. “Everybody is so phenomenal. It’s such a difficult race to produce and everyone does such an amazing job.”
Chadovich’s win earns him an invitational to the world championships in October. Also, next year there will be a qualifier race to get into the fourth-annual Ode to Laz Michigan Backyard Ultra. The event will be the Perfect PR Backyard Ultra in Clarkston on May 21 at Independence Oaks Park. Registration is already available at https://www.ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=86026.