Last One Standing Castleward 2020 – Preview

In an online forum discussing which was Ireland’s toughest race my nomination was unusual, since it is a race I have not yet participated in. It was the Last Man Standing (as it was called then). The thing that makes this race so difficult is that nobody has any idea how long someone will have to run to win it.

The format was created by the great Lazarus Lake himself (creator of the Barkley marathons, amongst others).  Laz’s original race is called Big’s BackYard Ultra (Big being one of Laz’s dogs, and the race location being where the name comes from). Runner’s have to start a lap of about 4.2 miles. They have one hour to complete the lap. They then start the next lap exactly one hour later. Anyone who fails to complete the lap within an hour, or start the next lap exactly on time is eliminated. The winner is the last runner to complete a lap on their own. Everyone else is a DNF (loser). There can be no joint winners, only losers.

In BBYU an off-road lap is used during daylight hours, and a road lap is used at night. It’s questionable whether this makes things harder or easier. Everything about this race is questionable! Tactics are so very interesting. Whether to run faster laps to get a longer inter-lap rest, or slower laps to minimise tiredness. How to get sleep, and when, and even if it can be done. How and when to eat, drink etc. And of course the huge potential for mind games with your fellow runners if you’re racing to win. It’s a really fascinating format.

The last few years have seen some stellar fields taking part in BBYU, with some fascinating races and results emerging. From Yohan Steene’s amazing win (and record distance for the format) 2 years ago, managing to hold off Courtney Dauwalter despite huge logistical issues even getting to the race on time (his original flight turned back halfway across the Atlantic). Last year, in a result for the ages, Maggie Guterl became the first female to win the race. (I had the pleasure of Maggie’s company for more than a lap of the Barkley marathons 2 years ago).

Atlas running up in Northern Ireland have been running their own version of this race for the last 4 years. The race is held in Castleward and is called Last One Standing (Definitely not last Man standing in the wake of Maggie’s result. The winner of LOS gets a “golden ticket” to enter BBYU in Tennessee. It’s one of the earliest of the BBYU franchises which are currently exploding in popularity around the world.

Last one standing

I’ve decided to give this a go this weekend. It’s a format that no amount of theorising will help to really understand what it takes to compete, so this is my “learn the format” project. Go in at the deep end and truly understand what is required. And it’s looking like it will be an interesting race indeed.

The weather forecast has a “named” storm, storm Denis, rolling pretty much as the race is due to start. That adds a big piece of additional complexity to add to the parameters that need to be juggled about.

The entry list is over 100 deep, so there are lot of people who will need to be outrun for anyone who is aiming to win the race. There are plenty of interesting talented runners amongst them. We have at least one other veteran of the Barkley marathons in Billy Reed. We also have a past winner of this race, and a veteran of BBYU in Peter Cromie. He is also an old adventure racing rival, and made of hardy stuff!

But the standout run looks like Dan Lawson. Dan is an awesome runner. The fact that he was a European 24 hour running champion is enough to make him stand out as one to watch. But he is also hugely talented beyond 24 hours. He has won the de-facto 6 day running world championship, the EMU 6 day race in Hungary. 

There are many other veterans of 24 hour racing, Last One Standing racing, and other endurances events (including one or two refugees from the Spine race) entered. Too many to list out. And this format often produces runners “out of left field” who do exceptionally well.

So it really is impossible to tell how long it will take to be Last One Standing here. I’ll be giving my best shot. I feel like I’m in good shape, but you can never tell with these things, especially having run the Spine race so recently.

I’ll have Richard Nunan supporting me for this race (as he tapers for his upcoming marathon), which is fantastic. Hopefully he’ll be posting updates when he gets the chance on my Athlete Facebook page (Eoin Keith – Athlete). The race should also be posting updates on their pages (Atlas running, and Last One Standing. The race starts on Saturday 15th at midday.

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