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Flemish endurance athlete runs 503km in 75 hours

10:10 23/10/2020
From Flanders Today

Karel Sabbe of West Flanders has won the Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra World Championship by running 503 kilometres in three days, nearly non-stop. He also smashed the world record for the event.

The Backyard Ultra, based in the US, is a competition with very simple rules – run a trail of 4.16 miles (about 6.7 kilometres) every hour for as long as you can. Every loop must be finished within one hour, and the faster you finish, the more time you have to rest until the next start time.

Sabbe, 30, paced himself so that he always had at least 14 minutes between loops to eat, rest and even sleep. The West Flemish dentist, who runs these kinds of endurance events regularly, finished 75 loops, much higher than the second-place winner, Courtney Dauwalter of the US, with 68 loops. The Belgian team of 15 also won the team championship.

The race started last Saturday, and Sabbe finished on Tuesday, three days and three hours later. “I couldn’t believe it,” Sabbe told VRT about his win. “I was completely exhausted. Last night I tossed and turned constantly because of the leg cramps. I didn't want to sleep at home because we have stairs. Fortunately my parents-in-law have a lift. Apart from that, I am very proud of myself.”

While participants in the Backyard Ultra World Championship usually have to travel to the US and all run the same course, the corona crisis saw national teams running loops in their own countries simultaneously this year. The entire event was live-streamed.

Of the 14 other Belgians in the race, one of them – Merijn Geerts of Leuven – made it to 74 loops. He and Sabbe had already broken the world record of 68 loops at that point.

Sabbe also holds the record for the shortest time completing the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, both in the US. In 2018, he was included in the article “10 times we redefined human limits” in Outside magazine.

Photo courtesy Karel Sabbe/Facebook

Written by Flanders Today