Maggie Guterl is the first woman to win Big’s Backyard Ultra Marathon
Big’s Backyard Ultra Marathon is affectionately known by ultra runners as “the race that never ends.” In order to crown a winner, runners set off on a 4.16-mile loop every hour until there’s just one runner left standing. It’s a mentally brutal race, not to mention a physically extreme one, and this year 39-year-old Maggie Guterl took home the title. Durango based Guterl is the first woman to ever win Big’s Backyard Ultra and she did so by running 60 laps and 250 miles.
The race is the brainchild of Gary Cantrell, creator of the Barkley Marathons, and takes place in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. The beauty of Big’s Backyard Ultra is that runners don’t have to be fast to win; they just have to stay on their feet the longest.
In order to take home the win this year, Guterl outlasted the runner-up, New Zealander Will Hayward. Guterl and Hayward were the last two runners remaining for four laps until Hayward finally called it quits on lap 60. “I wanted to keep going,” Guterl told Outside. “I had this thing in my mind that it would be cool to beat what they did last year, and even break that 300 barrier. I’ve never run through three nights.” Last year, Johan Steene won the race by running 283 miles, it was the longest distance ever completed at Big’s Backyard Ultra.
This wasn’t Guterl’s first time competing in the race. Last year she dropped out due to IT band issues after running 183 miles. Her strategy for success this year included utilizing massage tools, fueling her body with potato-based foods and plodding along at a steady 54 minute per-loop pace hour after hour. As amazing as the physical accomplishment is, it’s perhaps the mental feat that is most impressive. As Cantrell said in an interview with Runners World last year, “it’s the strongest mind that wins.”