everyone realizes the final hours are approaching.
of the three remaining warriors harvey lewis is clearly in the worst condition.
he has not been getting through the loops in time for more than 1 minute or two of sleep for several days.
bartosz fudali and ihor verys have looked invincible.
as any backyarder who has gone deep can tell you,
they are not as unfazed as they look.
we are well past 400 miles,
and you do not run 400 miles and not feel it.
the amount of pain being contained behind those impassive faces is unimaginable.
but this is the fate of the backyarder.
to show weakness only feeds your opponent.
and so you must absorb any amount of punishment
and hide it behind an expressionless countenance.
someone wants to know;
“after harvey is gone,
can the other two make a pact to share the victory?”
of course the answer is no.
in the backyard only one can win.
and to win you must outlast all others.
fudali drops after 103.
watching him being almost carried from the field
i am reminded of my conversation with sam harvey;
“it is amazing how far your mind can make your body go”
he told me
“and it is amazing, when the mind lets go, how helpless you are”
as they line up for 104 i wonder
is that confidence in ihor’s expression
or am i projecting it because i think the race is now ihor’s?
it is not just me
i don’t know if anyone,
outside harvey’s mother,
thinks harvey still has a chance.
(and i don’t know for a fact that she still believes it).
but this is the backyard.
ihor cannot simply use his 20 year age advantage
to run off and leave harvey.
he must stay the course until harvey is broken.
the first yard ihor cruises home well ahead.
we are left to wait for harvey to come in just under the time limit again.
he is sweating profusely in the heat.
we almost feel sorry for him in his doomed quest.
only harvey does not seem to grasp his plight.
minutes later he is in the starting corral
laughing and talking.
the process repeats
groundhog hour has no defined end.
and i see ihor give “the look”
for just a moment
“what does it take to kill this guy?”
is written on his face.
then the impassive mask returns.
as the heat of the day breaks
and we head towards the night loops
everyone in camp starts thinking the same thing;
“they are going to go for 5 days”
clearly it is going to take a day loop to stop harvey.
if he could survive the last few day loops
what can possibly stop him at night.
harvey grins and laughs and talks
still seemingly unaware that he is doomed.
unfazed by piling mile after mile on those battered legs.
he actually starts coming in quicker as the heat dies away.
and a funny thing happens.
ihor’s invincibility seems to waver.
harvey wins the last day loop.
as they line up for the first night loop
the one that takes the two survivors to 450 miles,
their roles seem to be reversed.
if you had not witnessed the past four and a half days
you would think harvey was the one with the race in hand
and ihor was the one doomed.
it was harvey out front as the last survivors headed out onto the road for the 108th time.
the 2023 championship was different than all the others.
with live coverage out on the course we could see the major events as they happened
and after a short time i heard someone say;
“he’s turned around”
“he’s coming back!”
i went to look for myself
and it was true.
if harvey can finish this yard he is going to win.
some came and begged to be allowed to go out and exhort ihor to go on.
it doesnt work that way.
every runner must face the backyard loops alone.
ihor had to be the one to decide if he wanted to go on.
you all know how it ends.
ihor walks back and capitulates.
never had a chance
but he just could not get that through his thick head.
harvey lewis is the last man on earth.
neither of the two magnificent warriors could walk off under their own power.
450 miles straight?
that is beyond the physical capacity of any person.
but when the mind takes over
we are capable of the impossible.
where does our human limit lie?
we still dont know.
because in the end
harvey’s limit was somewhere beyond.
his will to win remains unmeasured.
backyard championship 2023 was a victory for the format.
because we assembled the mentally toughest humans on earth
and the race was won by
not the fastest
not the youngest…
but by the one with the most sheer will to win.