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Unique backyard ultra trail race to debut in Nelson

The Tombstone Turkey Trot will be held Thanksgiving weekend
The Nelson Running Club hosts its first backyard ultra trail race, the Tombstone Turkey Trot, on Thanksgiving weekend. Photo: Submitted

Can you run a 6.706-kilometre lap of a trail in one hour? Probably. Most runners, even beginners, can accomplish that. Can you do it again at the top of the next hour? How about again at the next hour after that? How about 10, 20, or 30 (or more) hours in a row?

That’s the challenge facing participants in Nelson’s first-ever backyard ultra trail race, taking place Thanksgiving weekend in the trails above the cemetery and along the Rail Trail.

Called the Tombstone Turkey Trot, the event is being organized by volunteers from the Nelson Running Club.

“A backyard ultra is a specific long-distance race format that is accessible and open to runners of almost any level and ability,” said race director Stephen Harris. “Unlike a traditional 50 km or 100 km ultra-distance trail race, a backyard ultra literally takes place in the community’s backyard, on a 6.7-km course.”

Why 6.7 km? Race inventor Lazarus Lake (founder of the American cult-race Barkley Marathons) set the distance as 100 miles in 24 hours. Converted to metric, it comes out to 6.706 km every hour.

“The unique thing about the backyard format is that it is a series of short laps, every hour on the hour. It’s not a single race covering a huge geographic area,” Harris said.

“We start at 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, and entrants have one hour to complete the course. Most runners will be able to finish that distance in about 45-to-50 minutes. Whatever time they have left in the hour is theirs for rest, eating, stretching, whatever. But at 9 a.m., the horn sounds again, and everyone who finished the first lap on time, starts again.”

If you don’t finish a lap in the hour, or choose not to start the next lap, you’re eliminated from the race and earn a DNF (did not finish) designation. The race continues until only one runner successfully completes a lap, and that person is the winner.

“Backyards often go for 24 hours, and we’ve definitely got some runners of that calibre here in the Kootenays,” Harris said.

The Tombstone Turkey course has a start-finish area on the Rail Trail, near the rock circle and fire hydrant above the top of Hall Street. Runners then head up the Rail Trail, and dip into the Graveyard Trails above the cemetery for a few kilometres before coming up to the Silver King East trail, parallel to and below the Rail Trail.

From there, they head to the end of Silver King East and then climb back to the Rail Trail, coming out at the first trestle bridge. They run across the bridge and back, and then straight down the Rail Trail to the start-finish corral where they await the next hour, and the start of “just one more lap!”

Harris described the course as challenging, but not extreme. It’s a mix of single track, double track, and gravel rail trail, with about 130 metres of total elevation gain. The final three km are all downhill on the Rail Trail, which Harris says is a great section to make up some time if runners were slow in the Graveyard.

Since the race is about running the most laps (known as yards in the backyard community), speed isn’t a factor. In fact, other than a countdown clock to ensure runners finish in the hour, individual laps aren’t even timed.

“Since opening registration on Sept. 4, we’ve had lots of people sign-up, with a bunch saying ‘I don’t think I’m in this to win, but I’d like to see how many yards I can actually complete,’” said Harris. “Some people might only want to do one, or two, or maybe three yards — and that’s totally great, because it might just be the furthest they’ve ever run, and that in itself is a huge accomplishment.”

And what happens if you’re of those runners able to keep going for yard 10, 11, 12 and beyond, when darkness falls?

“Bring a bright headlamp and steely nerves.”

For more information, or to register to race or volunteer, head to