Courage to Continue by Cody Eubanks
Photo Credit: Marcus Janzow - Cody Eubanks and Joyce Payne approaching 100 miles
What will you do when there is no finish line or predetermined measure of completion? When it hurts so badly but there's still time on the clock? The question beckons: WILL you continue?
Backyard style ultras are a whole other animal and my favorite style of racing looped courses. Aside from the social aspect, backyard style ultras generate a sense of equality and an illusion of hope that one can continue on much longer with no definitive end. It seems easy, and in many ways, it is, until it isn’t.
How did I get here?
Queeny Backyard Ultra is put on by the Terrain Trail Runners in St. Louis, MO close to my hometown Jefferson City, MO a short 2-hour drive. The course is a combination of chat gravel, pavement and short sections of dirt trails with plenty of hills to keep things interesting. I had gotten my start in ultra-running within this community, and I couldn’t think of a better way to start back again!
As I wheeled my cooler up to the staging area, we were greeted by the cold, thirty miles per hour wind gust and the rain came in sideways. The tent city was under siege. To everyone's surprise, there was even a registration on race day! A runner had signed up to run the morning of the race, needless to say ultra-runners are incorrigible. The only way to stay warm was to run and at noon, we ran!
After four hours of steady downpour, the sun showed its glorious face before fading into a clear, cold night under the waning moon. I stopped to watch the light from my headlamp slither onwards like a snake. The daffodils slumped as the frost set in and the pack of runners dwindled in number and enthusiasm. As conversations ceased and playlists recycled, I looked forward to the morning, daybreak will eventually come.
Photo Credit: Marcus Janzow
Perhaps it was the excitement of the potential warmth from the sunrise, or the pursuit of 100 miles, but my splits began to get faster. I had been running 50 minutes per 4.2-mile loop for much of the night, with a few catnaps here and there, but the day brought 48s and then consistent 47s. Over the course of twenty-four hours of running the Queeny Backyard Ultra loop I had perfected the course down to a science. In backyard style ultra-lingo, it’s called the “robot mode” and I knew when to walk and when to run. James Pratt, my one-man crew had been with me all night and had taken over my brain duties, as I continued on, visits from family and friends with food deliveries uplifted my spirit. In my head I knew to win a race with no end, I had to muster the courage deep within me to continue, and just keep moving forward until I would be the last person standing.
Photo Credit: Marcus Janzow - Cody Eubanks at daybreak
After 24 yards the pack of five runners thinned out to only three runners when Kevin Rapp and Joyce Payne decided to drop out of the race. Joyce had led a record shattering effort for the ladies with a 24 yard performance! The remaining three Jason Kesterson, myself and Chris Silva ran a solid 27 yards after which Chris refused to continue and Jason walked back after leaving on the 28th and final lap while I continued on the loop. As I approached the finish line, I was greeted by cheers from the volunteers, my family, friends and my crew James, followed by a finish line hug from the race director.
This finish line feeling is not something I will soon forget, but I know I will be back in 2024 for that Silver Ticket for BIG’s!
Photo Credit: Janzow Photography
Our blog writers are members of Terrain Trail Runners, local athletes just like you, who want to share their love and knowledge of the sport.