Vegan ultrarunner Harvey Lewis can’t be stopped

| 17 December 2023
minute reading time

Vegan ultrarunner Harvey Lewis runs for 108 hours, covering 450 miles, to win Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra… again!

Around 0.01 per cent of the world’s population have run a marathon. And just a handful of those have run an ultramarathon: that is, anything longer than 26.2 miles.

Since July 2021, vegan ultrarunner, Harvey Lewis, now 47 years old, has won five gruelling ultramarathons (and plenty before that), with the shortest being a mere 100 miles. In 2021, he won the Badwater Ultramarathon and Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra. The following year he won the Long Haul 100 and FANS 24-hours, and in October 2023, he returned to Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra to reach the end of the race with no end. But it turns out the race does have an end, and Harvey found it at 450 miles.

Most ultramarathons, whether 27 miles or 100 miles, adhere to a regular race format, meaning the runners set off and the first to cross the finish line is the winner. However, backyard ultras are a crueller competition. Backyard ultras are a last-person-standing event. There is no finish line in sight when the going gets tough so you don’t know how long you’ll be running. You just have to hope that you will outlast your competitors.

In a backyard ultra, participants must complete a 4.17 mile loop every hour on the hour, day and night. If you don’t finish the loop within the hour, you’re out. Runners might decide to run the loop quickly, allowing themselves more time to rest before they have to start again on the next hour, or they may choose to run slowly to prevent burning out too soon.

The race began at 7 am on 21st October in Tennessee and ended on Wednesday 25th October after Harvey had run for 108 hours, covering a distance of 450 miles. Harvey and five other runners made it past the 100 hours mark, but after the 101st loop, there were only three remaining: Harvey Lewis, Ihor Verys of Ukraine (pictured above with Harvey), and Poland’s Bartosz Fudali. All three runners completed loops 102 and 103, together setting a new backyard ultra record. But then Fudali, who had been looking the strongest, pulled out leaving just Harvey and Verys in the race. It was neck and neck until Verys decided he couldn’t finish loop 108, leaving Harvey to take the crown.

Harvey has been vegetarian for over 25 years and vegan since 2016.

“As an ultrarunner you do spend a lot of time philosophising on your own life and the exterior life. I think a lot in nature and I connect with the plants and animals and it makes me feel they have relevance as well. Knowing the ingredients you’re putting in your body and eating the incredible variety that exists in the plant world it’s so powerful, there’s just so many options. By diversifying you actually strengthen your longevity.”


Main photo by Mike Trimpe

About the author
Nicholas Hallows
Nicholas has been vegan since the early 2000s and worked for Viva! between 2017 and 2020 as a Senior Administrator and Web Content Assistant. He is a qualified teacher, specialising in Language and Literacy, and an accredited Proofreader and Editor. He is now a freelance writer covering topics including veganism, mindfulness and minimalism.

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