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Grind on the Grid Backyard: The Race with No Finish

This was the grind on the grid backyard ultra

There is something to be said about a race with no finish line and the runners so chock full of grit that they agree to sign up for one. Grind on the Grid is my second attempt at a backyard ultra, and I am absolutely hooked! For those unaware of what a backyard ultra is, it’s an ultramarathon race format created by madman Lazarus Lake, the founder of the Barkley Marathons. In this race, participants run a 4.167-mile loop every hour; on the hour, you must report back to the corral, and as Laz himself has stated, “If you ain’t in it, you ain’t in it” until only one runner remains. This was the grind on the grid backyard. 

The Backyard Ultra: A Symphony of Pain

The last person standing is declared the winner. The second-place runner is called the assist, and everyone else is considered a DNF. From the outside looking in, a backyard might seem like a symphony of pain, plodding slow mileage, starting and stopping just long enough for you to shove calories down your gullet and restart all over again, sort of a masochistic ground hog’s day. Yet, there is also beauty to be found. The camaraderie among participants, the shared experience of pushing oneself to the limit, and the sheer awe-inspiring spectacle of human endurance all contribute to the symphony’s rich tapestry. 


The “Grind” Crew Locked In

Grind on the Grid is far more than a standard backyard. It had a run club vibe from the very first loop. You could feel an instant connection with the growing community and race veterans that had been with the Grind since its conception. Everyone cheering and pushing each other along. It was a perfect place for a misfit like me to find my new limits. The course was a mix of beautiful but grueling country roads sprinkled in with an excellent little trail section to mix things up a bit. The perfect recipe for an environment to foster pushing your limits. Matt Cantrell, the race director, and the accommodating folks at the Gala Barn in Veedersburg and Chaos Crewing, shoutout to those aid station perogies, really set us up for success. We seemingly ran through all four seasons in the Midwest that day, and the “Grind” crew’s commitment to staying locked in was impressive. I set a personal best of 50 miles that day, with some left in the tank, but the winner completed a heroic 29 yards or 120 miles with an equally impressive assist of 28 yards or 116 miles. I can’t wait for next year’s Grind on the Grid. It will be fun to push myself even further, but it will be even better to see how far we can push each other in the future of the “Grind.”

Finding Another Gear: Recognizing Personal Growth

One thing I learned about myself at Grind on the Grid is that I had a different gear I could access when things got tough and transcended my own previous limits as the mileage started to stack up that day. I did get to a couple low points in the day. I even began to wonder what I was doing out here with so many incredible athletes. That’s when it occurred to me that I had done the work to get there also; I put all early morning runs and hours of toiling road miles in single-digit weather to get to this point; I wasn’t going to let my thoughts get in the way of doing what I showed up to accomplish. This realization untapped something inside me that I didn’t know existed. I found a fire inside me that burned even hotter after I dug deep and settled into the mileage. At the end of the day, as mentioned, I put 50 miles under my legs, a new distance PR for me. Reflecting on that day, I was amazed I still had some left in the tank, further stoking my fire in pursuing my next goal of a 100k trail race

Yours From the Trail, Joe


Joe Hardin Author Run Tri Bike

Joe Hardin is a father of two, a lover of the trails, and a new ultra-distance runner. By day, he is a research and development technician; by night, he is an aspiring artist and writer. He is also an advocate for addiction recovery, inclusivity in endurance sports and a plant-based lifestyle.