Jonah Steene, a 44-year-old ultrarunner from Stockholm, Sweden, was lounging in his motel room outside of Nashville, Tennessee, watching TV on Wednesday evening. Every muscle in his legs ached. “It will take a couple of weeks to recover,” he said.
Just a day earlier, Steene had been the lone runner—and therefore, the winner—across the finish line at a quirky, brutal race known as Big’s Backyard Ultra, the brainchild of Gary Cantrell, better known as Lazarus Lake or Laz, the founder of the equally challenging yet slightly more well-known Barkley Marathons. Laz hosts Big’s Backyard Ultra in his own backyard in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
“There are always surprises,” Laz posted on Facebook before this year’s Big’s Backyard Ultra. “The race has been won by some of the preeminent multiday runners of our time and it has been won by the total unknown. Because, it only requires one thing … the willingness to keep stepping to the line, until no one else is left.”