Author: Adam Bratton
Read Time: 4 mins
Human Powered Movement’s mission is to facilitate greater human powered experiences in all of us. This mission is accomplished in many ways. Our upcoming running event is a perfect example of how we are actively carrying out our mission. Psychoactive: A Last Runner Standing Event is far from your standard neighborhood 5K. We’re a few weeks away from something dynamic, unique, and pretty bad ass for the running community. Another way we facilitate greater human powered experiences is by introducing, educating, and informing people about new ways to get active. Let’s break down what a Last Runner Standing Event is in the first place, and how you can best prepare yourself for a whole new style of running event!
What is a Last Runner Standing Event?
Also known as elimination races, this style of running event is a lap-based race where participants run a set lap distance at pre-determined time intervals. Participants continue to run laps of this course until they are eliminated by either not completing the lap within the set time window or if they fail to start a lap with the rest of the runners. Participants continue until there is only 1 remaining runner … the Last Runner Standing! (Bigs Backyard Ultra is a good example where participants run 4.166667 miles at the top of each hour and guest contributor Holly Burwinkle even wrote a Journal Entry for us about her first Last Runner Standing experience if you want another perspective).
It’s also important to note that although some may be intimidated by the name, the beauty of the format is that it allows for a ton of flexibility and is many respects much easier for runners that want to set their own personal goals. Each participant can determine their own distance and duration and not the RD. With smaller breaks in between each lap, it allows for downtime to bring the heartrate down, recalibrate gear, or check in with crew members which doesn’t often happen during other race formats. Last Runner Standing events are perfect opportunities for people to see what they can accomplish while still in the confines of an event.
Lap distances can vary wildly for each event and are based on the venue, trail system, and topography but typically fall within the 1-mile and 5-mile range. Participants run this same loop throughout the course of the event. The event’s Race Director (RD) will also set the Lap Schedule and Pace Chart before the event so participants know how long they have to complete each lap in order to avoid being eliminated. Most events are held on trails, but these events can easily be held on roads, tracks, or mixed surfaces as well.
Unlike standard distance road races or USA Track & Field sanctioned events, each Last Runner Standing event will have it's own unique aspects, features, and formats that are determined by the Race Director and the event vibe that they are trying to present.
Here’s where it gets fun … many RDs will also implement a declining clock which means participants will have a smaller time window to complete each lap as the event continues. I’ve included the Lap Schedule and Pace Chart HERE for our own Last Runner Standing event called “Psychoactive” to give a perfect example of how and when we are implementing the declining clock into our event.
As stated above, there are very few rules to this type of event. Participants that are not able to complete a lap within the prescribed time frame, or if they fail to start a lap with the remaining runners, they are eliminated and are marked as a DNF (Did Not Finish). Pretty simple. Naturally each event will have their own unique rules about pacers/crew, as well as prizes/awards and other aspects unique to that specific event but the general gist is to see who can be the literal last runner standing at the end of the event.
Strategy & Training:
Strategy is by far one of the most important aspects to a successful Last Runner Standing experience. First and foremost, it’s important to point out that endurance is way more important than speed during these events. Aside from having a few more minutes to rest, there is no real competitive advantage to finishing each lap ahead of other runners (unless you are playing the mental game with your competition). Depending on your personal strategy and mental approach, most people find success in setting a pre-determined distance or time goal to shoot for. This helps keep you on track and pushing to accomplishing your goal.
Unlike a typical running race, this event features relatively short rest periods between laps. Because of this, it is best to simulate this start and stop during your training sessions to get your body used to a less “fluid” style of running.
Gear & Nutrition/Hydration:
Since these events are lap based, there is plenty of opportunity to utilize Race HQ as your personal aid station. During events where the laps or shorter in distance, you likely don’t have to take hydration or fuel with you while you run. Use that to your advantage but make sure you set up your pre-race area so you know where to get the goods when you need them the most. Set out you nutrition and hydration in easily accessible locations so you can quickly grab and go during your short “pit stops” between laps. Have a cooler with all your cold drinks and a spread of necessary nutrition on a small table or in another easily accessible bin. The same is true for additional socks, shoes, shirts, hats, etc. Whatever gear you would typically put in a drop bag should be laid out and organized so it’s quickly accessible.
We’ve all heard the phrase “beware of the chair” in ultra-running lingo which cautions people from sitting down during long runs to avoid the mentally difficult act of getting back up and firing up the engine again. This sitting/standing balance is a bit of a necessity in this type of event. I’ve found that a comfortable place to snag a few mins of getting off my feet (and even kicking them up a bit) does wonders to boost morale and gives you something to look forward to at the end of each lap.
As the name states, there is only 1 runner standing at the end of the event … this is the Last Runner Standing and therefore the winner! With that being said, many RD’s fold in various prize tiers throughout the event to dangle the proverbial carrot. For Example: Our Psychoactive event features 4 various prize tiers that can be collected at Half Marathon, Full Marathon, 50K and 50-mile distances.
At the end of the day, and just like any other new type of competition or sport (see Marcus Barton’s Journal Entry about the emerging sport of swimrun or Megan Somloi’s Journal Entry about the joys of starting something new), there is the unknown factor that tends to drive us away. I created Human Powered Movement to fight back and support people in new, and different ways to get active.
The Last Runner Standing event format is certainly different than the traditional running event which is why I am so stoked to share our event with the Charlotte running community on Sept 24th. Regardless of where you are when you read this, know that the event format can be as intense or casual as you want it to be. I can’t guarantee that you’ll be the last runner standing, but I can guarantee that this style of event will provide you with a greater human powered experience … exactly what Human Powered Movement stands for.
Journal - What is a Last Runner Standing Event?
Human Powered Journal
Writings and musings of an active lifestyle
Adam Bratton is the Founder and Head Enabler at Human Powered Movement.
Guest Contributors are more compelling in written word and life in general.