Lewis w/ Sign

Harvey Lewis gets ready to compete in virtual ultra marathon.


CIRCLEVILLE — During these interesting times of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the State of Ohio, many have been encouraged to stay home during the pandemic.

Multiple sporting and competitive events were canceled as a result of the outbreak, but one local man has taken this time to do one of his passions; running anytime, anywhere.

Harvey Lewis has been living in the City of Circleville for the past six years. During the times he is not running around, Lewis is a school teacher working in Cincinnati, but lives in Circleville with his fiancee, Kelly O’Dell.

O’Dell and her parents have had extensive roots in the community being lifelong residents. For Harvey, the City is just one of his homes in the State of Ohio.

“I’ve got a unique kind of lifestyle… I live in Circleville on the weekends and on the weekdays, I work in Cincinnati,” Lewis told The Circleville Herald.

He added that five days a week, he is teaching at the School for Creative and Performing Arts; a Cincinnati public school. Even with spending most of his weekdays in another city, Harvey has grown fond of the Pickaway County seat.

“I have connected with Circleville,” Lewis said.

Harvey added that during these interesting times in the nation, he has more time on his hands due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. In late March, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued several orders, first of which being that all schools should be closed for a period of time.

The Ohio governor has since issued new orders telling all citizens to practice social distancing standards as well as stay at home. For Lewis, this time has been a period of finding good where there is bad. He is still able to video chat with his students during this time while they are practicing the governor’s orders.

“I teach remotely with my students that are in Cincinnati,” Lewis commented.

However, instead of being in his school environment, Harvey gets more free time than normal at home. Most of the foot races scheduled for early this year have since been canceled due to national emphasis on social distancing.

Sporting events are known to bring massive groups of people together which prompted them to cancel. However, like Badwater 135, some races are still scheduled to take place once the pandemic subsides. During his time at home, Harvey received a very unique phone call with a proposition.

“An elite runner from Canada, Dave Proctor, came up with this dream idea where he wanted to do one of these last person standing events — it’s called the Backyard Ultra,” Lewis explained. “He wanted to do it virtually and connect runners from across the globe… and he messaged me.”

Proctor went on to invite Harvey, as well as other elite runners to participate in the virtual running challenge, according to Lewis. The Ohio runner was happy to partake in the online race, but was curious how it would be done.

“I had some questions at first about how it would all occur,” Lewis commented.

According to the personalpeak.com, the Quarantine Backyard Ultra was a free ultra marathon event. The description of the race included live streaming on YouTube and ultimate prize during this time; a golden toilet paper roll.

The registration for the event was March 23. On April 3, 24 hours prior to the race start, runners like Lewis tested their connection, set up and asked questions pertaining to the race.

On April 4, the race began at approximately 7 a.m. Eastern time. Using an app called Strava, runners were able to track their data during the race. Lewis also used Zoom, a video chat service he uses to communicate with his students.

“Before this whole experience, I never even knew what Zoom was,” Lewis said.

Runners had to repeat a 4.167 mile loop every 60 minutes in any area they so desire. If runners were unable to complete the loop, then they were out of the race.

“Basically, every 24-hour period you cover 100 miles with that effort,” Lewis added.

The race started with 2,413 runners from 65 countries across the globe tuning in to live stream their runs last Saturday. With runners tuning in from home, all had different circumstances and environments to compete in.

“Everyone was running in different environments,” Lewis explained. “Some people could be running on treadmills, some people are running outdoors.”

Lewis did most of his running in the city limits in Circleville. During his loops around town, many locals caught his eye as they were cheering him. He stated he was glad to see people in high spirits as that, in turn, fueled him to do his best during the unorthodox race.

“The thing that impressed me a lot on Saturday was seeing all the families out,” Lewis described. “I’ve seen more people exercising outdoors than I have seen my entire life coming to Circleville.”

Lewis added that during this time, he has seen more people being active in outdoor settings while still obeying six-foot safe distances. During the run, Lewis maintained social distancing throughout his loops. He even went as far as to not touch any metal posts in areas that are frequently touched by others in the community. Sometimes during his runs of over 100 miles, Lewis likes to stretch and did so every hour he returned to his home.

“I just wasn’t stretching as frequently as I normally would,” Lewis said. “It was really challenging running alone.”

Lewis ended the race in 15th place out of over 2,400 runners from around the world. He ran a total of 145.833 miles in a total time of 35 hours. With the interesting circumstances for the race, Lewis was happy to do something he is very passionate about, as well as seeing locals throughout the community, along with essential workers. His race in town started Saturday morning and ended early Sunday morning.

Lewis’ fiancee, O’Dell, is preparing for her own kind of challenge; the toughest race in the world. Lewis won the Badwater 135 race in 2014, finishing the 135 mile race in 23:52:55.

“She will be the first person from Circleville to run that race,” Harvey said. “We hope that it will still happen… it is set for the beginning of July.”

According to badwater.com, The World’s Toughest Foot Race covers 135 miles from Death Valley to Mount Whitney, California. The environment is known for its high temperature and terrain through mountains and high elevated areas. The world’s toughest race is still scheduled for July 6 through July 8 of this year.

During this time of COVID-19, many families and individuals are staying home. Lewis’ advice during this time is to find ways to keep yourself active. It may not be an ultra marathon, but being active mentally and physically is most important especially during the stay at home order.

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