Athlete of the Month: Tom Reep

While all of you were mentally and physically preparing for a corona-proof Christmas celebration, a few crazy Gauls decided to attempt a ‘backyard-ultra’. A what?! A backyard-ultra is a type of ultra-run that is especially popular in the United States and in Sweden. Participants have to run 6706m every hour. The remainder of the hour can be used to reflect on how your life’s choices got you to the point of participation and to mentally prepare yourself for the next set. The backyard-ultra does not have a fixed finish, as the last man standing wins. The Asterix version of the backyard ultra took place on 21st of December with three participants: Casper van der Putten, Finn Timmermans and Tom Reep. Keep reading to find out how the backyard ultra winner and Electrical Engineering masterstudent, Tom Reep, has experienced this crazy race and get to know him better!

Mentally sane people might wonder why the hell you would want to run 6.7km each hour and repeat that every hour until your legs cannot carry you anymore. According to Tom, our chairman Finn saw that the backyard-ultra world-record actually got broken in October by some crazy Belgian guy who did 75 laps (=503km in 3 days!!!). “While discussing how boring the winter was going to be with the additional COVID restrictions (and after a couple of beers perhaps), we thought it would be fun to give this backyard-ultra thing a shot”.

Ultra-running is a very specific type of athletics, and for ‘normal’ runners it requires quite some training. So Tom, what did you do to prepare yourself for the backyard-ultra? “I didn’t really change my training routine to prepare for this event, which consists of (relatively) short fast-ish track sessions, easy runs through the woods around Eindhoven and (my favourite) longish endurance runs through the surroundings of the slightly hilly Heerlen (where my parents live). Next to running approximately five times a week, I like to complement my trainings with some swimming and cycling. The week prior to the ultra I planned to take a rest week, which was properly ruined by Casper and Finn convincing me to do a 5k time trial in which all of us ended up running a sub 16 minutes 5k”. Well, sounds like a great preparation! I guess all MiLa runners have no excuse anymore to try and beat Casper, Finn and Tom on the next backyard-ultra.

Tom has not always been this big of a fan of running. Before he started athletics, he was actually a competitive swimmer! He quit swimming at 14 years old after which he did not do any exercise for over a year. “Not doing any sports for over a year resulted in me getting a bit fat. Eventually, my parents introduced me to running. At this point I was completely out of shape, but for some reason (#pijnisfijn) I really enjoyed pushing myself while running. I soon joined the athletics club in Kerkrade. When I started studying in Eindhoven in 2016, I joined Asterix. During the first half year of my studies, I was injured (shin-splits), so I have been a proper member since March 2017”.

Since that time, Tom has been an active member who pushed many committees to a higher level. He was also the secretary of the 49th Board in 2017-2018. His favorite Asterix memory? “The Batavierenrace. What is more fun than zigzagging at full speed through a massive herd of students at 2:30 at night through rural Germany? Not to mention the afterparties where everybody is putting massive amounts of energy into hiding their inner-zombies”.

In the past summer holiday, Tom got his first taste on what it is like to participate in ultra-races. Together with some fellow gauls, he ran his first trailrunning race in Austria. The 21k trailrun in Saalbach had 2100 altimeters. “I really enjoyed the technical slopes and rewarding views. It was nice to push my body to the finish instead of going for a good time. Also, this was the first time I beat Casper in a race!”.

Tom, Finn and Casper would not be real Gauls if they did not set the bar high for this backyard-ultra thing. They aimed at doing 15 laps, which would result in running a total of 100k. The previous longest distance ran by Tom was 28.5K, after getting lost in the middle of nowhere with a friend. So, how did it go? “Our ‘race’ started at 9:00 on Monday as Casper tends to be asleep at 8:00 (our initially planned starting time). The first few laps went quite well, even though we were still busy digesting our massive breakfasts. After the 6th lap, we all started experiencing the effects that the constant pounding of tarmac has on our brittle joints. For me, the 7th and 9th lap ended up being the toughest. During the 10th lap I started to get back into a nice running rhythm, however it was during this lap that Finn’s hip muscles started to disintegrate after which he stopped to preserve his body (to the extent that this was still possible). Casper ended up doing another lap which we ran together. Finally, I felt fit enough to do a final lap in which both Casper and Finn supported me with some loud music, which was great!”. Tom ran a total of 12 laps, which corresponds to 80k! This made him the last man standing, winning the backyard-ultra from Casper and Finn. Congratulations Tom on this great performance!

There is no doubt that Tom will continue running great and varying races in the coming years. His dreams concerning ultra-running? “I consider doing a proper 100k at some point. However, I will probably put this ultra-stuff on hold until I am a bit older. The biggest event on my bucketlist is doing a full ironman (= 3,86k swimming, 180,2k roadcycling and running a marathon)”. Goodluck Tom!

By: Tessa Junggeburth