Marco Poulin of Sherbrooke, Que., set a course record at Big Wolf’s Backyard Ultra in Cacouna, Que. (near Rivière du Loup), on Monday, running 307.6 kilometers over 46 hours in a victory that puts even greater distance between the ultrarunner and his past struggles with addiction.
The backyard ultra format requires participants to start one 6,706-km “yard” (loop) every hour on the hour, until all runners but one either voluntarily drop out or fail to complete a loop in the required hour. (Backyard racing is designed so that theoretically, runners can complete the 100-mile distance in 24 hours.) Once all other competitors are out of the race, the remaining runner must complete one final lap, making any record attempt both a team effort and an individual one.
With his win Monday, Poulin, 58, bested the course record set last year by Gatineau’s Eric Deshaies by three yards (20 km), as well as Poulin’s own backyard ultra personal best by four yards (26.8 km). Poulin finished second to Deshaies in Cacouna last year, and both men competed on Team Canada at the World Backyard Ultra Championships in Summerland, BC last October. Providing a crucial assist in Poulin’s record-breaking run was friend and fellow Sherbrooke ultrarunner Sébastien Roulier. The pair became the race’s final two competitors when Francois Decelles bowed out after completing 40 yards.
Poulin’s win in Cacouna is the latest chapter in a much larger story of endurance and perseverance. A recovered drug addict and a former drug dealer who spent several years in prison, Poulin has made tremendous strides in turning his life around in recent years.
He has sought to use ultrarunning as a means to encourage others to follow their dreams, no matter how desperate their current situation may appear. In addition to inspiring people through his accomplishments as a runner, he helps others through his work at Partage St-François, a shelter for men and women in Sherbrooke who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. Poulin himself found refuge at the center during his youth.
Poulin has also used ultrarunning as a way to forge a more intimate connection. At last year’s World Backyard Ultra Championships in BC, he proposed to his crew leader and his girlfriend, Isabelle Normand after the runner tapped out of the race following his 40th lap. (She said yes.)