Babak is one of those runners in Missoula that sometimes flies under the radar. But what an amazing guy. He’s not only passionate about this sport, but is positive, friendly, and makes everyone feel welcome. Read on to find out more about Babak and his recent win at the infamously famous “Big’s Backyard Ultra” where he won after running 29 laps that were 4+ miles loops.
Name: Babak Rastgoufard
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Age You Started Running: I was probably around 27 when I started running on a semi-regular basis, but at that time running wasn’t something I did very consistently. It took several years and was a slow evolution before running became a normal part of my life.
Miles Run Per Week: It varies quite a bit. In the summer, I might top out around 60 miles.
Favorite Hobby: Running and baking.
Do You Prefer to Train Solo or With a Group? Both. It’s good to mix things up.
Race Distance Of Choice: 50 miles or 100k
Why Did You Start Running: In 2001, I decided I wanted to try running a marathon. Before that, I would run off and on, but probably never more than 4 miles at a time. I came up with a plan and had fun at that marathon, which was on an old towpath between Cleveland and Akron. It didn’t take long to realize that I preferred running on trails, and so when I moved to Missoula in 2009, running became a good way to explore new areas, or even see the same trail change from week to week, season to season.
Favorite Run: Up the front of Mount Sentinel and down Smoker-Jumper. I especially like Smoker-Jumper since the trees and plants change so much from season to season and even from the top, where it’s slightly cooler, to the bottom.
Favorite Food Pre-Race & Post-Race: (1) Pre-race: dates and almonds the morning of a race. (2) Post-race: a beer and some cookies or cake are always a nice way to finish a day.
Words of Wisdom: From Ed Anacker, “To finish is to win”.
Tell us about “Big’s Backyard Ultra”: For those who aren’t familiar with the race, it’s a pretty simple format. Starting at 7am, you have one hour to finish a 4.166667 mile loop. Those who finish in under hour then run another loop at 8am, and then at 9am, and so on, until there’s only one runner left. If you don’t finish within an hour, or aren’t at the starting line at the top of the hour, you’re out. I told a few people about it and most said it sounded like torture or very boring. However, I was really drawn to the idea because it presents a huge mental challenge. For starters, you don’t even know how long, or many loops, you need to run. Also, at other races, the challenge likely is going to be the course itself and/or the other runners in your age group, or at your pace. With Big’s though, the loop is fairly moderate — it has a few ups and downs, but is very runnable. Also, it makes zero difference if you finish the loop in 29 minutes or 59 minutes — at the end of each loop, everyone who finishes in under an hour is tied for first place. So, the challenge really is internal, more so than any other race. My goal was to find an easy pace and, more than anything else, stick with that pace and be consistent with each loop. That’s what I did and, somehow, after 29 laps I was the last man standing. Everyone who finished at least one loop got a small medal that said, “I tried.” I got the same medal, except mine said, “I survived.”