At the 2023 Dawn to Dusk to Dawn 24-hr track ultra. Photo: Teodor Beekneeyosec.
It's hard to catch Harvey Lewis. He's always on the run. During our recent morning phone interview, he was running around the house and packing for his flight to New Zealand before heading out to the 2023 Dead Cow Gully Backyard Ultra in Australia. Having shared the track with him at the 2019 Dawn to Dusk to Dawn (D3) 24-hr and in May 2023, I was a little familiar with Harvey. I ran as fast as I could during a lap in May to catch up to him to let him know that I would like to interview him for my website blog. Harvey won Dawn to Dusk to Dawn with 137.24 miles.
From his very active social media and articles published about him, we know that Harvey runs to the School for Performing Arts in Cincinnati where he teaches financial literacy and American government. I began the interview with a question about the parallels between teaching and ultrarunning. Harvey will tell you that both require "patience and balancing and managing different things happening all at once." "In terms of profession, anyone can glide into being an ultrarunner," says Harvey.
While running laps around the track at D3 last May, I noticed Harvey's impressive crew at work. I asked Harvey what makes them amazing and if each crew member is assigned a specific task. "I feel like I have a really strong crew. I pick people who have an adaptive personality." Being flexible, having fun, and staying positive are characteristics of a good crew.
"They are flexible. They are going to have fun no matter what's going on. They're going to try hard and to stay positive. Even if they have a negative thought, they don't say a single negative thing," says Harvey.
As for specific crewing assignments, the main assignment is to give each other a break. "There's no ego thing going on where one member feels they want control. Being a good crew member involves a lot of selflessness," adds Harvey.
Crewing also entails providing the runner with nutrition and hydration. Harvey's food intake and nutrition has changed through out the years. "I was the second biggest kid in my school." Harvey has gone from unhealthy eating as a youngster to becoming a vegetarian to eating an all plant- based diet beginning seven years ago. He credits his plant-based diet with making him a strong and injury-free runner.
"I'm fortunate not to experience injury. My ability to rebound is quick with the anti-inflammatory properties of eating plant-based. A plant-based diet really lends itself to less swelling." Harvey attributes his plant-based diet for his record-breaking miles at the 2021 Big Dog's Backyard Ultra World Championship. He logged 354.2 miles in eighty-five consecutive hours. "The backyard ultra lends itself to nutrition overtime. I could see the ankles of the other runners were really swollen. My body didn't have any of that swelling."
"I eat all plant-based foods and for me, I feel like I'm competing at a higher level," adds Harvey.
He chuckles, "Not to sound braggadocious, I don't know of any anyone who's been running ultras twenty-seven years and competing at the same level as me."
When racing Harvey doesn't eat the same healthy plant-based foods that he eats daily. But he eats plant-based foods with sugars, fats, salts, etc. While plant-based foods are key to his racing, Harvey adds, "I do not eat healthy foods when I'm running races. I eat things that give me an immediate kick of energy. All kinds of crazy stuff. When I'm training, I eat more healthier foods."
Is Harvey a competitive person? "Well, yes. I'm absolutely competitive with everything and every race, but it's not everything to me." Harvey chuckle, "Some runners say they are not competitive, but they really are. I haven't found many runners who are not competitive."
But there are also moments of friendly competition. "I have friends who are friendly competitive and would give half of their water to a competitor if they're on the trail and have no water. They don't think twice about it. You can be competitive and have good sportsmanship too."
Competing and racing requires training. I asked him what his favorite and least favorite thing about training and racing is. Harvey's favorite thing about training is "just the feeling of accomplishment. I like feeling the challenge and getting up and doing a routine. I do like to run in the morning, evening, or daytime. I run at least once a day. I have a commute streak back and forth to work."
As for racing, there is so much variety in the types of races. "I like the diversity. I feel that is where my strength is. Some runners only want to run trails, others only roads or a specific type of race. I do everything, all the races," says Harvey.
Harvey will be running his 12th consecutive Badwater 135 July 4 - 6. Photo: Michael Jimenez.
Harvey elaborates, "Where I perform stronger is races of a hundred miles in a difficult type of course. I like the strategy, the mindset." Badwater 135 comes to mind. "I really love Badwater still. That would be my favorite course."
"But now my favorite race might be Big's Backyard ultras. I like the camaraderie and I like the challenge. You don't know what's going to happen." Harvey adds, "I would say Badwater is my favorite course, but Big's Backyard is my favorite ultra. I really like the format. I'm contemplating it the whole year and rethink the experience in my mind." I guess you could say Harvey's mind is always racing.
Because Harvey has a rule that does not allow for negative statements, he doesn't have a least favorite race, but he might be less excited about it. "Maybe I don't get enthusiastic about a race, like a 50K. I still like that race, but I don't get excited about it."
According to Ultrasignup, Harvey, 47, has conquered 107 races and has placed first or second, set a new record, or won a championship in seventy-five of them. Harvey has been going ultra strong since 1996 when, at age 20, he ran his first 24-hour ultra and collected 81.3 miles.
Races and racing excite Harvey. But what excited Harvey during our interview was the release of his documentary Like Harvey Like Son. "The film was suppose to to premiere in April when the pandemic hit. It was set up to go nationwide in theaters. My father and I were scheduled to go to Hollywood. The pandemic hit in March and crushed all of that. We really hope people see it. I think they will really enjoy it, " says Harvey.
I watched the documentary of Harvey's attempt to break the FKT (fastest known time) record on the Appalachian Trail with his father as his crew. I enjoyed it and highly recommend it. You will learn more about Harvey and you will see a father-son bond be transformed. The documentary is available on Amazon Prime and Prime Video.
When he's not teaching, training, racing, setting records, making a documentary, or taking people on hiking and running holidays to Portugal and the Azores with his Run Quest Travel programs, Harvey is gardening. "I love gardening. I like flower and rock gardens. I'm always taking off so I don't have a vegetable garden."
Thinking about running your first ultramarathon race? Harvey offers the following advice. "I would say to look at it as a great challenge. Have fun, that's number one. Don't really have any sort of time goal. Just go in to finish the race while having fun. That's it."
And it looks like Harvey had a lot of fun at the Dead Cow Gully Backyard Ultra in Australia while competing to be the last man standing. He wasn't the last man standing, but he logged 375 miles in ninety hours and set a new American Backyard best.
Still standing and a selfie after Dead Cow Gully.
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