Renowned B.C. ultra-marathoner to run 160 km, climb 9,000 metres in garage

The B.C. man known for his obsession with one of the hardest foot races in the world will test himself against a machine in his garage on Saturday to try to raise money for the B.C. Search and Rescue Association.

Gary Robbins, 43, had planned to go back to Tennessee at the end of March for his fourth attempt at the Barkley Marathons — an infamous 160-kilometre race known for its 60 straight hours of punishing climbs and leg-shredding brambles — but had to give up his dream of finally finishing this year when the race was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“It was really a heartbreaking experience,” he said after training all winter for the race. “I had very high hopes.”

Robbins said he went into a “funk” for a month after the race was cancelled. He was also forced to cancel a half-dozen races he organizes in B.C. through his company Coast Mountain Trail Running, including the popular Squamish 50 races in August.

But he said he eventually he got through his malaise.

“Life goes on and there are bigger things at stake than a race,” he said.

He’s returned to training and is now hoping to help others by enduring a punishing run on a treadmill in his garage in Chilliwack starting at 9 a.m. PT on Saturday to raise money for the B.C. Search and Rescue Association, which represents close to 80 search and rescue outfits in the province.

“I thought it would be fun to replicate a big mountain race on a treadmill,” he said, while adding that search and rescue operations in the province are in need of funding.

Watch Gary Robbins attempt to run 160 kilometres in his garage on Saturday, April 25, starting at 9 a.m. PT:

Most mountain or trail races Robbins participates in are around 100 miles or 160 kilometres long and involve about 30,000 feet or around 9,000 metres of climbing.

Months ago he bought a specially designed treadmill that would allow him to go up and down. While he does almost all his running outside, he says now is a great time to test himself against the machine, and the boredom of not actually going anywhere or seeing any mountains while he runs. 

“Now with the fact that there are no events taking place and you shouldn’t really be straying too far from home … I thought what better time than now to attempt this.”

Robbins says he normally donates thousand of dollars a year to the association through his race hosting company. But with races cancelled this season, he is not able to and hopes others will support him and the association.

He says he has about $1,000 worth of prizes to give away during the run, which will be broadcast on his YouTube page.

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