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10 questions with Gary Robbins

One of the world’s top ultra-endurance athletes on the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, wine and real heroes

Gary Robbins
Gary Robbins
Photo: Brice Ferre.

1. What would you say are your defining characteristics as a runner?

An unwavering dedication to a goal, high pain tolerance, mental strength and resilience, ability to rally from deep lows in an expeditious manner, and a really good appetite.

2. What do you admire most in another runner?

The ability to overcome setbacks.

3. What is your idea of happiness?

Happiness isn’t something that’s achieved; it isn’t an end goal, like, “Hey, look at me, I found happiness.” Happiness is a constant battle, day in and day out, to live an honest life and make decisions and sacrifices that lead to a state of being content and feeling happy more often than not. I’m a happy person because I’ve fought hard my entire life to walk away from the things that don’t allow me to be happy – from careers to relationships to food choices. My idea of happiness is finding your passion, pursuing it and surrounding yourself with great people who lift you up and allow you to lift them up in return.

4. Who are your athletic heroes?

I don’t really have athletic heroes, to be honest. So many people in the spotlight are deeply flawed, and I’ve seen the heroes of my youth show themselves to be unworthy of admiration. As an adult I look up to good people who live their lives in an honest and meaningful ways. Most of all, I think an athletic hero is best represented by those who find a way, no matter what, to overcome the obstacles in front of them. A prime example of this is Dave Mackey, who was one of the top endurance athletes in the world for many years. He had a serious accident and was forced to amputate his leg in 2016, and in January, he finished his first 50K ultra distance trail race as an amputee. That’s a heroic story from a heroic person.

5. Where would you like to live?

Right where I do live: North Vancouver. I travelled the world for a few years and have driven coast-to-coast in Canada multiple times. I did my research, chose where I wanted to live and then made it happen.

6. What is your greatest running-related regret?

I don’t harbour regret for anything I’ve done in my life. I make the best decisions I can with the information I have access to in that moment. If at a later time that decision is shown to be flawed then I step back and take a lesson from it and move forward. If you asked what race I would most like a redo at with the fitness I possessed in that moment in time, it would be the UTMB in 2013. It was one of my best years as an athlete and probably the fittest I’ve ever been in my life, but when I arrived in France as a legitimate top-10 threat. I was slightly over-trained and then promptly got sick. I was out of the race by mile 18, and it took me six months to get over the sting from that one.

7. What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear through much of my life was to be forgotten.

8. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Six pack abs, baby.

9 What’s one thing you can’t live without?

The love that surrounds me on a daily basis. I would be a shell without the support I have from my immediate and extended family. That and coffee, sushi, chocolate and wine… that’s one thing, right?

10. What is your motto?

My motto is: Never possess a motto.

This Q&A originally appeared in the March & April 2018 issue of Canadian Running magazine.