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Gary Robbins is running down hills again

The three-time Barkley Marathons attempter is cautiously optimistic about his racing in 2020. Photo: Brice Ferre

Gary Robbins

Canadian ultratrail warrior and race director Gary Robbins of Chilliwack, B.C. was mostly absent from the racing scene in 2019, but on Friday he posted a very cool video of himself running a fast 3,000-foot descent for the first time in three months. In the post he also talked about the injuries he dealt with in 2019 and his hopes for the coming year.

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2019 was definitely a challenging year from a running perspective. A sacral stress fracture wiped out the first half of the year, and then a new stress reaction in my iliac bone (which I haven't publicly mentioned until now) sidelined me from running for a few months this fall. Strava tells me I've covered just 370 miles this entire year on foot. The good news is that I was able to stay active and fit through mostly biking of some sort, either mountain, gravel, road or trainer riding. My fitness is in a great spot, but running specificity has been lacking. I've been working hard these last three months at sourcing solutions, and I believe I'm on the right track. A strength program targeting these weakness has been essential. (Thank you @peak_endurance_wanaka Val Burke). A long standing foot issue, going back 6 years, got a lot worse these last few years and that seems to be the root cause of the injuries. Weirdly and funnily enough, simply taping my problem toe (metatarsal) to the good toe next to it has greatly improved my biomechanics again. I'm held together with duct tape and spit these days it seems 😆 While limiting my downhill running this year, I focused on, and fell in love with uphill running. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be a better rounded runner on the other side of all of this. I am hopeful that I'm stepping past this injury cycle and onto greener pastures for the foreseeable future. 2020 holds a lot of promise right now. Today, I tested things out with my first running descent of 3000ft in almost three full months. I've only done controlled effort 1000ft descents the last 6+ weeks while focusing on rehab & strength work. One thing is for sure, downhills are still so freaking fun and I was super happy to finally let it rip a little bit on 3100ft descent today.

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Most of us knew that Robbins was troubled by a stress fracture in his sacrum, diagnosed a year ago, which kept him from attempting the Barkley Marathons for a fourth time in 2019. He also shared in the current post that he was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his iliac bone, which prevented him from racing this fall. He maintained fitness with a lot of road, mountain, gravel and trainer cycling and some strength training.

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Robbins thinks his issues stem from a long-standing foot/toe issue, which seems to have been helped by taping the problem toe to its neighbour. “I’m held together with duct tape and spit these days it seems,” he quipped.

Many commenters wanted to know how he captured such excellent video of his downhill run. Robbins used an Insta360 ONE X on a selfie stick held in his right hand. (The selfie stick is invisible in the shot because it’s positioned in the blind spot between the camera’s two lenses. This is why Robbins appears not to be moving his right arm.)

Robbins has hinted that he intends to toe the line at the Barkley Marathons again in 2020, but today he would not say whether he plans to return. The race, which typically takes place in the last week of March or first week of April, is one of the most difficult trail races in the world. The Barkley gives a small field of runners 60 hours to try and finish five 20-mile loops through mountainous and challenging terrain, while using their orienteering skills to navigate the course, which is not marked. In more than 30 years, just 15 people have finished the race.

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