Who is Gary Robbins? Everything to know about the famous endurance runner who never finished the Barkley Marathons

Get to know Canadian ultra-marathon runner Gary Robbins
Get to know Canadian ultra-marathon runner Gary Robbins

Gary Robbins is a Canadian ultra-marathon runner, who lives in Chilliwack, British Columbia, with his wife and son. While Robbins has run many marathons successfully, he is widely known for his inability to complete Tennessee’s famed Barkley Marathons.

The runner has been one of Canada's best over the past decade, having won the 2008 Stormy Trail in Squamish which was 100 miles long. In 2009, he finished first at the 50km Dirty Duo race in North Vancouver.

In 2010, Gary Robbins completed the HURT 100 Mile Endurance Run in Hawaii, winning gold and setting a course record of 20 hours and 12 minutes.

A few years later, in 2013, Robbins finally won the 30-mile-long Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run, after two previous tries. That same year, he bettered his record at the HURT 100 miles, this time completing the distance in 19 hours and 35 minutes.

The Canadian is also a race director, and his events series “Coast Mountain Trail Running” has actively donated over $350,000 back to British Columbia’s local search and rescue and trails organizations.

Gary Robbins’ history at the Barkley Marathons

Gary Robbins attempted the Barkley Marathon in 2016, failing to navigate past the fourth loop due to sleep deprivation.

2017 in Tennessee was another heartbreak for Robbins. He completed the full race but reached the end merely six seconds after the 60-hour mark. However, it was later found out that a wrong turn meant that Robbins had cut two miles off his race, meaning that he would have been disqualified even if he had been a few seconds faster.

The next year saw impossibly difficult weather at the Barkley Marathons that included snow, heavy fog, and rain, preventing anyone from finishing the five loops. That year, the Canadian runner was the only person to finish the three-loop ‘fun-run’.

In 2019, injury issues prevented Gary Robbins from entering the race, while the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the race in 2020. In 2021, the runner declined to participate in 2021 because of border restrictions around the pandemic.

The next year, he announced his decision to give up on the infamous Barkley Marathons, writing on Instagram:

“I removed myself from the Barkley Marathons starters list this morning. Why? Because it's the right thing to do. If nothing else, this pandemic has taught me what is meaningful and what is not. It's allowed me to step back and to recognize what brings me happiness and joy, and within that, what is sustainable and what is not.”
“I've long since come to terms with the fact that the race does nothing to define me, and a finish will bring nothing more than exactly that, a race finish. It will not validate anything, it won't make me someone or something I'm not already, and though it would be nice, it's also not necessary for me to be able to move on. (I've long since moved on).”

Gary Robbins’ struggles with the Barkley Marathons have been captured in a 2018 documentary “Where Dreams Go To Die”. This year, despite not participating, Robbins was present in Tennessee to cheer for runners.

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