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Seven Months Into the Pandemic and I’m…Thanking Ultra Runner Gary Robbins.

Feelings of listlessness.

An inability to find a new goal.

A lack of desire to run.

As runners we all know what a race hangover looks like. When I finished my first marathon distance this May, I knew I had achieved something remarkable. Not only had I completed my goal using a Train Like a Mother Marathon Program, but I had done it inside of a pandemic when the physical race itself had been cancelled.

Everyone told me how amazing it was. Heck, I told myself how amazing it was! But once the high and the muscle soreness dissipated, I quickly fell into a deep race hangover with no end in sight as race after race was cancelled and runners were told to run solo wherever possible.

Enter Gary Robbins, organizer of the Coast Mountain Trail Running (CMTR) Summer Challenge. The challenge was teased on the CMTR Instagram page. Scrolling on Instagram, staring longingly at destinations which now felt out of reach, the Summer Challenge post hinted at something different.

“Who's sick of "virtual races" already!?” was the caption. Me!

I was geared up to see what this virtual, summer long scavenger hunt would look like. Completing 30 unique challenges over 100 days of summer to earn badges was right up my alley as a former Girl Guide.

I ran for ice cream. I ran for flowers. One run even had me carrying a canning jar full of tea leaves – that was the “Shop Local” challenge. I unlocked hidden challenges and I even ran with a stranger. On purpose! I ran up a local stair trail five times in a row. My calves still haven’t quite forgiven me.

I mentioned Gary Robbins earlier, as he is a local trail running legend where I am from. Seriously, look this guy up. He has tried three times in a row to finish the notoriously difficult Barkley Marathons in Tennessee. No Canadian has finished it yet. Gary also happens to be an avid camper. I am an avid camper. Do I sound like a fangirl yet?

During an August camping trip, I was taking a stroll around the campsite when I stumbled across a site with a familiar tent and a vehicle covered in CMTR race stickers.

Could it be?

What were the chances?

Indeed, it was GARY! I summed up my courage and introduced myself. He was super gracious and I kept it short and sweet. My husband and our friends and our children spent the rest of the weekend mercilessly teasing me about “Gary Glitter”, now nicknamed for my starstruck reaction.

I closed out my challenge on September 20 with a four-and-half-hour-hike accompanied by my 8-year-old daughter. We even managed to run parts of it.

I have no idea what the fall holds for me and the running world, but man, that challenge lanyard full of buttons feels glittery and fantastic.

Read more Seven Months into the Pandemic essays.

4 responses to “Seven Months Into the Pandemic and I’m…Thanking Ultra Runner Gary Robbins.

  1. Another Gary fan here too!!!! Please tell me you sent him this essay as well. It would fill his heart to know how much his race and meeting him meant to you.

  2. OMG, another huge Gary fan here!!!! I went to a local screening of Where Dreams Go To Die and was obsessed we were in the same room ;). Super exciting!!

  3. I also did the CMTR Summer Challenge and would fangirl if I met Gary Robbins. Congratulations! Super fun way to keep running all summer right?!

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