Advertisement

B.C. man had 60 hours to finish a 160-km ultramarathon. He thought he missed by 6 seconds

Click to play video 'B.C. man heartbroken as he misses Barkley Marathons finish by just six seconds' B.C. man heartbroken as he misses Barkley Marathons finish by just six seconds
WATCH: Gary Robbins wanted to finish one of the world’s most punishing ultramarathons. He may have come closer to finishing than anyone who hasn’t completed it – Apr 3, 2017

It was grey and rainy at the finish line of the grueling Barkley Marathons on Monday afternoon, and people were starting to lose hope that North Vancouver’s Gary Robbins would become the first Canadian ever to finish.

The event puts participants through a punishing 100-mile (160-kilometre) course that wends its way through woods and bush in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. All athletes must finish in under 60 hours.

They do five loops in total, with 12 hours to finish each one. They have to collect pages of a book at a series of checkpoints to show that they followed the course properly.

As of Monday morning, only 14 people had ever finished the Barkley Marathons since it began in 1986.

Robbins participated in the Barkley Marathons last year but he was forced to give up at the 50-hour mark. He was determined to finish this time.

Story continues below advertisement
WATCH:A B.C. man misses the mark in a grueling race in Tennessee. As Robin Gill reports, not only was Gary Robbins just seconds from meeting the time, he got turned around in the tough terrain.
Click to play video 'Ultramarthoner was 6 seconds late to finish line' Ultramarthoner was 6 seconds late to finish line
Ultramarthoner was 6 seconds late to finish line – Apr 4, 2017

READ MORE: Manitoban brave enough to attempt The Barkley Marathons

His wife, young son and two friends were among about 50 to 60 people waiting for him at the finish line on Monday, with no sign of the runner.

Then, from behind, they heard a man say he was coming up the way.

About 50 to 60 people turned around to find Robbins powering to the finish line, walking poles in both hands.

People cheered and applauded as he leaned over a gate that marked the finish. Then joy turned to heartbreak as it emerged that Robbins missed the 60-hour mark by only six seconds. However, race director Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell later clarified on Facebook Robbins failed to complete the course by two miles, not six seconds.

Story continues below advertisement
“I hate it, because this tale perpetuates the myth that the [B]arkley does not have a course,” wrote Cantrell.

As he collapsed to the ground, Robbins could be heard saying that he went up the wrong trail in the fog and ended up hitting the finish line from the opposite direction.

Robbins did, however, manage to collect all the pages he needed to finish.

Nevertheless, he didn’t arrive there within 60 hours. So he didn’t finish at all.

“You have to come in on the right trail anyway,” Cantrell told Canadian Running Magazine. Lake said had Robbins come in within the 60-hour limit, he still would have been disqualified because he came in the wrong way.

WATCH: Enduring the exhausting Barkley Marathons
Click to play video 'Enduring the exhausting Barkley Marathons' Enduring the exhausting Barkley Marathons
Enduring the exhausting Barkley Marathons – Apr 27, 2016

Washington, D.C.’s John Kelly became the 15th finisher of the Barkley Marathons with a time of 59 hours and 30 minutes — on his third time trying.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Edmonton firefighters tackle gruelling 100-mile race for mental health

Michael Doyle, editor-in-chief of Canadian Running, said Robbins’ arrival at the finish line was the “craziest thing I’ve ever seen in running.”

“I think that initially there was sort of this moment of hope that he had just squeezed under the wire,” he told Global News.

“The bottom line was that he was six seconds over and that was that.”

Doyle is, however, fairly certain that Robbins hit one mark — the fastest person ever to come short of finishing one of the world’s most brutal courses.

“I’m pretty sure that no one’s come less than six seconds over a 60-hour race,” he said.

WATCH: Doyle speaks with Sonia Sunger on Global News Morning BC:

Click to play video 'B.C. man fails to finish Barkley Marathon' B.C. man fails to finish Barkley Marathon
B.C. man fails to finish Barkley Marathon – Apr 4, 2017
Advertisement