Interview with Gary Robbins, Arc’teryx Squamish 50 Co-RD

Arc'teryx Squamish 50

This August 11th, Gary Robbins and Geoff Langford will host a few hundred runners at the inaugural Arc’teryx Squamish 50 (mile) and its complementary races. Below, we interview co-RD Robbins about how the Squamish 50 grew out of the demise of the STORMY ultras and where he sees the Squamish 50 going.

iRunFar: The story of Squamish’s STORMY ultras has run its course and the races are no more. In the wake of their demise, you’re putting together the Arc’teryx Squamish 50 (mile), which also features a 50-mile relay and half marathon. Can you explain your connection to STORMY as well as to Squamish’s trails?

Gary Robbins: I was a resident of Squamish for three years and the greater Sea To Sky Corridor from Squamish to Whistler and Pemberton for six years. My first ever ultra was the 2004 STORMY 67k and my first ever 100-miler was the 2008 STORMY 100. When I moved to Whistler in 2004 and started trail running for the very first time, I truly cut my teeth on the Squamish trail network and as such it’s held and incredibly special place in my heart ever since.

Squamish 50 start

The view from the start of the Arc’teryx Sqamish 50.

iRF: We’d love to hear about how the new Squamish races came about? What was the inspiration? Did you talk to the STORMY RD?

Robbins: Absolutely. A few years back the original STORMY distance was changed from 67k to 50 miles and I was one of the most adamant local proponents of the idea. Eventually, ownership of the race was handed over to fellow Montrail runner Ryne Melcher and he passed it along to myself late last year. It was well stated in advance of that handover – after STORMY, unfortunately, did not occur in 2011 – that I fully desired to give it a rather abrupt face-lift, to the tune of completely redesigning the course and altering the name. We did stick with the same great community though, and the same race date that it historically occurred on.

To take this a step further, my personal motivations for changing up the race were that the original race was strictly designed around a bike course called The Test Of Metal, which is a Canadian classic. The 67-kilometer distance followed the bike route in its entirety and even the name was born of this as S.T.O.R.M.Y. stood for Squamish Test Of Running Metal Yeah. In the eleven years since this idea was dreamed up, ultrarunning as a whole had changed significantly, but, more importantly, the little town of Squamish, BC has become an absolute Western Canadian trail Mecca. There are few places in North American that can boast the network that Squamish has developed and, as such, I felt there was a true need to finally expose all of this incredible new running terrain in a racing format.

Squamish 50 - start and finish

The town of Squamish with start (far right) and finish (dead center).

So far we’ve had nothing but positive exchanges and massive excitement by the route changes. The name change was because we felt this would give immediate notice to people scanning race calendars that something different was happening in the town of Squamish this summer. With about two months until race day, we’ve already surpassed the highest registration numbers STORMY had ever seen.

iRF: Not a year goes by when a quality race doesn’t disappear from the ultra scene and when an RD says enough is enough. Is there any reason that you didn’t simply take over the STORMY races? Any advice for someone who wants to either revive a disappearing race or create one in its place?

Robbins: I slightly answered before, but in terms of reviving or creating a race in its place, I personally feel you have to have a deep understanding of that community, from the local runners to the local business people on out. I don’t think you can create a worthwhile event in an area if you don’t already have an emotional attachment to that specific area and an understanding of how your event may benefit that community best.

Squamish 50 - Powerhouse Plunge

The “Powerhouse Plunge” on the Squamish 50 course.

iRF: You and Geoff Langford are the co-race directors of the Squamish 50. Geoff’s been a race director, but this August’s races will be your race directorial debut. How are you feeling about that at the moment? What are the biggest challenges right now? How about going forward?

Robbins: It’s not my official directorial debut as I used to direct another Squamish race called The Squamish Thunder (I know, why all the storm references, right!) That year it was the largest trail race in the entire Sea To Sky corridor and I would like to add to that that NOT A SINGLE runner took a wrong turn. This is one of the main things I feel necessary to believe you’ve hosted a successful trail race, yet also one of the most difficult to achieve.

Since then, I have also grown into course-management roles with a local adventure racing company called the MOMAR (Mind Over Mountain), a trail series known as 5 Peaks (the largest trail series in Canada), and am also working with Red Bull on a Divide and Conquer race for North Vancouver. All in all, I’ll be course managing or race directing six races this year after five last year (four of which I did while I was on crutches).

As you mentioned, Geoff brings over 15 years of race directing to the table while creating and staging some of the most legendary expedition races in Canadian history. We’ve got quite high hopes that we’ll have a successful debut come August.

We’re excited to announce that we’ve brought Arc’teryx on board as our title sponsor. With their help, the Squamish 50 will have a $50 tech tee to the first 200 runners to sign up, a race prime over the first 11 kilometers of our course, and prize money for winners ($300). We’ve already got the likes of Dakota Jones, Ellie Greenwood, Amy Sproston, Jason Loutitt, Chris Downie, and Aaron Heidt all signed up and ready to rock!

Call for Comments

Post your STORMY memories, share your thoughts about the Arc’teryx Squamish 50, or otherwise leave a substantive comment to be eligible for a free race entry! [Holly V was our lucky winner of the Arc’teryx Squamish 50 entry!]

Arc'teryx Squamish 50 excitement

Are you as excited about the Arc’teryx Squamish 50 as these locals?