Friday, April 18, 2008

Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood

Flyin' Brian Robinson moves out during the 2007 Hardrock 100 mile trail race.

There are some people whose very being seems to up the ante for endurance athletes. One of those people is "Flyin'" Brian Robinson, who lives out in California. Brian first stepped into the limelight in 2001, when he became the first person on the planet to achieve a "Calender Triple Crown." What's a calendar triple crown? Glad you asked ;) Robinson's triple crown was earned by thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail--America's three long trails--in a single calendar year. More than 7,000 miles, thought unachievable in that short a time. It actually took Brian about 10 months. Following that, there were feature articles in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and even People magazine.

Brian is one of a number of folks I have had the pleasure and opportunity of interviewing for an article set to come out in the next issue of Trail Runner magazine, scheduled to hit newsstands nationwide in early May. The article is about the sport of fastpacking (for a definition and history of the sport, you'll have to pick up the article :) and its connection to trail and ultra running, highlighting the trip that Mike Keene and I took to the White Mountains last summer.

In Brian's case, he began ultra running as a way to get and stay in shape for his fastpacking and thru-hiking. For someone who is a backpacking legend, he is an unbelievable ultra runners as well. In 2007, he finished 29th in the Western States 100, the most well-known trail 100 mile race in the country, then turned around and finished the Hardrock 100, one of the country's most difficult 100 mile races.

The thing about Brian that caught my attention as a postscript, is what he managed to do this spring in the Barkley 100. You'd have to call the Barkley the most difficult 100 mile race in the world. It probably shouldn't even be a race, and is often laughed off by those who know it and those who try to run it as lunacy. Only 6 people out of 600 have ever even finished the race. Last year, Brian made it more than 80 miles, and was the only person to do so. This year, not only did he finish, he set the course record.

If you have some time, and want to know why someone would possibly try to run a race like the Barkley, read the great story that Eli Saslow wrote for The Washington Post, as part of a series called, "Why We Compete." To check it out, click here.

Brian's talent, dedication, and vision make him an interesting case study. He changed his life priorities, "retiring" from his job as a computer software engineer to follow his backpacking and endurance sports dreams. When I asked him about what he got from being outside, and what advice he had for someone looking to push themselves in a similar way, he said:

"I love the outdoors and first started fastpacking for the expectation to see more. The more I went, the further I wanted to go. I need trail running because it keeps me connected. Sometimes I have to go visit myself out there.

"For advice, it’s a cliché to say ‘just do it,’ but my life is a pretty good example. I sacrificed a good bit to do what I am doing. I encourage people to stretch their boundaries, to do what is right to follow the path in your heart. I was a computer engineer for 17 years. I thought I was reasonably happy, until I took plan B and turned my back on my career and did what I love. For whom it’s right, do it."

I hope to continue talking to people like Brian, who inspire us to step outside our work-a-day lives, to push our comfort zones, to challenge ourselves. People whose accomplishments as well as their daily lives remind us (while we're using clichés) that perhaps we should work so that we can live, not live so that we can work. I'm all for living.

1 comment:

landy said...

Can't wait for the issue to come out Mike- I am looking forward to reading more.