September 19, 2020 – 11:47 AM
A Lower Nicola Indian Band councillor is competing in a 120-kilometre mountain bike race to prove that you can do anything you set your mind to, even if you face mental health and addiction challenges.
Robin Humphrey, 31, from Merritt has a history of mental illness and addiction. At one point when he was about 19, he lived on and off the streets for about a year, he said.
Now five years sober and getting mental health support, he wants to complete the Merritt Crown to show others that they can overcome their own mental health challenges, disbelief in themselves and wants to remind people they “can do anything they set their mind to.”
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Mountain biking is a way for him to challenge himself and a way to help him cope with past traumas, he said.
When riding the trails, the Merritt resident feels the pull of gravity, “how wild things can be and untamed,” along with the rush of adrenaline, he said.
The Merritt Crown “is and will be one of my largest challenges to date and I wanted a life challenge. The world is a challenging place and what more to add to (that) than a 120-km race?”
Humphrey’s hyper-focused on how he rides.
“I use biking to express feelings that I may not be able to express. I attack every corner and every turn and every straight-away and every downhill with purpose and with style to accommodate for the (mental health challenges) that I’ve struggled with. I’ve enjoyed biking and style is everything to me on the bike,” he said.
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“I hope to inspire the young men in our communities to (persevere)… We can endure purse and face our challenges… and it’s OK to have mental health problems, but it’s not OK not to ask for help,” Humphrey said. “Do your best in anything and everything and do what you love, because life is too short. Time is precious.”
Humphrey got back on the bike three years ago, after previously riding in his childhood. When his bike was stolen at 14, his mother didn’t have the means to purchase a new one at the time which led to a 17-year-long break.
“At 28, I walked into the bike shop and I had a dream to buy another bike… and I wanted to get back to it and relive those childhood feelings of being on a bike,” Humphrey said.
Next weekend, Sept. 26, B.C. mountain bikers will test their endurance over 120 kilometres and 3,300 metres of elevation to earn the title of king and queen for the Merritt Crown.
The Crown was founded in 2017 for Canada’s 150th birthday by Merritt resident Darch Oborne.
The mountain bike race takes bikers on steep terrain, linking Merritt’s four distinct riding areas—Coutlee, Iron, Lundbom, and Swakum in the shape of a crown and officially opened to the public in 2019, according to James Oborne, in a press release.
The race was originally postponed back in March due to COVID-19, and returns next weekend, Sept. 26.
“We’ve had the time now because we’ve postponed to learn more about what we can do. All the racers are delighted and all the volunteers are excited,” Darch said.
All spectators are required to wear masks at the start and finish of the race. Aid stations will be posted along the trail, and riders are expected to remain apart from one another. The race will have a maximum of 40 participants and crowds will not exceed 20 people at the finish line. Temperature checks will also be conducted at registration.
This year’s event will have three race options with staggered times: a two-to-four person team relay, a 50 km short track and the classic 120 km long track, according to the press release.
Only 21 riders of the 40 who set out last year for the 120 km race made it back within a 12-hour time limit, earning a commemorative crown.
“It’s to do what I call payback. Somebody built the trails 15 years ago when I was a young fella at 60 years of age and now at 76 I’m building trails and putting on events for others and I’m hoping people will follow in my footsteps, or my bike path for sure,” Darch said.
Keep updated with the Merritt Crown through its Facebook page.
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