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Ryan Gibbons back to competitive best after Covid years

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Ryan Gibbons training on Horseshoe Bay

This year’s Bermuda Day half-marathon will feature a reinvigorated Ryan Gibbons.

Despite racing the past two years, a long post-Covid recovery left him feeling frustrated and uncompetitive but the catalyst to train harder came from one of his fellow runners in the 2023 event.

“Covid did a number on my health, catching it and then recovering from that took a lot longer than expected,” Gibbons said.

“I ran in 2022 and last year as well, but someone ran across me and told me, ‘hey, Ryan, I thought you used to be fit’ as I had just overtaken him.

“That was a kick in the butt to get training for this one and in January I did the half-marathon relay at the Triangle Challenge with my partner and since then I have been building up my mileage and doing a lot of silent work.

Ryan Gibbons is back training hard

“I feel comfortable and I feel stronger than I did five years ago-pre Covid.”

Gibbons, 38, who chose to have part of his right leg amputated in 2010 after being involved in a motorcycle accident, is no stranger to the big event on May 24. He has run on six previous occasions but feels he is in good shape this time.

“My fastest time is 1hr 35min and my slowest is 3hr 10min, so if I can get around two hours that will be OK,” Gibbons said.

“But honestly if I finish and my body carries me around I will be grateful because honestly last year in the rain all the timings went right out of the window. May 24 is a hard one to set any real personal bests as far as speed so I like to feel good about the effort.”

Gibbons’s life has been filled with effort in the past 14 years and he races with a running blade, which has made a big difference to his life.

“One of the reason for amputation was running,” Gibbons said.

“One was quality of life but I also wanted to live a full life. I used to run but took it for granted. The first time I did the race was 2014 and I had a basic prosthetic and now I have a running blade, which was given to me after the first race because the company wanted me to take it to the next level and I knocked nearly an hour off my time.”

Ryan Gibbons completes relay in Triangle Challenge

It takes time to master the technique of running with a blade and there is more energy required than a person with two legs.

“Physically it takes me, and this isn’t anecdotally, this is quantified science from the prosthetics company, it takes 30 per cent more energy just to do the same movement,” Gibbons said.

“If I am running alongside you on a flat road at the same pace but you have both your legs it will take me 30 per cent more energy to do the same.

“Also from a comfort side of things, there is a large conditioning phase. If you are born without the bones in your limbs you might see those guys walking on their residual limb and their level of comfort is different than someone who has gone through the experience of cut bone.

“I used to have stop every mile to take the lining off and dry down in order to make sure I wasn’t getting any skin breakdown or bad chaffing.

“I’ve been able to push that now safely to five miles and I’ve been able to do a full 10K without the liner change but I have blisters at the end of it.

“I’m planning to do this race with three stops, the first one at Port Royal, Burnt House Hill and Red Hole just off to the side around the relay points.

“Going uphill there is no real advantage but I can throw my entire body weight into the spring and it will load me forward but that requires a different set of muscles and you do fatigue differently. Going downhill there is no heel on the blade so there are no brakes and you lose any kind of control that you might have had.”

Now a veteran of these races, this year’s contest could prove more tricky than the last for Gibbons because he has a preference for racing out of St George’s.

“I like St George’s more because the first four miles are relatively flat and it allows me to get into a proper cadence,” he said.

“The sun is at your back and there is normally a tailwind as you come off the causeway, so there are a few environmental factors that I like about St George’s, although I did grow up in the West, so if it’s Cup Match, it’s Somerset all day.

“When you start in Somerset you start on an incline and there are a lot of undulations that mess up my tempo, so it’s more of a challenge.”

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Published May 23, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated May 23, 2024 at 7:44 am)

Ryan Gibbons back to competitive best after Covid years

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