Sarah Lavender Smith May 09, 2012 TWEET COMMENTS 18

The Grand to Grand Ultra

How the seven-day, 160-mile self-supported race is taking shape in the heart of the southwest


Photos by Photoworks, Kanab, UT

Seven days of running and hiking across vast desert terrain, covering some 250 kilometers while carrying calorie-dense food and essential gear on your back, isn’t for everyone. But a growing number of extreme trail runners and fastpackers view a multi-day, self-supported race as the next frontier in adventure and challenge.

Until now, attempting that challenge has meant traveling to remote corners of the world, such as Morocco for the Marathon des Sables or China for the 4Desert Series’ Gobi crossing. More than a few U.S. runners probably looked at the cost and time required to travel to those destinations and shelved the dream.

Colin and Tess Geddes, along with ultrarunner Terry Madl, designed the inaugural Grand to Grand Ultra with those American runners in mind. From September 23 through 29 North America’s first staged, self-supported footrace will cover 160 miles from the majestic North Rim of the Grand Canyon (elev. 5324 feet) in Arizona to the pink-hued, lesser-known geologic wonder called the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (elev. 9360 feet), which sits in between Bryce Canyon National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Southern Utah.

The Geddes—the event’s husband-and-wife co-directors, who live in British Columbia—and Madl, the third co-director handling logistics, also wanted to attract runners from all over the world with the opportunity to cross a distinctive, visually dramatic region of the United States. They expect about 70-percent of the participants to be from outside of the U.S. and have already registered runners from several Western and Eastern European countries, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Korea, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Jordan, Serbia and Canada.

If you want to join them to run the equivalent of back-to-back marathons with a 50-miler mid-week—with a backpack—then there’s still four months left to train and register. The cost? $3200.



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