A unique new endurance race is scheduled to get underway Sunday, September 23 as runners take to the starting line for the inaugural Grand to Grand Ultra. The seven day event will pit some of the top long distance runners in the world against one another on a 168 mile (270 km) course that begins at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and ends at the summit of the Pink Cliffs of the Grand Staircase in Utah.
The G2G Ultra is the first stage race of its kind to be held in North America. Each day of the race the competitors will take on a single leg with a clearly defined starting and ending point for that day. In the evening they’ll camp on the course and the following morning they’ll begin the next stage. Those stages average 28 miles (45 km) in length with the longest covering 44 miles (70 km) and the shortest just 15 (24 km). That means the competitors will average more than a marathon a day for six days in demanding backcountry environments. Along the way, they’ll also contend with with more than 21,790 feet (6642 m) of vertical gain.
To add another measure of challenge to an already difficult race, the competitors will also need to be completely self sufficient while out on the course. That means they’ll have to be able to carry all of their gear, including food and water, with them at all times. The runners will be given fresh water at each checkpoint throughout the day, but other than that they must haul everything else they may need in their backpacks. That includes such things as first aid supplies, navigational equipment, an emergency blanket, headlamp and so on.
There is little doubt that the Grand to Grand Ultra will be a challenging race but it will also be a scenic one. After starting at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon the runners will wind their way through Kaibab National Forest and into Zion National Park before eventually ending in the Dixie National Forest. Along the way they’ll pass windswept mesas, travel through scenic valleys, down narrow slot canyons and across sun-drenched sand dunes. Along the way, sharp eyed runners may spot mule deer, bighorn sheep and possibly even a rare California condor. If you are considering a run like this, but are afraid you may get lost along the way, consider looking into one of Wenger’s Swiss Watches with our LED digital compass readout.
While the race is designed to be a fantastic test of endurance, the G2G Ultra isn’t just about athletic competition. The organizers of the race have pledged to give some of the proceeds from the event to charity and this year they’ve chosen impossible2Possible as the recipient. i2P is a non-proft dedicated to inspiring and educating young people through adventure and over the past few years the organization has connected with hundreds of classrooms to help raise awareness about some of the important issues facing our planet.
It is obviously too late to sign up for this year’s version of the Grand to Grand Ultra, but the race will return in 2013. If you would like to take part in next year’s G2G, early bird registration is already open. That gives you a full year to train for the race.
[Photos Courtesy of Grand to Grand Ultra]
By Kraig Becker