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Rim2rim2rim running adventure

Author talks about a venture far from Canada and into the Grand Canyon to complete a running challenge.

“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.” – J.K. Rowling

Sometimes I think that running is all about adventure. Sometimes it is just a step out onto the weekly running route, other times it is a new path in the woods, a race or just somewhere you had to run. The last category describes the reason for many runs and races that take runners over often intimidating, crazy or breathtaking terrain or scenery.

Running is about exploring and experiencing.

I normally try to ensure I profile runners from the Canadian running community and keep myself away from the words in my blogs. Today is an exception and I will share a running adventure I laced up for at the end of March.

My foot at the edge of the Grand Canyon the day before my venture down into its depths.
My foot at the edge of the Grand Canyon the day before my venture down into its depths.


The adventure was a run from the south rim of the Grand canyon to the north rim and return, often called rim2rim2rim. It is not a race but an obstacle, a challenge, an adventure that one runner thought needed to be completed. Others caught the bug. I found myself with the bug a couple of years ago after I began venturing beyond the marathon distance. It was not until 2013 that I found myself with the time and opportunity to run this adventure.

My entire trip to the area of Nevada and Arizona in the US was a great adventure but is too long a story so I will focus just on the running adventure.

The Grand Canyon must be seen whether you want to run it or not, it is considered one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide drops from the edge to a depth of over a mile (1800 metres) in spots. Its impressive. I was impressed and rather intimidated and lets just say the sleep before my run down the steep, switchbacking trails cut into the canyon walls was not without anxiety.

My trail-running bag and my poles set down for a brief rest at the north rim of the canyon.
My trail-running bag and my poles set down for a brief rest at the north rim of the canyon.

I had planned, had trained hard and thought I was prepared but was still dealing with the unknown. I had food (including lots of my favourite GU peanut butter gels), water, first aid kit, map, compass, extra gear and of course my ultra small camera (Nikon Coolpix S01) to document my foolishness. I tucked all this gear into a great trail running bag I had recently picked up to replace the one my cat had peed on (Salomon Advanced Skin S-lab 12-set) I also had great smartwool socks and a long sleeve top smartwool top from a local running in Ottawa that was supporting me (Sports4) and I would be running in a new pair of Salomon Speedcross3 trail shoes that I was testing out.

The run

Giving myself as much time as possible I headed down into the canyon in the dark of the early morning with a headlamp on. A cool desert morning and the thought of falling of the narrow trail into the canyon almost 2 thousand meters below kept me running carefully and awake.

The sun slowly crept over the canyon walls and illuminated the amazing trail I was on and the awe inspiring spectacle of nature around me. I snapped a few pics and ran on until I finally reached the bottom of the canyon and the Colorado river after over 7 miles. My legs were already pounded from the descent but I carried on and enjoyed the warmth of an emerging sun and bright blue sky.

Loomed over by canyon walls left and right and with the river gurgling and flowing to the side of me, I ran over the dusty, rocky floor of the canyon. I kept my eyes open for scorpions and snakes but only saw small gecko like lizards and later on some skittish deer. I would grab my uber-small camera from a chest pocket every once in a while but kept moving. It was not a race, it was an adventure, but there were time limits and I did not want to be climbing out of the canyon in the dark.

After some running on the flat or rolling floor of the canyon and crossing a few bridges across the river it was time to climb again. The North Kaibab trail that winds up to the north rim of the canyon was rougher, narrower in spots and had a few spots of fallen trees, boulders and some snow near the top. I pushed on finally reached my goal after approximately 21 miles (33km). The sun was now hot and I was tired. An energy gel, a swig of e-load (great Canadian company) and a short time to contemplate what I was doing – then I was running again, down and back in the direction I had just come.


I had known it would be hard – I had no idea how hard. The final climb up to the rim of the canyon where I had started was brutal. I was tired, my legs seemed to barely work and I had to push beyond mentally to keep moving hour after hour on the dusty, windy, narrow, switchbacking trails that loomed up in front of me. After an amused onlooker at the top confirmed it was the top (I had only seen the trailhead in the dark), I gave a whoop (unusual for me to do), shook my trekking poles and nearly sank to my knees.

Quite an adventure.


Running the Canyon (basic facts)

A run from the south rim to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and return.
A run that must be prepared for, planned and trained for – and not taken lightly.
Should be run in the spring or fall because of the heat in the summer.
A distance of 42-45 miles (67-72km) depending on route taken.
Take Kaibab trail (shorter but steeper) or Bright Angel trail then North Kaibab trail, then return.
Not a race, no support and if you get hurt you could be in real trouble or die.

We all need a challenge every once in a while, sometimes an adventure. Life is short, make sure to live it. Play safe but go out and take on something that seems impossible once in a while. Run on my friends.

Do you know someone I should profile?


See you on the roads or in the blogosphere.