The Kane County Office of Tourism was waiting at the finish line with much appreciated sandwiches, fruit, water and goodie bags as 216 runners from across Utah and other states completed a nearly 200 mile relay race beginning at Capitol Reef National Park and ending at Zion Ponderosa Ranch.

“Awesome” was the first word out of almost every runner’s mouth, despite the hot hours they had spent running across many of the most amazing landscapes in southern Utah, including Boulder Mountain, Dixie National Forest, the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, Red Canyon, Navajo Lake and finally the top of Zion National Park. “I’m going to do it again,” was the next most popular refrain, and, “this was unbelievable, totally great.”

The 18 teams of 12 runners came from a highly diverse population of regional runners. Teams left at staggered times, and the last team to leave was the first to finish by several hours. The BYU Runners Club left at 10:30 a.m. Friday morning and finished 22:44 hours later. They averaged about one hour of sleep each as their van traveled alongside the team member on the road. They all agreed that seeing their team captain Emerson Powell as he was running behind a rising sun was one of the best moments of their adventure.

For runners in our local Kanab community, their team captain averaged 6.5-minute miles on difficult terrain. Every runner averaged 16.3 miles, with teams completing exactly 194.2 miles.

Every team had a story and their own special road warriors; the “Firecrackers” hosted a mother recently recovered from breast cancer running with her two children. Her 10-year-old son ran one of the most demanding 7.1-mile uphill legs of the race and “killed that hill” according to enthusiastic team members.

The “Twelve Crazy Souls on Hi Way 12” were the first mixed male/female team to complete the course in roughly 28 hours. “The run across Hogsback was fantastic,” one runner said, “the views on each side as you come across are so breathtaking I just wish I had had the energy left to really enjoy it.”

When asked what the highs and lows of the race were, all runners agreed; the highs were the great team building and astounding landscapes. Many team members had only met each other the night or even morning before and some found each other on Facebook as team organizers committed to discovering 12 great runners willing to run a spectacular, but very challenging race. Powerful new supportive relationships were built as the teams struggled through high temperatures and challenging terrains. Every time a final team member crossed the finish line, there was a great thunder of clapping, shouting and hugging.

The lows? Only the extra high heat on Friday, and torture of running through the final legs of exhausting dirt. Zion Ponderosa Ranch and Resort, a beautiful respite on the east side of Zion National Park, offered a refreshing end of race destination where runners could revive, providing showers and even a pool.

This relay race was a first time event created by runner Ellen Mueller and her family. Coming from Orderville, she remembers stories of her father running two miles to school and back and after her own family ran the beautiful Red Rock Relay. She decided to turn that great experience into a more solid fundraising and relationship-building event. Her event motto is; “Inspire the Soul, Improve the Body, and Strengthen Relationships.” This amazing lady earned the kudos of every runner regarding event organization. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to WHOLives.org, a non-profit organization that has developed a human powered drill capable of drilling ground holes deep enough to assist water needy communities in Africa. Please go to www.wholives.org.