There were mixed emotions at the beginning of the Grand to Grand Ultra Marathon 2013 race. Entrants had paid money and signed on to running, walking and climbing 167 miles in seven days in the remote northern Arizona/southern Utah area. Perhaps the 116 competitors from 24 countries just wanted a challenge.

Whatever the motivation, they were in Kanab on September 21 at the old Kanab Middle School to sign up for the event! While there were weigh-ins, course descriptions, health checks, and backpack inspections to be handled, the mood was definitely upbeat.

Etsuji from Tokoyo, Japan, said he dreamed of coming to this race. “A friend ran this race last year. I had seen pictures, and knew I wanted to come.” He worried about altitude affecting his performance, but praised the race’s organization. “This is nice.”

New Zealand’s Craig Petersen said he and his brother had come as a challenge from his father. “My dad ran it last year, and was so impressed by the beauty of this area. He’s been nagging us for years to get into long distance running with him. So we’re here. I’m going to take it easy and have fun.”

Petersen, who has trained since January, added that loading the backpacks was challenging. “We must take all our snacks and water. We need to get as many calories as we can, with as little weight possible.”

When asked if his father was going to beat his sons, Petersen said, “No contest, he’s much better than us.”

Shauna Finley, New Jersey, said she was trying to manage her backpack of 18 pounds of dehydrated food. (Runners can pack as much as they want, but must carry it on their person.) “This is an awesome adventure!”

Volunteer David Vogolini is with the camp crew now, but ran the race last year, finishing in one of the top positions. “Kanab is a beautiful place. The sand is difficult to run in. The cactus really hurt my feet. But, it’s a great event.”