“Every long distance runner I’ve known is working through a fairly serious personal issue,” said Brendon Thompson, a week before he embarks on the biggest running challenge of his life in the Grand to Grand (G2G) Ultra-marathon race.

The 43-year-old athlete from Wellington, New Zealand, spoke candidly about what led him to participate in the third annual six-stage foot race centered around Kanab. He, along with 114 other super-conditioned men and women ages 23 to 72, will begin the 170 mile cross country race on September 21, from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon; and try to finish a week later at the 9000 foot summit of the Pink Cliffs in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Finding a healthier way to cope with stress generated from two failed marriages, managing a fledgling information technology (IT) enterprise, and helping raise his three children ages 7-14, are the issues motivating Thompson.

“I was depressed over my second marriage folding,” related Thompson, “and I was drinking excessively and smoking too much. My nine-year-old IT company is just now starting to do well.  I take and care for my kids every other week. Thankfully, their mothers agreed to take care of them an extra week while I’m here in the U.S. for the first time.”

“A year ago I saw an Internet segment on the G2G race and I told myself that I had to do that,” he stated. “I wasn’t a runner before that moment, but I was determined to compete in this race, and in fact, was the first one to sign up for the 2014 G2G.”

“I found myself a mentor in Gary Moller,” continued Thompson. “He is not a trainer, but more of an advisor. He took a clip of my hair and had it analyzed for nutritional deficiencies. He recommended several vitamin-mineral supplements and diet changes. He said I was too fat and I needed to quit drinking alcohol and stop smoking, which I did.”

Thompson began training heavily a year ago and suffered a stress fracture of his ankle at the end of last year. “A year is too long to train, I found out,” he said. He could not put weight on that ankle and had to stop running. Moller recommended he start mountain biking to preserve some conditioning, which he did for several weeks before he could run again, but backed off from the previous intensity.

“The best thing I did was join the Wellington Scottish harrier team,” Thompson verbalized.  “We run five and 10 kilometer and half-marathon cross country races against other harrier teams in New Zealand and Australia. This has increased my speed. Hinano, my girlfriend now, is a team member.  She’s faster than me in the shorter races.”

Foot injuries are of constant concern with long distance runners. Thompson bought a 1200 page book that covers only foot and ankle injuries and care. “I learned from another runner about using a deodorant on my feet, which lasts a whole week and helps to prevent blisters,” he expounded. “I also wrap my toes with Coban. I started out with one pair of running shoes, but now have 15 pairs, but just brought one of my favorites for the G2G.”

The runners must carry all their food, personal items and bed gear for the week in their packs.  Water stations with restroom facilities are set along the route each day, with tents set up at night. Thompson’s pack will weigh in at about 18 pounds, with seven of those being dehydrated food. “I found a website that produces a whole weeks worth of different meals in one package, and has a total of 14,500 calories,” he said. Runners must consume at least 2,000 calories per day by rule. “The curries are tasty, but the meats not so much,” judged Thompson.

Thompson said his guide Moller gave him one very important piece of advice before he left New Zealand a week ago, having spent time in Los Angeles and Las Vegas before arriving in Kanab Saturday.

“Gary told me I have to not only set goals for this race,” Thompson confessed, “but have a goal set for after the G2G to avoid a letdown that could put me back into depression. We runners get pumped up for these races and the G2G requires a lot of time and energy to prepare for. After it’s done, there is a risk of sinking into the doldrums if you don’t have something to refocus on.”

Thompson’s first goal for the G2G event has been achieved “just by getting here.” “My second goal is to finish the race, and my third is to win one of the stages.”

“After the race, I’ll go back home and enjoy spending time with my kids, run races with the Wellington Scottish and try to beat Hinona for a change. That will keep me going and out of trouble,” he concluded.

You can meet Thompson and other G2G runners this Friday between 1-4 p.m. at the pre-race check-in downtown on the grounds of the Kane County Visitor Center, or at the picnic reception after the race on Saturday afternoon on September 27, at Jacob Hamblin Park.

You can also see them run and cheer them on along the road at Best Friends near Angels Rest on Tuesday afternoon, September 23 between 2-7 p.m..

These dedicated athletes are from many countries around the world, and include Mike McTeer, Todd Seliga and Gregory Castle from the neighborhood. Let’s hope they all achieve their own goals!