Jill Williams loves running, but especially doing so on the backcountry roads and trails surrounding her beloved town of Kanab.

Jill and her husband Steve moved to Kanab 10 years ago after visiting the area from their home state of Pennsylvania and securing jobs at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. She is the website manager and has enjoyed doing her part to care for and secure good homes for the animals housed there. The couple has three dogs of their own.

Jill is one of two local recipients of the gratis passes to the 2015 Grand to Grand Ultra-marathon race (G2G) issued by race co-founders Colin and Tess Geddes. The 170-mile self-supported race begins September 20 at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park and ends September 27, high in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The 38 year old mother of two sons – Harry, 7, and JJ, 5 – has been running regularly since 1994 when she began running roads in Pennsylvania after graduating from high school. “In my senior year, I couldn’t make it around our track once,” Williams confessed. “Someone suggested I try running and I just started to run the back roads and was hooked.”

Williams is not only a red dirt runner, but a gym rat, as any regular at the old Adobe Fitness Center, now Best Friends Wellness and Fitness Center, will attest. “I am a bit of a hypochondriac, so I like to keep myself in good physical condition,” said Williams.

Over the past several years, Williams has run the New York and Boston Marathons and was in Boston at the time of the race bombing. Locally, she has run marathons in Las Vegas and Sand Hollow, as well as several in St. George.

This year, she is concentrating on 50-mile and 100K races, completing two of those recently, one in Antelope Canyon near Page, and the other in Monument Valley. 

“I don’t mind running in the sand at all since I do it all the time,” Jill related. “I missed the last one in Zion because I’m dealing with an Achilles injury, but worked as a station volunteer there and, believe me, I would sooner run the race than work in those hectic stations. It gave me a new appreciation for what volunteers do at these events.”

“I’ve been  obsessed with running the G2G ever since the first race in 2012, but was always apprehensive about actually signing up for it,” said Williams. “That changed last year when Gregory Castle (Best Friends CEO and the oldest runner at 72 to ever complete the race) accomplished what he did by enduring so much. I was motivated by Gregory’s dedication to finishing the race and he and others encouraged me to take it on.”

“It’s not the long distance that scares me, but the thought of camping out for a week without my post running creature comforts, like a hot shower and all the food I want to eat, that bothers me,” Williams admitted.

“Physically, I am very strong, but mentally I’m weak,” she confided. “I can’t even begin to think of leaving my boys for seven whole days. I am a very emotive person and worry about practically everything. I’m hoping by running the G2G, a totally different race than I am used to, I can work through some of these emotional issues and come out stronger and better in all aspects of my life. I am looking forward to not only the physical challenge, but the psychological challenge as well.”

Williams said virtually all long distance runners she knows have a personal motivator that spurs them on when the going gets tough.

“I have a close friend in West Virginia who has a 12-year old son fighting a rare and painful inherited condition called LCH, a form of a group of rare diseases called Histiocytosis,” said Williams, in a troubled voice.  “Five in a million children from newborn into the teens contract it. There is no cure and is fatal in 50 percent of those afflicted with it. Due to its rarity, it is not well known and funding for treatment and research is severely lacking. Any pain I experience during the G2G run is nothing compared to what Dakota is enduring.”                  

“I want to help his family with medical expenses and help Dakota enjoy life more by providing him with some items that bring him comfort,” continued Williams. “In order to do this, I have set up a website to receive contributions to my ‘Run for Dakota’ campaign to raise $5000 for him. Each and every donation will be greatly appreciated. This is my personal motivator for running the 2015 Grand to Grand.”

Those who know Jill Williams are sure all of her goals will be met.

If you would like to know more about Dakota or make a donation, visit the website www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/jillwilliams/runfordakota]