The Grand to Grand Ultra celebrates its fifth year with the 2016 event, which begins this weekend. In 2010, Colin and Tess Geddes combined their abilities and experience to create a new kind of experience for runners.

Tess had organized sports events for other companies, and had competed in several ultra marathon stage races in iconic locations, from Egypt to Chile.  She had wonderful experiences, made new friends, and was inspired by many great stories. While Tess loved the events she had run, she could see that improvements could be made. “Those races seemed so impersonal and crowded, and not enough attention to detail was given for the competitor experience.” 

Colin had recently retired after a career in banking.  He was looking for “something to do.”   He wanted to get into something that would be a passion, not just another business.  

Together, a vision began to emerge for Colin and Tess, who both love sports.  They wondered why there was no ultra stage race in North America.  Their research showed there was a demand for more adventure.  Together, in the US, they would attempt to create an unparalleled, almost exotic experience for runners, crew and volunteers.  

They imagined a place with the feel of solitude; a desert climate.  Unimaginable beauty. Remote.  A real possibility of getting lost, and other challenges runners would not have typically experienced. When runners crossed the finish line, they would have a deep sense of real accomplishment.

They imagined a first class event unlike any other ultra marathon stage race.  They wouldn’t make the race easy, but would take quality care of basic things so that the experience for everyone is better. Nice tents--substantial ones people can stand up in. Clean, fresh porta-potties, not holes in the ground. Great checkpoints with people who could answer questions.  A doctor at every checkpoint. A well-fed, happy crew.

So how did they choose Kanab? They scouted out many locations Then a cold call to the Utah Office of Tourism resulted in a call to Kelly Stowell in Kanab. They had never heard of Kanab, but their enthusiasm grew as they met with Stowell and Matt Brown, Harry Barber, Terrell Honey, Mel Heaton and Robert Houston. The Geddes’ vision could have died then, had they been given a cold shoulder or greeted with skepticism. However, everyone was so welcoming and enthusiastic, happy to work with them. 

After their 3rd trip to Kanab, the name “Grand to Grand” came to them on their way back to Las Vegas.  They began to gain confidence that “Together we can create the best self-supported stage race on the planet!” 

To launch the first G2G, Tess’s relationship with runners from previous races was critically important. These friends would come to support her and the vision she and Colin had worked, for thousands of hours, to realize.  In fact, the first year, more than half the participants were friends of Tess.  Her spirit of care, concern and love touches all whose lives intersect the G2G experience. She has become “Auntie Tess.”

G2G has become a family, where participants get to know each other, help each other, and care about each other. For the runners, G2G is not just a marathon. It is a quest for something. Perhaps to raise money for a charity (20 different charities in the 2016 race); or to honor a fallen friend or family member; or to challenge themselves in a deep way to overcome something, like a battle with cancer or diabetes; or to take a step in a new direction. Every runner has a story that can touch your heart.

G2G has grown every year. Every year, Colin and Tess set the bar for a “first class race” a little higher.