Ultra marathon (UM) races have been held in several countries around the world, including Namibia, India, Chile and France, but not in the United States until this week with the inaugural Grand to Grand (G2G) Ultra Marathon being held in the Kanab area.

Why here and why now?

Tess Geddes, originally from the Philippines, explained she has been promoting and organizing these events for several years and got to wondering why the U.S. had never hosted one of these multi-stage endurance races.

“For one,” she said, “most of these world-class athletes have run in some pretty exotic places, and they look for something special in an UM location. We found that here in our route from the Grand Canyon to the Grand Staircase through this outstanding landscape and this has brought many of these runners to the G2G.”

She continued, “Without the tremendous support and cooperation from the local community, we could not be holding this event here. Individuals like Matt Brown, Kelly Stowell, Terra Sue Honey and Terril Honey, who along with our Terry Madl, designed and marked the entire 160 mile course, along with the essential efforts of numerous Kanab area volunteers made the G2G possible.”

There is no prize money awarded those posting the best times in the race, although they do garner points toward entrance into events like the Grand Ultra Marathon held in France. “Of course, the accolades that come with besting your contemporaries in this very competitive sport is great motivation,” quipped Geddes.

Two organizations will receive five percent of the profits generated by the G2G – the Impossible to Possible charity and the local Kanab Trails Association.

Sixty runners, of which an unprecedented 40 percent are women, have paid a $3200 entry fee to come here and run from the North Rim of Marble Canyon beginning last Sunday, to the upper level of the Pink Cliffs in the Grand Staircase this Saturday, covering all varieties of high desert terrain.

The runners will stay together for six nights at pre-determined campsites that they are expected to reach or risk being pulled from the race. “It’s a fairly lenient schedule to accommodate those walking much of the time,” said Geddes, “and I expect 80 percent of the participants to finish the race.”

Every runner has to carry all of their food and sleeping gear for the week and whatever water they wish to carry between the six mile apart comfort stations where water and medical help will be available.

There are 10 world-class runners in the G2G, but all of the runners are serious about doing their best and finishing the grueling race, including local runners Raven Chiong and Dave DiDonna.

Geddes concluded by saying, “These UM runners form bonds between them that most people are lucky to find in a lifetime. Their shared experiences in an event like this allows them to know another’s character, and they develop friendships that last throughout their lives. We already have many runners signed up for next year’s Grand to Grand race from September 22-28.”