I conducted the following interviews with four runners participating in this weeks Grand to Grand (G2G) Ultra Marathon footrace at the pre-race registration last Saturday. It was obvious these men and women were totally enthused about being in Kanab for this first of its kind race in the United States and were gracious with their time on a busy morning.

Melanie Papatestas from Boca Raton, Florida, is running in her first Ultra Marathon (UM) event. “I entered because it was being held in the U.S. in a part of the country I’ve wanted to visit for some time,” she said.

In preparation for the race, she recently ran 50 mile and 60 K races and frequently runs the beaches in Florida. “That’s great for sand running, but there’s no elevation change there,” she quipped.

I asked her about her lightweight web topped running shoes being protective enough in this brush and cactus strewn race route and shortly after asked what was her biggest race concern. She responded laughing, “Well, after your last question, cacti needles!  Seriously, I’m worried about how my feet will hold up over a weeklong race like this. My pack is a little over 25 pounds with my gear and 1.5 liters of water, which is on the heavy side.”

Asked how she felt about her time in Kanab so far, she responded saying, “Everything has been great so far. It’s a well organized event and we had a good meal last night with potatoes and not the usual pre-race meal of pasta at Frontier Movie Town.”

In conclusion she said, “I’m nervous now, but I’m determined to reach my goal of finishing this race.”  Go for it Melanie!

Sixty-year-old Jo Peterson is not the oldest runner in the race, being seven years shy, and feels he isn’t far behind the 10 elite ultra marathoners running the G2G. This is the fifth such race for Peterson, who is originally from South Africa, but now lives on the north island of New Zealand. His longest race was 520 kilometers in Australia, almost twice the distance of the G2G.

“A friend sent me a link about the G2G on the internet. When I saw the attached photos of the area, I told my wife I don’t care what time of the year it’s being held, I’m going,” he said.

“The scenery was just spectacular and I have never seen the Grand Canyon, although I did run in Namibia along the Fish River Canyon, which is the second largest in the world,” he remarked enthusiastically, before heading off to the weigh-in.

Astrid Valks, 44, from Holland, heard about the G2G via an advisor from another race, and “just wanted to run in this beautiful place.”

“In February, I finished an ultra marathon in southern India and, prior to that, one in Chili, but I also do Iron Man triathlons,” she said. The former model has a degree in economics, but works raising her two children.

About her brief stay in Kanab, she stated, “The people here, like most Americans, are very friendly and generous, where the Dutch are reserved, and the community feels safe.”

“I’m concerned mostly about snakes, scorpions and spiders, especially at night,” she related. When I attempted to minimize her fears, she responded by saying, “That’s only because you live here.”

Asked why she participates in these endurance events, Astrid said, “I like to test my body and see how far I can go and try to finish without training for an event, because I don’t like to train. I get stronger each day and it gets easier. I won’t run a lot, but I hike fast.”

“I just enjoy being around like-minded people that you feel you know well already,” she exclaimed.

Stefano Gregoretti is a gregarious Italian who was told by a countryman about the G2G race.  “I’ve visited this area before and it has been a dream to come back and run in this kind of desert country. The weather and the people are fantastic,” he said with emotion.

“I train for Iron Man triathlons the first half of the year and only in the second half do ultramarathons, so I’m not well prepared for this race now,” he admitted.

He has a job, but takes time from other daily activities like sleeping and eating to train. “Training is not a job, it’s a pleasure and I cut time away from other things to do it,” he said emphatically.

I wished him a safe run, and he advised me saying, “Driving a car and riding a bike is not safe, but running or walking in the country is safe and I always enjoy being out there.”

Lastly he offered, “This week is a true vacation, with no cell phones, computers or calls from work, which always seem to be a distraction in most people’s vacations. The isolation found in ultramarathons is the best thing for your mind and body.”

These are only four of the 60 remarkable people running in the Grand to Grand this week.