Rim2Rim2Rim - Grand Canyon, Arizona
You will never forget the first time you peer into the Grand Canyon. The amazing thing about the canyon is you don’t see it until you have walked right up to the rim. The area around the canyon is heavily wooded and on the south rim there are also hotels right along the rim so it’s not possible to see it from a distance. After parking your car, you walk up the steps, go past the hotel, and then you see what I believe to be one of the greatest views in all of nature.
I got to see the full width of the canyon as well since I ran in one day what is known as the Rim2Rim2Rim (R2R2R). Meaning, starting at one of the rims, running to the other rim, and then returning (most do it south to north because there are more lodging options on the south). The full length of the run was about 50 miles (80k) since I made side runs to sites such as Ribbon Falls. The run was challenging because of the cold start in the 40s (low teens celsius), heat of the day, over 10,000 feet (3000m) of elevation gain and lack of access to water. The day I ran it the water pipe through the canyon had broken, so there was no water from Phantom Ranch to the climb leading to the North Rim. Because there was no water available, I had to carry about 4 liters of water with me. With temperatures over 100 degrees (37 c) that is no joke. While I brought a life straw for emergencies that turned out to be a joke since it was like trying to suck water through a cocktail straw (worse actually).
One thing about the R2R2R is there is no option to run it as part of an organized race. When I first heard about it I was working in Phoenix and there was a group of about five people talking about doing it. I did the run solo, and it stands as one of my favorite ultrarunning experiences. There is a limited time window to do the run since the north and south rims get snow and ice for much of the year and in the canyon’s base it’s blazing hot for the rest of the year. Even in mid-May as I did it the afternoon temperatures were well over 100 degrees (37c).
I started at about 3am and foolishly thought I’d be back in time for dinner, even making a dinner reservation at 8pm at a hotel on the south rim. About mid-run I realized that was just not going to happen since it eventually took me 17 hours to finish. I took plenty of opportunities to take a break and talk to other people in the canyon and also just take in the beauty. For whatever reason, several people were wearing their Ironman branded gear, and that was a good icebreaker to start a conversation. I also came across a girl scout troop, couples, and a woman who hikes down and up every weekend. Because I’d planned on having dinner when I finished I didn’t have any food in my hotel room. I stopped by the cafeteria at the lodge but they were closed and counting the day’s receipts. Thankfully, they sold me some chocolate milk from the case! I woke up from hunger the next morning, and when I made it to the cafeteria, there was a long line of people who had been up for the sunrise...so had to wait almost 30 minutes to fill up.
This is a run you will think about frequently. It was the perfect mix of challenge, beauty, and people. Plenty of time to be alone and just take in the scenery, but also get to talk with other people about their own journeys.
Unfortunately the track is truncated since my Garmin died near the end…this was before I used my iPhone and Gaia GPS to track my runs.
I flew into flagstaff and then drove down to the Grand Canyon with a rental car. There are plenty of hotels in the Grand Canyon Village, but be sure to book early as they do fill up.