Grand to Grand Ultra

In the sands of Utah, courtesy Grand to Grand Ultra

In the sands of Utah, courtesy Grand to Grand Ultra

The Grand to Grand Ultra is a 7-day self-supported ultra-run that covers 270 kilometres among the mesas, buttes and other magnificent rock formations of Arizona and Utah. The two ‘Grands’ of the name are the start at the Grand Canyon in the south and the finish at the Grand Staircase, a section of mountains in the north. There are six stages in the event, varying between 40 and 85 kilometres (a full double marathon, after which there is a rest day), with a final day jog of 12km.

Competitors are self-sufficient in food, clothing and bedding, carrying it all with them as they run, and they are required to carry certain mandatory equipment (a stipulated number of calories, personal medical equipment and emergency gear, for instance). Water and general medical coverage are supplied by the organisers.

The terrain is a unique aspect of the challenge. The course runs over plains and sand (compacted sand and dunes), over rocky tracks and forest trails and momentarily in a slot canyon. There is even some scrambling. The going is therefore rougher than in most similar desert races and  the leading competitors can expect to run some 80% of the time. Elevation is also part of the challenge. The event starts at around 5500 feet and finishes at an altitude of 8600.

There is a strong theme of digital detox to G2G Ultra. Mobiles are not permitted (there is not much coverage out there anyway, in what is one of the remotest parts of the United States) and runners do not carry tracking devices. While it is possible to send and receive messages, most competitors appreciate getting away from life’s all-pervasive communication. Finally there is an ethos of creating as little impact as possible on the environment (eg one-use plastic bottles are not used).

In 2018, Grand to Grand Ultra will be staged from 23rd to 29th September. See the Grand to Grand Ultra website. The organisers also stage a similar race in Hawaii, the M2M Ultra, to be held in May 2019.