by Lisa Landrum
“When you look outwards, there’s a whole wide world of beautiful things. Out There: it’s good for the soul.” – Jojo Moyes, The Giver of Stars
I’ve always been a private runner. I don’t share runs on Strava. I’m uncomfortable raving about a really good race outcome. You won’t find me giving details about my splits. Running is about as close as I get to going to church most of the time. It’s very personal and kind of sacred, so I keep the details private. Last week, I had the honor of doing an amazing run across the Grand Canyon with friends. Twice. At one time. On our own. No organized event, no timing chips, no crowds, no cheers, no medals. Few others even knew we were doing it.
After the run, I wrote that experiences like this change you in a lot of ways – that the person who starts is not the person who finishes.
I was asked to write about that statement, so here it goes:
This is my attempt to describe, with words, an adventure that is indescribable – and how it changed me. I’ll share pictures that mean a lot but don’t accurately show the vastness, ruggedness, depth, or beauty of the scenery. This isn’t a race or run report, because so few really care about the details anyway. This is an essay that will likely fall short for others because my take is just that: mine. It’s a different perspective from the three others that were with me, or from anyone else who has done it. These words are simply my way of trying to explain how this run turned out to be one of those things that will live in my heart and mind like a hidden personal power stone that’s now in my back pocket.
This run is known as Rim to Rim to Rim because it starts at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and crosses to the North, then heads back across, ending again in the South. When I began training for it, I treated it like any other endurance event I’ve done in the past. Using my 50 Miler training plan since the total mileage of the crossing would be about 50 miles, I added as many hills as I could (vertical distance), and StairMaster running after my scheduled run to simulate climbing on tired legs. I built up mileage, fueled, and tapered. That part of this experience was business as usual. None of the rest of it was, in the very best of ways.
In addition to the physicality of this run, I knew that the mental piece would play a huge role. There is zero support – none, nada, zilch. No rangers walking around. No aid stations. There were water sources every now and then, but anything I needed to consume was in my pack for the duration. There were emergency phones (there is no cell service in the Canyon) every once in a while, and we would go miles and miles without seeing anyone. We made constant decisions about when to run vs. hike, when to eat, when to rest for a bit, and when to fill up water. There really wasn’t room for big mistakes during this one – we were our own contingency plan. Doing something as big as all of this with your own power is, well, empowering.
Before this trip, I had never even laid eyes on the Grand Canyon, not even as a kid. I had no concept of its massiveness. As an adult, having the sun rise and show me the vast, immense beauty is something that I will never forget. It was truly take-your-breath-away magical. Looking out and being IN it, literally, made me feel so small. Looking out and knowing that I was going to cross it and come back made me feel so big.
Being out there in nature for that long quiets me. It grounds me. For whatever amount of time, I’ve got one goal and that is to move forward. There are no outward distractions, no list of things to do, and no one needing me for other things. There are not many times in life when I’m sure I’m doing the right thing, but when I’m on a run like this one, I’m one thousand-percent positive that I’m right where I need to be, doing what I should be doing. That sense of security builds self-confidence.
People who’ve done Rim to Rim to Rim can tell you all day long about the first steps on the dark trail, the stars, the sunrise, the view of The Canyon for the very first time and how it takes your breath away, the climbs, the flowers, the bridges, the sun, the lemonade, and that final push to climb out. Until you’ve done it, you don’t really understand. Taking in views like that helps you realize just how insignificant your first-world problems are.
Experiences like this change you in so many ways. The person who finishes is not the same as the person who started. In what ways has the person changed? No one can tell you that or really describe it in words. The growth, like the run, is personal. Running is cool like that. It gives you what you need, when you need it, if you just open yourself to it. I’m so glad I did. Whether you decide to conquer a 5K, a 100 miler, or that mile or trail you’ve been thinking about running – I hope you let running do that for you, too.
Lisa Landrum is a long-time friend and contributor to RunCharlotte. Coach, motivator, and social mobilizer; she’s a real rock star here in the Charlotte running scene. But you don’t need to be any sort of luminary for running to provide you with an out-of-this-world experience. Got a story you’d like to share? We’d like to hear it! No race reports, please. We want to know how running wowed you, changed you, broke you, or built you back! Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org