Running across the Grand Canyon -- and Back

Diaries of an Ex-Couch Potato: Samantha Pruitt
 
When my Ultra Running mentor, Bob Keefe, invited me to run 50 miles Rim2Rim2Rim across the Grand Canyon and back, I said, “HELL NO!” Good thing for me Ultra Bob didn’t take no for an answer.
 
May 10, 2012, I jumped drove non-stop 11 hours to the Grand Canyon with five Ultra running guys, secretly planning that if things did not go well I would simply my sorry butt onto a burro and giddy up back to the top. After crashing a few hours at a local hotel, we got up at 2am to run down the 5,000+ feet South Rim Bright Angel Trail in the brisk 35 degree pitch black. Running in the dark, dead silence straight down rocky single track was the most thrilling feeling I have ever had.
 
A few hours later, we hit the bottom and met the Colorado River at sunrise as she flowed against us, crossing bridges and over rocky water trails. Midpoint at Phantom Ranch, we regrouped to let all the varied paces catch up. There, one of our runners announced he had depth perception sight problems and altitude sickness and was turning back once rested. Now our team of five headed into the canyon following the sapphire blue river and running in pure ecstasy engulfed by the slot canyons and ridges. The heat rose quickly as we started the 14-mile up and back North Kaibab trail that would bring us onto North Rim over 7,000 feet. Even with water spigots every couple of hours apart, a combination of 97-degree heat, extreme altitude changes and high intensity climbing was making another one of our guys sick.
 
I moved to the back of the pack for safety with him but once we hit the top we turned right around and headed back quickly down to the river again to get wet and let him rest. Once he recovered, running was no longer an option, so in knowing my three other team mates were behind him, I took off running solo in front all the way back to Phantom Ranch.
 
Somewhere in the sweat-smudged line between a sense of our group now being in physical danger and the epic raw beauty, I floated through the winding canyon from mile 32 to 40. Like never before, I slipped into the zone and had the best run of my life. High as a kite, I waited at mile 40 amongst the 20 camping tourist who thought I was nuts until my team trickled in. Now a second was sick and a third fading fast. They were plagued with headaches, dizzy and puking, so I got high sugar lemonade from the campsite kitchen and poured it down their throats. We devised a plan to get all of us back to the top and leave no one behind.
 
After rest, river dunking, and lemonade crack, we pulled back together to climb up and out South Kaibab Trail - 7,000 feet. We had to go slowly as the sheer cliffs dropped off the single track around us, the winds howled up to 40mph and the darkness swallowed us whole. Keeping my eyes and heart on each of my teammates, there was no space for my own suffering. My body was stronger than I ever knew possible and my mind in another dimension. 20 brutal hours into that glorious day, we reached the top in team victory.
 
The next morning as we drove back home, we shared stories and emotions of our difficult journey together. I can honestly say, and my experienced teammates all agree, that was the toughest thing we have ever done.
 
Samantha Pruitt spent the past year transforming from an Ex-Couch Potato into an IronWOman (and losing 50 pounds in the process). For more information on her journey, please visit her blog at livingtherun.com

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