A Pandemic Challenge: 42 Miles in the Grand Canyon
The Boston Marathon was supposed to be part of Clark B.'s 2020.
When the pandemic forced the cancellation of large gatherings, Marathon organizers announced a virtual race in September.
But with the kind of summer Arizona was experiencing, running that long when it was that hot just wasn’t appealing to Clark, a T&D Supervisor, or his running buddy in northern Utah. He did it anyway, at 2 a.m. one day and then worked his normal workday, but it just felt anticlimactic and nowhere near an equivalent experience for the Boston Marathon.
And thus, a plan was hatched. Why not run across the Grand Canyon? And since it’s a pain to park a separate vehicle on the other rim, why not just run back again to the starting point?
“I did a rim to rim hike with my wife a few years ago, so I had an idea of what I was in for,” said Clark, who has been with the Company for 10 years.
Clark, 40, had been an avid runner in college. Then came kids and career. A running group in Vail rekindled his love for the sport and they planted the seed, pre-pandemic, to run in the Marathon.
The pandemic actually helped him get on a more regular training cadence, running three times a week, 10 miles at a pop. “It’s a really good outlet for keeping you sane,” said Clark. “I work out of my bedroom, so you’re in the same spot, just sitting, for so much of your day. Before you know it, you’re done with work and you’ve never moved more than a couple feet.”
In retrospect, his training likely wasn’t quite enough. 42 miles is a long way. And the end is a brutal 6,000 foot climb. “It was really painful. Especially there at the end, with that steep climb. It was just sheer willpower when you’re exhausted already and you have nothing in the tank.”
He and his buddy kept each other going when they hit a wall, which happened about 30 miles or so in. He jokes that he had another motivation. “Once you go across, the only other way back is a very expensive helicopter ride and I’m way too cheap to pay for that.”
It took several weeks, but his sore legs and flagging energy levels have recovered. He’s back to running his normal routine again.
He knows the pandemic has caused great suffering. But in his case, it also gave him an experience he will always remember. “Without the pandemic, I wouldn’t have done it. I would have just done the normal Boston race and that would have been it. I wouldn’t have had to make up a challenge.”
He sees a parallel with life. “Nothing ever goes according to plan and that gives you a choice: You can throw in the towel or you can move forward regardless of obstacles and say, ‘I’m still going to do this.’”