CEDAR CITY–Starting Sunday, runners from around the world began a challenge unlike any other. The Grand to Grand Ultra race started at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and includes seven days of running and camping, then finishes at the summit of the Grand Staircase. True to his heart, Southern Utah University President Scott L Wyatt joined the racers to raise money for the future on-campus child care facility.
With six stages in seven days, approximately 135 runners from 22 countries will travel 170 miles and gain 18,000 feet of elevation through high desert, slot canyons, national forests and some of the most remote country in the United States. Stages vary in distance from 8 miles to 53 miles and overnight camps are built along the way. The Grand to Grand Ultra race is the adventure of a lifetime and the first self-supported stage footrace ever to take place in the U.S., meaning that each racer is responsible to carry all equipment, clothing and food necessary for the seven days.
“Last year, I witnessed part of the race and was invited to put a team together as a fundraising effort,” said Wyatt in a school release. “Of course I want to finish, but just being out there in the desert, engaged in an epic struggle between mind, body and heart is enough. We don’t become stronger people living a life of ease. From time to time, we really need to push ourselves, hard. This is one of my favorite things.”
The three-man SUU team consists of President Wyatt along with William Heyborne, associate professor of biology, and Johnny Oh, director of global engagement. The group has dedicated this race as a fundraiser for the future Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child and Family Development Center. The center is a commitment to the retention and graduation of SUU students by providing a high-quality facility offering on-campus childcare and parent and family support. Through various fundraisers SUU has raised about $1.3 million for the center.
“I hope we can raise awareness and generate enough support for the child care center,” said Wyatt. “I want to let students with children, who need to get an education, find the internal strength (and help from us) to finish school and get good jobs. Running/walking 170 miles, mostly in sand, carrying everything we need to survive on our backs will be very difficult. But it doesn’t compare with the day-to-day effort it takes for a mother, with small children, to take care of them while pushing forward to complete a degree.”
All three racers are ready for the upcoming challenge. As Johnny Oh says, “we, three musketeers, are excited to take on an awesome adventure! We’ll run from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the summit of the Grand Staircase over the next seven days. And now gentlemen, all for one, one for all!”
“I couldn’t be more nervous and excited,” said Heyborne. “It helps that we have a purpose in mind, so when we’re out on the trail and it’s hard and we want to give up, we can think about this cause that we’re running for. President Wyatt and Johnny, we’ve got this!”
The race lasts until Sept. 29. Track the progress of President Wyatt and all the racers throughout the week on the Grand to Grand Ultra website.