Tim Brosious has been running since he was a child and has been a competitive athlete his entire life. Eventually, he started competing in trail races such as the Leadville Trail Marathon and the Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile Run and he became hooked on long-distance trail running. Now, a part-time employee at Jax Outdoor Gear in Lafayette, Colo., he knows a lot about shoes and a lot about running. After years of putting many different shoes through tremendous abuse, Brosious says, “the SCARPA Sparks were the only shoe to leave my feet feeling great after 6 to 15 hour runs.” When we found out Tim was heading to Arizona to complete the R2R2R in the Grand Canyon, we wanted to hear how it went. Below is Tim’s account of the run:
The Grand Canyon, the reverse mountain, the “Big Ditch.” Whatever you call it, the canyon is huge! This gorgeous place offers an array of outdoor activities for people of all ages. One area of recreation that has seen an explosion in recent years is trail running.
The Grand Canyon offers a trail run that is just as big as the canyon itself. Known to most trail runners as Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (R2R2R), this means running from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim and back in one long trail run.
It is a run on almost every trail runner’s bucket list and for good reason. R2R2R is exclusively on trail, has two (very big) climbs combining 12,000 feet of elevation gain, magnificent views, no aid stations, temperature swings of 60 degrees, all inside one of the natural wonders of the world. Naturally, when my brother and I found out about it, we were on board.
After months of training and finding the right gear, we were off to the Grand Canyon. 1 a.m. came and we bounded down the 6,000 foot descent to the mighty Colorado River that formed this magnificent landscape. With no one around and nothing to see besides the cast of our headlamps, the running was easy and brisk.
That easiness ended quickly with the start of the 6,000-foot ascent up to the North Rim. Sunrise came and it gave us the energy to power up the climb. The symphony from the birds was a better soundtrack than any iPod could offer. The views were surreal; the 1,000 foot drop-offs alongside the trail were very real. The North Rim was achieved and the cold air at 8,200 feet was welcoming. Mile 21: We were half way.
After another 6,000-foot descent, many runners and hikers were on the trail sharing the views with us. My SCARPA Spark trail running shoes were the best piece of gear I brought. They allowed me to bomb downhill with confidence and were light and minimal enough to cruise uphill. We moved easily in the middle of the canyon, enjoying the scenery that our headlamps could not offer us during the night. No clouds, no shade, the sun was hot; temperatures near 90 degrees. This is definitely the desert.
Our energy was draining as we headed into Phantom Ranch, a small camp along the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon. We ate some calories, filled our water bladders to the max and headed off for the hardest part of the journey. Yet another 6,000-foot ascent in just six miles.
No more downhill, no more flats, this is where your body asks you to stop knowing that you’ve been running for half a day. With hands on knees, we power hiked up the climb, passing people laying on the side of that unforgiving trail. California Condors soared overhead. These beautiful animals feed on dead carcasses; did we really look that bad? At the same time we saw a sign warning people not to hike down to the river and back in one day because of risk of death. We ran 30 miles farther than what the sign warned … maybe the condors would feast!
With the end just a short distance away, we painfully climbed the last switchbacks and tagged the South Rim. 42 miles; Mission Success! Mentally drained, muscles twitching, hungry for real food, we relaxed at the South Rim taking it all in. Although we bagged the Grand Canyon and knew there isn’t anything else that can compare to R2R2R, that very night we were already discussing our next big run.