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Saturday Morning in the Grand Canyon

Saturday Morning in the Grand Canyon

There are many days when I don’t know why I do it. Is it to be challenged or to feel accomplished? Is it for accolades or notoriety? Is it for fun or because it’s enjoyable?

I’m talking about running. I’m talking about those mornings when you wake up tired, and you start to think about the hundreds of miles you’ve run over the previous weeks, and you don’t know how you’re going to get up to do it again. I’m talking about those days when you start to ask questions, like, why am I waking up before I want to, to run farther than I want to, to be more tired than I want to? And I’m talking about those days when you aren’t terribly satisfied with the answers, and yet you still summon the forces deep within you to convince yourself that, yes, you have to run again today and, in fact, you have to run very far and, of course, you don’t want to but, despite what you might think, you actually need to run about forty-four miles today across the Grand Canyon and back because, really, you need to be able to do that if you’re going to run the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile footrace through the mountains and canyons of California, next month.

That’s exactly what went through my mind last week when the alarm went off and I really didn’t want to get out of bed. Has that ever happened to you?

Then I remembered that I’d be doing it all with friends. We’d sip our morning coffee during the seventy-five-minute drive from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon’s south rim. We’d stuff our packs with sugary snacks and fill our bottles with water, and we’d nervously tie our shoes and lather ourselves with sunscreen, and we’d jog a few minutes down the road to peer into the grandest ditch in the entire world, which we’d then drop into, and back out of, and down into and back out of again. We’d spend most of the day between the south and north rims of the Grand Canyon, and we’d finish dead tired, and then we’d get back in the car and drive home as we talked through the trials and tribulations of our grand adventure.

I did get out of bed that morning last week, and I did all the things described above, and it was actually fun. (If anyone has ever told you that running is fun, it’s probably because they were running with friends. Sure, maybe they were wearing a pair of goodr sunglasses and that made running fun, but it was probably the company.) We descended almost five-thousand feet through a labyrinth of ancient rock layers on the South Kaibab Trail to the Canyon’s floor. We danced across a suspension bridge above the emerald-green Colorado River. (The bridge is much preferable to swimming across the river, which is very cold and very powerful, and which I’m deathly afraid of after having actually swam across it before.) We floated through a box canyon and cooled off in a dazzling creek. We labored up miles of steep trail and skirted along red-stained canyon walls. We marveled at the views and meandered in the shade. We reached the north rim and turned around and did it all again.

Before I got out of bed that morning last week, I had one more thought. Wouldn’t it be a nice day to sleep in, gather a few friends in the late morning, and go to brunch? What a predicament I temporarily found myself in! I could taste the waffles and maple syrup, eggs benedict and orange juice. We would banter and laugh and be comfortably seated for hours—we wouldn’t have to run a step! I reached for my phone to send a text in a last-minute effort to avoid the inevitable pain and suffering that would soon otherwise ensue.

But then I had a moment of clarity and I quickly remembered why I do it: Brunch never tastes good before a run. To the Grand Canyon, I went.

Eric Senseman runs far in pursuit of the good life and to explore what’s possible. Sometimes, he does it fast enough to qualify for races like the Western States Endurance Run. Other times, he does it slow enough to enjoy the scenery. He always does it to have fun.



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