At every race, there are many stories to be told. But in the Ultra-Adventures Monument Valley Ultramarathons (100-mile, 50mile, 55km, and 25km), which take place on the sovereign Navajo Nation, the stories can be both ancient and fascinating. It is rare that a race can be both educational and breathtaking. The land and the people of this race have as much character and charm as can ever be experienced in any race.
I thought it would be difficult to find a race more stunning than Antelope Canyon. But somehow Matt Gunn and his Ultra-Adventures have made a hidden gem of a race that makes you feel privileged to be there. Most of the race takes place in areas normally closed to the public, but thanks to the Ultra Adventures relationship with the Navajo Nation, those of us at the race got to see things no others have seen in generations (including an old, spent Uranium mine atop a Mitchell Mesa which killed all its residents – and, of course, the company behind it buried that knowledge for 20+ years – well after all the workers had died from the radiation poisoning).
Many runners confided this is one of their favorite “secret” races in the Grand Circle. Not as well-known as the other locations, Monument Valley offered one of the most unique – and challenging – courses. Although some might complain the course was “difficult”, which it was, it is also the very definition an Ultra-Adventures Race. If it was easy, it would be a Rock’n’Roll marathon.
Matt Gunn, the Race Director, isn’t known for making his courses “easy”. He is known for making them “stunning”, “breathtaking”, “astounding”, “amazing”, “jaw-dropping”, “awe-inspiring”, and “motivating”.
But not one runner I have met yet has called them “easy”. If you’re looking for an easy 50km, 50mile, or 100mile course… Then Ultra-Adventures races might not be for you. Part of the pride of completing these races is not only the scenery, but mastering the difficulty.
After my race, I ran into a smiling Matt Gunn.
“What did you think?” he asked.
I put my arm around his shoulder as my still-aching legs from the Mitchell Mesa climb complained every time I moved.
“Matt,” I said, “I love and hate you.”
“I get that a lot,” he replied.
The Grand Circle Trail Series isn’t easy. In the world of ultramarathons, these sit at the top of tough.
Sure, you might find races like the Dirty 30 which are pure sufferfests designed for suffering. But the toughness of The Grand Circle Trail Series is offset by the amazing, startling views that you rarely get the chance to see – except during the race.
Until this year I hadn’t run an ultra in over 3 years. I’m quickly becoming refreshed to the world of ultras and enjoying every moment of it – thanks to TGCTS.
See you in the desert.