By Pat Gallen
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If you’ve ever done a 5 or 10K race you’d probably say it feels like the greatest accomplishment in the world when you hit the finish line. But two Princeton-area athletes are about to take part in a race that you have to see to believe. They are running with a challenge that few would dare to attempt, and it’s all for a good cause.
Less than two weeks from today is one of the world’s most ridiculous races and two area runners are gearing up. Ultra-marathoners, Greg Thompson and Susan Candela Riggio will head west to test their will.
“We are doing a race called the ‘Grand to Grand’, and it’s the only self-supported foot race in the United States. It’s from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona to the Grand Staircase in Utah,” says Greg.
The race covers 170 miles over 7 days. It’s so extreme that on day three alone, participants will do the equivalent of two marathons in the desert.
How does one get into a competition as crazy as the Grand to Grand?
It began in Africa.
“I did a race like this in Madagascar two years ago,” said Candela Riggio. “It was a 155 miles and some of the participants had done the ‘Grand to Grand’ and shared their experience.”
While climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Candela Riggio picked up teammate Mark Ozdarski, a retired Navy seal. The three runners will deal with some intense conditions. Temperatures will plunge into the 30s at night, and hit triple digits in the day, and racers will carry everything they’ll need.
“I have my sleeping bag on the outside, but you also have your sleeping pad, you have all of your food for seven days, you have your emergency supplies, you have your clothes,” explained Candela Riggio. The only thing they provide you is water.”
“We’ve trained up to 2,000 miles with this equipment on, already, before we even get to the race starts,” noted Thompson. “We run with this pack on or a version of this pack for almost a year.”
The pair geared up for a run on Kelly Drive but the conditions along the Schuylkill are nothing like what they’ll soon encounter.
“It’s a mental game you play with yourself throughout the whole race,” said Thompson. “You really have to go, I always say you go to your happy place, you have to focus on something other than the pain.”
So Thompson and Candela Riggio will have to be prepared for everything when it comes to the 170-mile trek. But with their extensive race and job experience they should be just fine.
The great cause they are competing for is The Little Warriors, which provides outdoor adventure to the children of fallen Navy SEALs and naval warfare personnel.
If you’d like to know more about Greg and Susan’s fundraising efforts visit: www.crowdrise.com/grand-to-grand-ultra-/fundraiser/thelittlewarriorsabr
For more information about The Little Warriors visit: www.navyseallittlewarriors.org
To learn more about the Grand to Grand race visit: http://www.g2gultra.com/home