Sask.-born man completes 273-km race starting at Grand Canyon

Chris Coolican spent seven days running desert trails in extreme temperatures to complete a 273-kilometre race starting at the Grand Canyon.

Chris Coolican placed 12 out of 134 in 7-day desert race

Chris Coolican placed 12th overall in the Grand to Grand race. (Submitted by Grand To Grand Ultra)

Chris Coolican is a geologist by day in Calgary and recently was a racer (partly) by night in the desert.

The Grand to Grand ultra race takes participants through a gruelling seven-day desert course. It starts at the northern rim the Grand Canyon in Arizona and ends in Utah.

Coolican completed an ultra race on foot at the end of September, with a headlamp on in the evening. 

"The second half of the 85 kilometres were done in the dark by the majority of the runners. They have flags that you have to follow and some of them light up in the night," Coolican said. 

Chris Coolican carried a 20-pound backpack throughout the seven-day race. (Submitted by Grand To Grand Ultra)

Coolican said the temperature got up to 30 degrees during the day and as low as five degrees at night. 

"We were expected to carry all our food for the week, any clothing we might need, a sleeping bag, and a ground pad," he said. 

There are six stages to the race. Coolican, who hails from Saskatchewan originally, ran 85 kilometres in one day — with a 20-pound backpack on. 

"About a couple months before the race I started running with a heavier pack to get used to the weight on my back. Living in Calgary right now, I can get out to the mountains so I can practise running up and down it doesn't always have to be flat." 

Coolican said he plans on completing more races in the future, possibly in New Zealand next. (Submitted by Grand To Grand Ultra)

His training was useful as he often had to run through sand dunes and what he describes as cactus-infested scrub brush.

And although the scenery was beautiful, the tight-knit community he ran alongside was what made it memorable for him. 

"It's the people — as much as the running — that draws me to it." 


  • An earlier version of this story said the race was completed through the Grand Canyon. In fact, the race starts at the Grand Canyon.
    Oct 04, 2018 9:21 AM CT