Beyond the Corridor - Page 2
It's a long way to anywhere. Photo by Ken Etzel.
THE PIONEERS OF FAST AND FAR
Running Wild, by Grand Canyon backcountry ultrarunning pioneer John Annerino, of Tucson, Arizona, is mandatory reading for the aspiring Grand Canyon runner. The book chronicles Annerino’s landmark running of the late 1970s to early ’80s, including traversing the entire inner canyon—well in excess of 100 miles—three times, the first runner to do so.
Before the age of the internet, Annerino was left to conjure up his own routes, based on a mix of ancient Native American pathways and Grand Canyon National Park trails, and using a simple rucksack for food and gear, and leather bota bags for water.
If Annerino was the pioneer of going far in the canyon backcountry, Allyn Cureton, 78, of Williams, Arizona, was the pioneer of running fast. Cureton coincidentally ran in the canyon concurrently with Annerino, yet each pursued his own “flavor” of backcountry travel. “[Cureton] did some incredible [undocumented] backcountry speed runs back in the day to many less-traveled places in the Canyon,” says Mathieu Brown, 37, of Prescott, Arizona, who works in Adventure Education at Prescott College.
Cureton’s fastest times in the backcountry may have fallen between the cracks of the canyon but his fastest times on the Corridor Trails did not. He is best known for his 1981 fastest known time (FKT) of 3:06:45 on the now-popular 21-mile North Kaibab-South Kaibab Rim-to-Rim (R2R) run. The record stood for 30 long years. Rob Krar, 36, of Flagstaff, Arizona holds the current FKT, set in 2012, of 2:51:28. Cureton also set the 43-mile Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (R2R2R) record, in 1981, and held it for 25 years at 7:51:23. On May 11, Krar struck again, smashing Dakota Jones’s 2011 record (6:53:38) by 32 minutes with a time of 6:21:47. With today’s growing fascination with the Corridor Routes and their FKTs, backcountry running lore—apart from Annerino’s long-distance recounting and whispers of Cureton’s undocumented speed records long ago—seems to have been pushed into obscurity.
One doesn’t need to look any further than the Fastest Known Times website—a kind of melting pot for documenting records of non-race trails and routes across the world—to see the pages of posts related specifically to the Rim-to-Rim routes and the meager number of posts devoted to the canyon backcountry. Peter Bakwin, the site moderator from Boulder, Colorado, says, “There are many, many other great routes in the Grand Canyon! Who’s going to claim a record?” So far, his challenge has not been met.