Starting Wednesday, December 13, Utah-based runner Hayden Hawks will commence a three-day run through the area formerly known as Bears Ears National Monument, in an attempt to showcase the region and raise money for the forthcoming Bears Ears Education Center.
Hawks grew up and still resides in Saint George, Utah, four hours west from the national monument. He burst onto the trail-running scene in 2016, with a win at the Speedgoat 50K, and has since gone on to log wins at France’s CCC (part of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc festival of trail races) and the Moab Red Hot 55K as well as an FKT for the Zion Traverse.
National parks and public lands, he says, have been an important part of his life since long before he became a professional trail runner.
The idea for a big run through Bears Ears came to him in 2016, when President Obama first designated the monument. Last week, when President Trump announced his plan to shrink the monument by 85 percent, Hawks knew that now was the time to put that vague idea into action.
“I have the talent and ability to run 100-plus miles. A lot of other people can’t do that, so I see it as my job to go out, [cover that land on foot] and educate people,” Hawks says.
Initially, he considered establishing a fastest-known time (FKT) through the monument, but abandoned that idea because, to him, a record-attempt would be missing the point. “This is not about going fast,” he says. “It’s about learning and gaining a deeper appreciation for the land.”
Instead, Hawks will complete three runs over three days in three different areas that are among the more than one-million acres cut from Bears Ears National Monument.
“I want to highlight the land that’s not getting protected,” he says.
Hawks is keeping the adventure low-key—just himself, his brother Levi and friend and photographer Derrick Lytle—to avoid the disruptions that often come from big groups.
“It’s such a sacred place,” he says, and points out that having a large support crew wandering the region’s remote, rugged singletrack would be counterproductive to the ultimate goal: to raise awareness for protection and sustainable recreation in the Bears Ears area.
He wants his run to make a big impact, but not a big physical impact.
Throughout the trip, Hawks will be posting photos and updates (when Wi-Fi permits), so that runners around the country can vicariously experience the land that has been the subject of so much political contention.
Hawks is also asking for people to sign up to sponsor one of his 100 miles, with a minimum of a $10 donation per mile. The goal: raise at least $1,000 for the Bears Ears Education Center. Spearheaded by Bears-Ears advocacy nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa, the educational visitors’ center is still being built.
Hawks will end his trip with a 17-mile loop through the Valley of the Gods, in the southern part of the Bears-Ears region, and is extending an invitation for anyone wishing to join. The dirt, 4×4 route winds through arid plateaus, buttes and sandstone towers and will, Hawks says, be a way to “get together and show appreciation” for wild spaces.
Hawks will announce a meeting time via social media later in the week.
Click here to sponsor one of Hawks’ miles and donate to the new Bears Ears Education Center.
Trail Runner will continue to add updates as they become available.