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  • Writer's pictureJoe Nail

Project 1310 | Episode 7: Arizona

Grand Canyon at sunset, running at 7,500 feet, nearly getting head-butted by elk—once again, never a dull moment in this one!

Leaving Vegas was a breath of fresh air—literally and figuratively. The forecasted high that day was a cool 117 and I have just never been a big Vegas guy—shocker I know!

We made the 4.5 hour drive and got to the south rim in time for sunset. Over the years I’ve heard some call the Grand Canyon overrated, but it is awe-inspiring for me every time.

And like many of the locations selected this summer, the Grand Canyon has a special place in my heart. I brought a group of high school and college friends here years ago and helped them on their first time making it down to the river and back in a day. I have also done a solo rim to rim to rim which was one of the longest, but also most amazing one-day adventures I’ve ever done, complete with 43 miles and 20,000 ft of elevation change. I was most recently here in December when I did two loops from the South rim to the Colorado River and back.

The route this time wouldn’t be quite that rugged, but still called for running at 7,500 feet and more than 3,000 ft elevation change. We would be staying on the South Rim trail for the first half marathon and then venture onto park roads for the second half once it was dark.

Despite the cumulative fatigue from the previous 6 states, that first half was about as good as I had felt in a long time—at least since Death Valley. I am not the most emotional of guys, but I was struck by a wave of intense gratitude—almost bringing a tear to my eye—as I was running along the rim at dusk. I was reminded of just how fortunate I was to have an opportunity to run in a place like this and to be healthy enough to even attempt this challenge.

It also helped to pass other people on the trail after so many solo miles. At 16 miles, that same darn quad started to act up again. The last 10 miles were slow and painful, but we finished strong, and as always, got the job done!


Max Elevation: 7,500 ft

Time for marathon + 1,000 push-ups: 5 hours, 12 minutes

Elevation Change: 3,132 ft

Heart rate: 135


Up next: Zion National Park



Over the course of 50 marathons, Joe will be running a total of 1,310 miles. Each and every mile will be dedicated to a veteran or service member nominated by this community.


In each of the 50 states, Joe will be running the marathon and completing the push-ups in an iconic location, from Pearl Harbor in Hawaii to the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and encouraging everyone to come out and walk or run a mile in honor of a veteran or service member who you know or admire. In each state, Joe and the crew will also be meeting and walking or running with local veterans groups and active military service members.


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