I’m very sorry that my video did not pay more consideration to the regulations and values of the people who graciously allow the Antelope Canyon races to happen. I hope all those who were offended can forgive me, and accept this explanation of the events.
On February 20, 2106 I ran in the Antelope Canyon 50 mile ultra, put on by Ultra Adventures in cooperation with Navajo Tribal Parks. I am not an ultramarathon runner, in fact I had never even run a full marathon before I entered the race. But I signed up anyway, rather impulsively, because I was so compelled by the amazing scenery that the 50 mile course was to traverse: Antelope Canyon–an undulating sandstone slot canyon that is world renowned for its striped orange walls and ethereal natural light shows, Horsheshoe Bend–a dramatic oxbow in the Colorado River, hundreds of feet below its towering canyon rim, and Waterholes Canyon–A similar but lesser-known neighbor of Antelope that drops precipitously to the Colorado River shortly beyond the mellow segment of the race course. Navajo Nation was so gracious to share these heritage sites with us outsiders for the Antelope Canyon Race, and the the good people at Ultra Adventures have worked hard to foster a relationship of mutual trust and respect to make this event possible.
In addition to a portion of race revenue that goes to the Tribal Parks, Ultra Adventures sponsors pre-race ceremonies, traditional performances and food, donations to local high school cross country teams, maintenance work at the Navajo Heritage Center, and goes out of their way to make this a zero waste event. The night before the race, I attended the ceremony in which guest speakers shared stories of their heritage and appreciation of the land we were about to experience. One of these speakers was Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez, who is personally invested in the revival of active lifestyles in Navajo culture, and who himself ran in the next day’s 55k event. I was very impressed by this expression of welcome and friendship, and I still feel nothing but gratitude for the chance to experience this enchanting landscape in such a unique way.
I never anticipated that filming a funny video would compromise this fruitful relationship between Navajo Nation and the running community. I knew that because I was so physically ill-prepared for this race, my struggle would be laughable. So I decided to carry a camera and–if for no other reason than to distract myself from the pain–talk to it while I ran. Planning for my utter exhaustion by mile 38.5, I had a drop bag containing some beers and other provisions placed at this aid station. It is very close to the race staging area and start/finish line, which is all within the jurisdiction of Page, Arizona where alcohol is allowed, not Navajo Nation. I was perfectly aware of Navajo regulations that forbid alcohol, so I did not have any with me for other parts of the race. I sat and enjoyed a beer inside the aid station tent, then continued on with the race, which from there follows the Page Rim Trail around the city. It circles back to the same aid station at race mile 49, so I grabbed another beer and limped it .7 miles down the hill to the finish line, still within Page city limits.
The day after the race, I compiled my footage and made a 7-minute video highlighting my antics and mishaps. These included running the whole thing in jorts and most of it in hiking boots (though I changed to running shoes which were in the same drop bag as my beer). There were also plenty of cracking jokes, tripping over myself, and declarations of pain and misery. I want to point out that the video contained absolutely no profanity or derogatory humor. It was simply me making light of my own suffering over the course of a 50-mile race on soft sand and jagged rock.
Apparently other people found it funny and actually rather inspiring, because the video received nearly 100,000 views on Youtube in only four days. It was shared on many different websites, some of which gave it clickbait titles like “Guy Runs 50-mile Ultramarathon while Guzzling PBR,” even though I only had that one beer in the aid station tent and carried one more unopened across the finish line. With this type of circulation, it came to the attention of Navajo Tribal Parks managers who were upset by how the video could be interpreted. They requested that it be taken down.
I very much respect any sentiments and cultural values outside of my own that may influence connotations of this video. Also, the last thing I want to do is damage the partnership established between Ultra Adventures and Navajo Nation, and especially not to revert progress that Vice President Nez and others have made to encourage running and healthy lifestyles among Navajo people. Because of this, I have respectfully obliged by censoring the video on Youtube.
The video did highlight all three of the amazing places I mentioned earlier, which everyone should have a chance to see. Please make a trip to Navajo lands and experience for yourself the incredible scenery of Northern Arizona, and take time to learn from the people who were there long before you.
I want everyone to know that I am not done with ultrarunning (clearly didn’t learn my lesson the first time) or filming myself doing it. Expect to see more from me at some point in the future, though I will be more careful of where I film and how I do it.
And a huge thank you to Matt Gunn, director of Ultra Adventures, for spearheading relations and making this race a reality. I had a blast, and I look forward to the next one.