Tag Archives: Arlen Isham

Random Post-Grand Canyon Snippets & Apertures


My shadow selfie on the South Kaibab Trail

The Grand Canyon continues to be in my thoughts and dreams since my Rim 2 Rim on May 20. I’ve been an avid follower of two Grand Canyon Facebook pages (GC R2R2R Run! and GC Hikers) for several months. Before May 20, I used to chuckle at the people who would comment about how much they missed being at the Big Ditch after their hikes or runs. Really, I thought, they don’t miss the pain?

But now I get it! Epic adventures stay in your mind forever. Plus the crossing was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. Completing it makes it even more memorable and amazing. As Tom Hanks’ character said in “A League of Their Own,” it’s the hard that makes it great.


Looking back up at the South Kaibab Trail steps

The 11-week training plan from our fearless leader, Arlen Isham, totally helped with my preparation, as did all the cardio I do daily (running and walking). But nothing really can prepare you for the steep steps and anti-erosion stones. You’re almost always stepping over or around something during the 21-mile South to North Rim journey. Kind of reminds me of navigating the land mines of the boys’ action figures, cars, and trains in the family room when they were little. I miss those days . . . but not the inevitable pain when barefoot.

“In life, most shortcuts end up taking longer than taking the longer route.”

—Suzy Kassem

But that ain’t true in the Grand Canyon, because Rim 2 Rim actually is a shortcut! Even though it’s about 10 miles across the Big Ditch as the condor flies, it’s about 220 miles by vehicle. It almost seems easier to hike across it!


Arlen and his daughter, Andrea, pose at Cedar Ridge.

Most of my friends and family think I’m all that and a bag of chips when it comes to being active. They seem amazed that I still run half marathons and almost couldn’t believe I was training to hike across the Grand Canyon at age 63. But they don’t know Arlen. He’s incredible! Not only has he coordinated Rim 2 Rim trips for family and friends (and friends of friends) since the 1980s, he climbs mountains, skis, and has finished more than 100 marathons. Plus he’s 73 years old with a fairly recent artificial hip! He really is inspirational.


Our group stands out on the Grand Canyon Lodge’s deck at the north rim.

I’m usually not a group person, subscribing to Groucho Marx’s belief that any club that wants someone like me isn’t worth joining. Of the 30 other people in our contingent, I only knew Arlen before we started training.  But everyone was so nice and interesting, with lots of great stories to tell. Most of them had completed numerous MS 150 bike rides, run marathons, finished triathlons, and/or enjoyed hiking around the world. This was a fun crowd to hang out with!


Alan (aka Moses) and Nicole take a break on the SKT.

And I was especially glad to have hiked with Nicole and Alan. I might still be in the Grand Canyon if it hadn’t been for their company and encouragement! They’re wonderful people.


This meh photo, snapped at Ooh Aah Point, was my only sunrise pic of the trip.

What was my biggest disappointment of the entire trip? I didn’t get one decent sunrise or sunset photo at the Grand Canyon. Not one. Talk about your photo failure—kind of devastating for an avid photographer.

Well, actually, that’s my second biggest disappointment, after hurting my left knee on the South Kaibab Trail during the crossing. A local sports medicine doctor diagnosed it as a grade one lateral collateral ligament strain. Fortunately, that painful joint has been healing, and I’m almost ready to start running again, thankfully. I just can’t get that same endorphin fix from walking 10,000-plus steps each day, even though I am grateful that I can walk several miles each morning.

As I wrote in my previous blog post, I told myself that I was one and done with the Grand Canyon’s R2Rs. And I truly believed it . . . until I was back home looking at my photos and reading the GC’s Facebook pages. Arlen’s daughter, Andrea, told me that she had said the same thing after her first crossing, but that the canyon has a way of bringing you back.

It truly does! Before long, I found myself uttering those fateful words: Next time I do a Rim 2 Rim . . . .

Oh oh! Sounds like I could have future memories to burn into my mind from the Grand Canyon.

The final blog post about Rim 2 Rim still to come: My gear reviews

The Math-Impaired Makes a Difference

I found this in a dusty storage bin in a closet when I was looking for photos.

I found this in a dusty storage bin in a closet when I was looking for photos.

A funny thing happened to me several weeks ago: I gained another Houston half marathon finish.

Despite my obsessive running record keeping, I had managed to overlook it, because I thought the first half marathon (which I completed) was in 2003, not 2002. But my buddy Jack Lippincott found it for me again (records are kept online). And now I have to fix and update a bunch of blog posts that are all one race off.

Obviously, basic math is not my strong suit. I knew that 2014 was the 13th edition of Houston’s premier half marathon, the trusty companion to the Chevron Houston marathon. And I also knew that I had missed three of those 13 races. Yet somehow in my mind 13 minus 3 equaled 9.


Medals weren’t given out for the first three races, which weren’t sponsored by Aramco.

Medals weren’t given out for the first three races, which weren’t sponsored by Aramco.

So how did all of this come about?

I have been gently nagging the marathon’s race director, Brant Kotch (also known as my butterfly expert), the last few years to allow certain half marathon entrants to have an auto-in to the event, just like their marathon counterparts, instead of trying their luck with the lottery. Runners who have completed five to nine official Houston marathons (and that includes yours truly) are guaranteed marathon registration for the first month that it’s open (those with 10 or more, formerly called veterans but now are considered legacy runners, have until November 1 to register). But even though more finish the half marathon, we had no guarantee we’d be able to enter unless we met certain time goals that are waaaaay too fast for me.

When Brant boldly asked for suggestions to improve our already-excellent event on Facebook, I, of course, pushed once again for the half marathon guarantee. He said the marathon committee just needed a volunteer to help with the program.

Put me in, coach!

So, of course, I enlisted and attended a meeting with Jack and Arlen Isham, who are in charge of the marathon legacies, at the marathon office near Memorial Park to get more details. Quite honestly, all I wanted was for at least those of us with nine half marathon finishes to be guaranteed registration (not very selfless of me, I realize). But I was willing to advocate for those with 10-plus, figuring I only had one more to go to reach that status.

Lo and behold, the marathon committee was many steps ahead of me (not that hard to do, of course). They wanted to start a legacy program equal to the marathon’s! That means that runners who have finished from five to nine Houston half marathons have that same almost one-month guaranteed entry. Those with 10 or more (yep, that’s me!) can take their time plus get a special shirt and participate in a prerace group photo. What’s not to like?!?

My first “child”

My first “child”

When I was writing about the Houston-area running scene with my monthly magazine “Human-Powered Sports,” I learned that one person can make a difference, especially if he or she knows the right person to contact. It really is who you know. I was able to convince former councilman and avid runner Jim Greenwood to push the city to install a stoplight at the first entrance to Memorial Park. I also persuaded former Houston Parks Department head Don Olson to close the Picnic Loop at the park during certain hours so cyclists could ride without fear of getting hit by a car.

You know what they say about that old squeaky wheel? Consider me greased once again! Thanks to Brant and the marathon committee for showing that they care about the half marathoners, too.