At last summer’s Western States 100, Jim Walmsley had his heart broken. Headed into mile 93 of ultrarunning’s most prestigious race, the 26-year-old professional trail runner, in his first-ever 100 miler, was having the race of his life. He had a seemingly insurmountable lead and looked poised to break Timothy Olson’s 2012 course record. But then calamity hit. A missed turn in the home stretch ended up costing Walmsley the record and a podium finish. He wound up in twentieth place, clocking 18:45:36 after clawing his way back to the course and enduring muscle seizures over the final miles. Walmsley was sanguine about simply finishing, but there was no way he could conceal his disappointment. “To be completely honest, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to put together such a magical day again,” he said at the time.
Thankfully, he was wrong.
This past Tuesday, Walmsley shattered Rob Krar’s record for the double-crossing of the Grand Canyon—or, as it’s called, Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim. Setting off from South Kaibab trailhead in the predawn hours of October 4, Walmsley traversed the 42 miles from the South Rim to the North Rim and back in a blazing 5:55:20, averaging 8:27 per mile on a run that included 24,000 feet of vertical change. En route, he also managed to break the Rim-to-Rim record, with a time of 2:46:08.
We spoke to Jim about his incredible run and whether this accomplishment helps ease the pain of the Western States debacle.
Photo: Born and raised in Phoenix and now living in Flagstaff, Walmsley does much of his training in and around his state’s famous geographical feature. For him, going after a fastest known time in the Grand Canyon is doubly significant: not only is this his home turf, it is also the favorite training locale of trail-running legend Krar. “It’s a natural wonder of the world,” says Walmsley. “Rob Krar really helped establish it as one of the top FKTs in the world—just the fact that he held the record made it really prestigious.”