Guillaume Arthus has a simple dream—to share the U.S. national parks with the world.
He plans to make his dream a reality through Running Road Trip, an ambitious project that will see him visiting 30 national parks in only 60 days, filming 200 videos of more than 13 miles in each park while doing what he loves most—running.
Arthus discovered his passion for running five years ago while studying corporate finance at the ESSCA business school in Angers, France. A swimmer for 15 years, Arthus was forced to find a new way to channel his extra energy because the school did not have a pool.
For the first two years, Arthus just ran. He didn’t adhere to special diets or training regimens, instead opting to pull on shoes in his free time and just go. That changed in 2012 when he began training with a coach who happened to be a former French Olympic champion. Arthus began running five days a week and changed his diet. He saw major improvements almost immediately. In 2011 Arthus was able to run a marathon in a very respectable time of 4:20. One year later he was able to break 3:29.
It was at this point Arthus, who had hiked in the mountains with his family since he was a child, decided to challenge himself with trail running.
“I am a child of the mountains,” Arthus said. “I was born next to Paris but I would spend every free moment, every break, hiking in the mountains. I thought, ‘I’m already running, why not do both?’”
Arthus switched from road running to trail running, participating in notable ultra-marathons such as Canada’s Sinister 7, which qualified him for the 2014 UTMB, a 100-mile, single-stage trail race that will see him navigating some of the highest summits in the Alps across France, Italy, and Switzerland. Running Road Trip will help prepare him for the UTMB, which is considered to be among the most challenging running races in the world.
Origins of Running Road Trip
It was while working on his MBA at Illinois State, which has a partnership with ESSCA, that Arthus came up with the idea to create Running Road Trip. With May 2014 graduation approaching, his parents encouraged him to plan a vacation before entering the workforce.
“I decided to take the time to see the national parks,” Arthus said. “I started looking to see where the national parks were, and I decided I was going to do everything.”
Arthus charted all of the U.S. national parks on a map and then drew the shortest route he could to the maximum number of parks. The 30 parks he outlined included Yosemite, Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, and Zion to name just a few. In each park he will film every step he takes with a 360-degree camera mounted on two fiberglass poles in a backpack mount.
“Someone viewing the videos on the website will be able to move the camera as if they were there,” Arthus said. “I wanted to share the experience. That’s the whole idea. To be able to share the experience, because most people won’t be able to do it themselves.”
Wearing a camera while running may seem like a hindrance to even veteran runners despite only weighing 3 pounds, but Arthus uses it to his advantage by periodically focusing on filming to take his mind off the pain and exhaustion that accompany endurance running.
To ready himself for the trip, Arthus is continuing is running regimen, completing track workouts on weekdays with long runs on the weekends. He also cross-trains by swimming once a week. In addition, Arthus who has invested more than 1,200 hours in planning and much of his own money is working to raise funds for the project.
“I don’t want to make money with the project,” Arthus said. “I want to give it back to the people. There are no fees, no accounts for the website. I just want to share the experience.”
Arthus’ desire to share the parks comes from the sense of camaraderie found in the running community. Despite races being timed and running being perceived as an individual sport, Arthus notes that runners go to great lengths to support one another.
“Trail running is a collective sport,” Arthus said. “There is a strong community in running. It is an individual sport that people do together as a community. But with trail running it feels like family.”
Support for Running Road Trip has poured in from the running community. Many professional and amateur runners across the country plan to join Arthus during his run through the parks. The project has been featured in Runners World, Canadian Running magazine, Competitor magazine, and other publications.
“It is a personal journey,” Arthus said. “I want the people to be able to enjoy it and understand what the trail running community is. It is uncommon to have people video, so they don’t have the feelings and emotions to take away. It is pure freedom.”
Arthus will begin his 10,000-mile road trip May 5. Support his project at GoFundMe.com/RunningRoadTrip.
Steven Barcus can be reached at srbarcu@IllinoisState.edu.