5 youths, including BYU student, to push limits in inspirational, grueling expedition

Published: Saturday, May 11 2013 2:00 p.m. MDT

Grosvenor Arch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument,

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Five young adults are going to run about 26 miles each day for seven days through the last place in the continental United States that was mapped.

Along the way at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, these youth ambassadors will study dinosaur footprints and learn the story of the earth's most massive extinction event that occurred some 250 million years ago.

In Expedition Utah, "Running Through Time," the young adults from Canada and the United States aren't racing against each other, but instead pushing themselves to never underestimate what they can do.

"When people first hear about it, it comes as a shock to them," said Emma Morley, a Brigham Young University neuroscience student selected as an ambassador. "It is a lot to take on every day. But it is not a race, it is not competitive. It is a challenge and we all run it as a group. The slowest runner is the fastest runner; that is how it works."

The expedition begins Sunday and ends May 19, when Morley, Zander Affleck, Holly Bull, Steve Drost and Colin Henderson will have finished up with the roughly 192-mile journey put on by i2P.

Those three symbols stand for "impossible2Possible," a non-profit organization founded by Ray Zahab in 2007 after and he and two other runners ran across the entire Sahara Desert, some 4,500 miles, to raise awareness for clean water initiatives. The event was documented in a film produced and narrated by Matt Damon.

Previous youth expeditions have been held in Botswana, India, and the Amazon, featuring young adults culled from applicants from all across North America.

The mission of i2P is what captured Morley's passion: encouraging youth to reach beyond their perceived limits and using adventure as a medium to educate, inspire and empower the global community to make positive change.

"It was very genuine," she said.

Morley admits she remains a bit intimidated about the physical challenges that lay before her, but she's letting the excitement of the journey — and the mission — blanket any fears.

"I thought the expeditions and all the running at i2P was outrageous. But as I started getting more and more wrapped up in the website and learning about this, I realized these youth ambassadors were just like me. They were people who did not have these incredible running experiences or a long list of accomplishments. They just wanted to fulfill the mission of i2P."

Zahab said that's what he wants — i2P to be a vehicle for transformation — much how he was transformed.

"When I was younger I was not very accomplished, not very academic; I don't have a degree of any kind," he said. "Running the Sahara was the catalyst for i2P because it taught me that we underestimate ourselves. We all do it every day."

Zahab said i2P is so named with a de-emphasis on the "impossible" and the emphasis on "Possible" to inspire youth to move beyond the acceptance of mediocrity.

"We want our ambassadors to consider themselves great role models for other youth," he said. "They are delivering a groundbreaking educational program and will also share what they learned about themselves."

The expedition is being followed by 88 schools across North America and other parts of the globe, with an estimated 7,000 students who have signed up for the educational packet for part of their science studies. The journey taps the expertise of 10 doctorate-level scientists from institutes that include the monument, the Utah Museum of Natural History, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and Simon Fraser University.

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