As a boy, Todd Poer wanted desperately to be an athlete. Despite horrid asthma, he tried out for track anyway. A quarter of the way around the track, Poer’s asthmatic fits forced him to stop.
“I wanted to run so badly, you don’t even know,” Poer, 47, said.
And so in September, when Poer traversed the Grand Canyon from rim to rim and back again, he ran roughly 27 of the 48 miles.
“That’s why I do what I do, because I couldn’t do it before,” said Poer, who works as the director of maintenance and transportation for Payson schools.
Poer says his boyhood asthma vanished after a religious miracle, just like miracles cured his later medical calamities.
And as he hiked the Grand Canyon behind his two friends, his arms out much of the way in exultation, praising a God he has never seen but in whom he fervently believes, gratitude poured from his pores.
Poer was not always a religious man. However, at 15, Poer says he received a new set of lungs after a man at a Sierra Vista prayer group prayed for him. His asthma was cured.
“That’s what made me a believer,” Poer said. “I’m a miracle.”
Actually, a multi-miracle. In 1992, Poer landed in a body cast after an ATV crash. Doctors doubted he would ever walk again.
A man read the Bible from front to back 158 times for Poer, and again, he was healed.
Poer says he doesn’t know why the prayers of certain men worked while the prayers of others failed to inspire miracles.
“I don’t have all the answers,” Poer said.
While preparing for the 48-mile rim-to-rim-to-rim hike, Poer decided he would run the length of a marathon. He wanted to make the trip as physically difficult as possible.
In June, he completed the same hike, but slept for a night at the canyon’s bottom. In September, Poer continued straight through.
At 2 a.m. on Sept. 28, Poer and friends Mark Smith and John Lake set out with headlamps on the hike.
The temperature was supposed to reach 107 degrees that day. In each hand, Poer carried a 24-ounce water bottle, refilled at various water stops along the way.
More friends stood at the opposite rim so when Smith and Lake needed to stop after the first rim-to-rim jaunt, Greg Samp and Tom Rothwell could drive them back and meet Poer.
At one point along the way, Poer started dry heaving and could not keep water down.
One friend stopped because his knee hurt, and the heat arrested the other’s attempt.
Poer characterized his friends’ decisions to stop as wise.
“I had no business doing what I did when I was gagging like that,” Poer said. “The Grand Canyon is not a place to be a hero; it can be fatal.”
But, he said, “I’m not going to let anything stop me.”
Then, with five miles left, Poer hit “the wall.”
He had nothing left. He sat down on a rock and prayed.
“Lord, without your help, there’s no way I can do this,” Poer told the heavens. “When I hit that wall, I didn’t think my body would be able to do it.”
Poer had no choice but to continue. As hours in the day began waning, Poer saw few people on the trail. No one was around to help.
Somehow, he mustered the strength to finish. At the end, he said, “Thank you Jesus.”
The entire journey took 17 hours and 44 minutes.
And now the little boy who used to envy athletes as they ran can say he ran a marathon through the Grand Canyon.