Vail runner braves 6-foot-tall chickens in Death Valley for charity |

Vail runner braves 6-foot-tall chickens in Death Valley for charity

Taylor L. Roozen
The Vail Daily
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – Vail Valley runner Morgan Murri said he chose to run in the Badwater Ultramarathon because he knew that he would be miserable, and because it was not at all his style of running. He prefers mountain races on dirt trails, he said.

The run is so intense that it can cause hallucinations, said Murri’s daughter, who is also named Morgan. She said that at one point during the ultramarathon, one competitor started to see 6-foot-tall chickens in the night.

Morgan completed the 135-mile run through Death Valley in 35 hours and seven minutes. His daughter ran 22 miles of the race to support him and make sure he did not begin to hallucinate, she said.

He put up with the pain, because he was running to promote a charity called Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors (GECKO), he said.

“It’s not a race that I ever necessarily wanted to do,” he said. “It’s just brutally terrible and everything that, when you live in the mountains, you don’t really want to do, like running on pavement, and running in the desert in the middle of the summer. I used it as an opportunity to spread the word about what GECKO is doing.”

The Pagosa Springs-based GECKO raises money to give children scholarships for outdoor programs.

“We’ve been going for about a year, and we just did two big scholarships for local high school kids for the High Mountain Institute in Leadville,” he said.

Murri said his charity has also provided 10 scholarships this summer with Wild Pagosa, a local program for elementary school kids. They also provide scholarships on a regional scale with the High Mountain Institute, and they work nationally with the National Outdoor Leadership School. He said they will have given close to 25 scholarships by the year’s end.

Murri was inspired to start the charity by his daughter’s experience with the National Outdoor Leadership School.

“It was a 30-day backpacking trip through Alaska, and she came back a completely different person,” he said.

The trip rekindled her love of the outdoors, and during the next two years she worked to pay for two more programs.

After her last trip, in Patagonia, she moved to Edwards to attend Colorado Mountain College. Now she is a certified emergency medical technician and a ski instructor in the winter.

After witnessing the extreme change in his daughter’s attitude, Murri was determined to help other families get their kids outside, he said.

“I said, if could do anything as a dad, and as a person it would be to do this for other kids,” Murri said.

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