By Cynthia Christen
This was the rather obscure marathon that I had read about even before my husband, Ron, and I had set our goal of a marathon in all 50 states. It was in the part of the country that scenery is everywhere. It was a “downhill” race, losing elevation from start to finish, and it was in early October, when the weather could vary greatly in southwest Utah. The St. George Marathon has become so popular that this year it had a lottery. But the three of us got in– Cathy McCarty, Ron, and I. We studied the Weather Channel’s predictions for weeks, and saw HOT with temperatures in the 90’s until only one week before we left.
Cathy and I flew into Las Vegas on a Thursday and first drove to Death Valley, California. The weather was perfect, and had even rained the day before in this land of barely double-digit yearly rainfall. It was only about 83 degrees on the floor of the Valley, below sea level. The color was brown, every shade imaginable, but only brown. That evening, Ron flew in, and the following morning we drove to St. George, Utah.
Here the colors were varied, with reds, grays, yellows, as well as brown in the rocks and soil. The scenery was spectacular. There is a race expo with many vendors. That evening we attended the pasta supper and met several runners, mainly from Utah.
Race morning, before dawn, we were up and out in the 40-something temperature in town. We loaded the school buses for the 26-mile ride to the start, and were greeted with bonfires, plenty of porta-potties, and lots of people milling about in the cold. The organization at the start was great, except that the minute per mile posters were curled over from the wind. We had timing chips, so getting to the start was not so hectic. In fact, I made a last pitstop after the gun.
It took about an hour before the sun hit. It had been rising behind the colorful rocks casting its shadow to the road below. The scenery was truly magnificent, and totally different from the lush green we had left behind in Tallahassee. There were several ultra-lights with colorful canopies flying over us. But we did not see hardly any animals, domestic or wild. We came to a cinder cone of black volcanic rock, and hit our longest and steepest uphill. This was at about mile 8. There were people cheering us on, and there were many banners and handmade signs of encouragement and humor along the way. Two different times I truly “lost” a mile or two because I was so into this event. After the halfway point, there were fewer uphills, and moslty downhill into the City of St. George. In town there were more cheering spectators. The temperature remained very comfortable, the aid stations plentiful, and the course fabulous. I was close to a PR, as was Ron. When we three met up at the end and shared our experiences, we concluded that this was our favorite marathon.
Cathy and I stayed in Utah for another few days, visiting the national parks and monuments, and camping under the star-filled western sky. We hiked on tired, but not overly sore legs. The aspens were changing color. Their yellow, with black lava rock behind, green vegetation below, and a bright blue sky above is a picture that will stay with me forever. We were in snow at the higher elevations.
Mark your calendar for the first weekend in October, and even if you don’t run marathons, visit the area when the heat and crowds of summer have left. You won’t forget it.