Get Off Your Butt In The Winter And Run!
For all those who live in temperate climates year round, a winter running race may typically be on the docket as your training never has to slow down due to icy roads. But for those of us who live in the freezing temperatures it is always tempting to shut things down rather than become intimate with a treadmill or trainer. For those who have shut things down in the past, we recognize how difficult it is to wake up after our long winter’s nap, so to stay motivated I would recommend a winter race in a not so brutal climate, and the St. George Half Marathon fits the bill.
It appears that the St. George Half Marathon has been held for a number of years but has had different names. In 2010 they went with the current name and it looks like participation has skyrocketed. This year (2012) they had just over 1400 participants in the half. The registration fee of $40 is pretty standard. Registration itself went smoothly and the check-in at the expo went well. This is not a giant event like the St. George Marathon or other large Marathon races throughout the country. The expo had a decent amount of vendors for the size of the event but lacked major players in the endurance arena. The swag bag was full of advertisements and a small size brownie bite from Clif Bar. The event was chipped timed, so your timing chip and bib was also in the bag and participants also received a long sleeve technical shirt. As with most events, you must pick up your packet the day before the actual race. The expo closed at 9:00 which gives most people plenty of time to check in.
I want to emphasize that this event is in the Winter in Utah. St. George has excellent weather, but there is always a risk of inclement conditions, as was the case this year (2012). We sat in the car waiting for the start of the race as the rain continuously drizzled down. The temperature was in the 40s which was a little too brisk when not moving. There was a ton of parking throughout the starting area. We arrived about one hour before the start time and could sit in the car and view the starting area. One of the best things about this event, especially because we didn’t want to leave the vehicle any earlier than we needed to, was the St. George Half Marathon radio station. A feed from the race director’s operations was being pumped into a local radio station so we could sit in the comfort of our vehicle and listen to all the race announcements and jam out to the theme from Rocky and all other marathon Cliche songs that we love. When the director announced that we had 10 minutes to the start, we headed out.
1,400 people can still create a little bit of crowding at the start line but the event did have pace groups, so most people were able to line up according to perceived ability. I thought the course was great but I do want to warn you…if you only like to run races that are 95% downhill, you may want to pass on this event. The first half of the course runs through neighborhoods and a golf course. There are plenty of noticeable hills, but none that are brutal. The biggest hill is at the halfway point and it will tire you out a little, but it is all downhill from there. As you leave the big hill you venture towards the Virgin River. This was my first time running the Virgin River Trail. The system is paved with asphalt and was plenty wide enough for the participants which had spread out by this point. The back half of the course had little, to no inclines. The elevation chart below is separated into 40 foot segments and my Garmin reported that there was a total elevation gain of around 360 feet.
The race operations were great for this size of event. Most of the aid stations (I believe there were a total of 5) were great with water, Gatorade and a couple of stops with Gu. The finish chute was nice with a lot of spectators who were mostly huddled under an overpass 300 yards before the actual finish line to avoid the rain. Finishers received a medal and there was plenty of refreshments, including chocolate milk. Official times were posted at the event and were posted to the website later that evening. Event photos were posted on Monday, less than three days later.
The Bottom Line ~
This is currently a smaller event when compared with the big boys, and I only see it increasing in size. It is in January, so expect the unexpected weather, but don’t let that scare you away. Crazy weather gives us better stories to tell. The course is a little challenging, especially during the first half, but it is in beautiful St. George and is well worth it.
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