Running Down a Dream!
I love having “favorites” and my favorite marathon is the Ogden, Utah Marathon. There is a problem though, as it is fast becoming a lot of people’s favorite marathon.
I was first introduced to the Ogden Marathon shortly after a miserable experience at another event. I had trained hard and was ready to kill it in the other event, but it didn’t quite turn out like I had planned and ended up sitting on a bus stop bench looking to quit. I finished, but it was awful, so I immediately started looking for another event to redeem myself.
The Ogden marathon was four weeks later and I believe I officially signed up with three weeks left until the event. That was in 2008. In 2009 I waited until January to sign up for the May event and found out I was too late, it had sold out the day before. I was able to get on a waiting list and they opened some more spots so I was able to participate. In 2010 I signed up in December. I passed on 2011 because I was competing in Ironman St. George but for the 2012 event it sold out in three days. The popularity of the Ogden Marathon is growing and if you don’t sign up on the day it opens (November 1st) you will probably be out of luck.
The Ogden Marathon is a full event with a 5K, half marathon, marathon and marathon relay. The marathon is a point to point course that starts up a canyon above Pineview Reservoir at an elevation of around 5,400 feet. Due to the fact that it is a point to point course, you have to ride a bus to the start line. When you show up early in the morning there seem to be hundreds of buses with even more volunteers making sure that you get on the correct bus, and not the half marathon buses. After the 30-minute ride they drop you off in a field where you have to fight for a spot around one of the fire pits or a spot in the bathroom line. It can be very chilly at 5,400 feet in the middle of May so dress accordingly. It seems like the buses have to drop you off far too early at the start line, but the organizers do have to get more than 2,000 marathoners and even more people with the relay up the mountain.
The course is absolutely beautiful. I would recommend not putting your headphones on for the first seven miles as you run down the first canyon along the raging river. It is a glorious thing to be running in the mountains when it is cool and brisk, listening to the pounding of thousands of feet with the accompaniment of a roaring river. After a 400-foot elevation drop and seven mile decent down the canyon you begin your mostly flat road venture around Pineview Reservoir. The snow-capped mountain peaks reach around the entire valley with the lake resting at its center point. When you finally reach the other side of the lake, around mile 14-15, you run (or walk) into the biggest incline. The uphill is not too long but you will definitely feel it as you struggle to get to the aid station at the top. The course then crosses the dam around mile 17 and you head down Ogden Canyon. This stretch of the course is strewn with steep declines that will pound your quads but bring a smile to your face as your pace quickens. You may want to again remove your headphones and enjoy the Ogden River and steep canyon walls. With just over two miles to go, you will exit the canyon and enter onto the Ogden River parkway. The paved trail system is nice as it winds its way to the finishing stretch. The trail does get narrow which shouldn’t be a problem, but you may have to jump and weave your way past some half-marathon walkers. At this point in the race I am tired and get far too grumpy and easily annoyed at the walkers who seem to be taking the entire width of the trail (especially with a P.R. on the line). The final stretch is down the wide streets of downtown Ogden which is packed with spectators.
The volunteers for the event are incredible. The organizers do a great job to make sure there are enough volunteers and items at the aid stations to keep you going strong. There are plenty of aid stations which increase in frequency as you get nearer to the finish. The finish line area is great as well with Chocolate milk and other supplies, including massages, to help you recover.
The entire experience has been first class every time I have participated in it. It is the course where both Ben and I have a P.R. and Ben also qualified for Boston. The fast times have a lot to do with the total elevation drop which starts around 5,400 feet and ends around 4,300 feet, but the spectacular views will help liven you up as you tackle the 26.2.
The Bottom Line ~
If you want a different experience from the big city marathons look no further than the Ogden Marathon in Utah. It is a short drive from Salt Lake City and its popularity is increasing so be sure to sign up on the day registration begins. I imagine that organizers will have to implement a lottery system sooner than later. The course has to be one of the most beautiful mountain courses in the country. The few negatives (long, cold wait at the start line and half marathon walkers getting in your way) are easily overcome with a positive attitude. Get out and run…and if possible, run the Ogden Marathon.
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