Moab & the Canyonlands 1/2 Marathon

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to participate in the 40th annual Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab, Utah. I ran this race last year, and it was my first time hanging out in Moab, so I couldn’t resist coming back for round two!

The race has a beautiful course that takes you along the Colorado river for the first 10 miles on highway 128. Highway 128 is a beautiful scenic byway that follows the canyon walls that were carved by the Colorado River. If you haven’t driven on this road - put it on your list now.

I was struggling with my ability to actually start this race - let alone complete it. I have had a rough few months with my training. Between the two sinus infections, and bronchitis I somehow acquired adult asthma! It was getting to the point where I couldn’t even run 2 miles without heavy wheezing and coughing that made it impossible to continue.

A week before the race, the longest run I had done was 8 miles - and that was over a month prior. I was really concerned about my ability to finish this race.

Despite it all I figured I would give it a go. The worst that could happen was that I was too slow and would get picked up by the van & couldn’t finish.

Keith and I got to Moab late on Thursday night, we wanted to spend all day Friday hiking and photographing. We went to Arches NP and spend a lot of time in Devil’s Garden. Devil’s Garden is located in the far North part of the park and features a 7.2 mile loop that includes a lot of arches.

The next morning was the half marathon, and I woke up a wee bit sore from the ridiculous 7 mile hike the day before. We had to get up early to catch the bus up the canyon at 7:30.

Since this race is a point-to-point race, they have to bus all the runners up to the start, which is 13 miles up a windy canyon. All this bussing takes quite a bit of time and has to be complete before the 5 mile race starts at 9:30am.

The half marathon doesn’t start until 10am, and you arrive at the staging area at around 8am. It’s cold, dark, and cold in that canyon early in the morning. The earlier you get up there is both a blessing and a curse. If you’re early enough - you can find a nice rock to sit on and keep warm on, but then you’re up there for ~1.5hr before the start.

I sat on a rock next to a wonderful man, Bob, who has run this race 11 years in a row. Funny enough he grew up near Detroit and now lives in Denver. Such a small world! We people watched and chatted a bit about the other runners, and then went our separate ways towards the start line.

The first 5 or so miles of this race are downhill, and it feels great. By mile 1, you’re in the sunshine, and by mile 5 a lot of the runners who wore puffy vests and running tights were immediately regretting their decision. At mile 9, they have a real nice steep hill for you to meander up right before leaving the canyon and being thrust onto the highway into downtown Moab.

The last 3.5 miles of this race are just miserable. You’re running uphill, it’s hot, you’re tired, and you’re running on the side of a highway. BUT, the end is near! The last aid station always has a hose going and people handing out beer.

I ended up finishing the race in 2:18:46 which was about 15 minutes faster than I thought I was going to finish, and about 5 minutes faster than last years time!

Keith and I celebrated in usual post half marathon fashion, with a beer and a delicious lunch. We stuck around Moab for a few and took the scenic route out via the La Salle Loop.

We even opted for the long, more scenic, way back through Colorado as well. We wanted to check out Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP and weren’t disappointed! The canyon walls of that park are over 1/2 mile tall, it’s insanity.

It was an awesome trip with great company, perfect weather, and amazing scenery.

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