Voted as one of the most scenic marathons in the country, the St. George Marathon is a beautiful, classic race through Southern Utah.
Starting near Central, Utah and traveling along state Route 18 into St. George, the race, designed as a point-to-point, takes full advantage of the scenery along the way. Beginning nearly a mile above sea level, at an elevation of 5,240 feet, the race descends to almost 2,600 feet over the course of the 26.2 miles. While there are a few notable inclines along the way, the race overall descends more than 2,600 feet making it have a noticeably fast pace. This has increased interest in the marathon as a potential qualifying race for the Boston Marathon, where runners have to finish by a documented time in order to be able to enter the race. However, with a roster capped at 7,800 runners, the St. George Marathon makes use of a lottery system to cull excess applicants. Still, interest in the race is high, as it is the 13th largest in the nation and at the top of several “best” lists.
Racers are bussed to the starting line near the beautiful Pine Valley mountains on the first Saturday in October for a starting time of 6:45 a.m., participants with HandCranks starting five minutes earlier. A festive atmosphere including music and bonfires helps runners prepare for the race with temperatures usually cool around 38-44 degrees Fahrenheit. As the race progresses into lower elevations, temperatures rise with the sun, reaching 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit at the finish line. Warm-up clothing and discarded clothing along the first six miles of the course will be collected and distributed at the finish area.
First started in 1977, the race has seen steady growth every year. With an expo and various other events, St. George has turned the weekend into a celebration of fitness. An expo at the Dixie Convention Center begins the festivities with vendors, clinics and speakers offering advice and everything else needed during a marathon. A pasta dinner is offered the night before the race, so competitors can fuel up. The morning of the marathon, supporters and those cheering can walk the final two miles of the course in the Mayors Walk, finishing before full marathon contestants. Finally, after the marathon, a complimentary 15-minute massage is available.
The marathon was voted the most organized event and with all the preparations before the marathon as well as the logistics during and after, it is easy to see why. Including 17 aid stations along the course, restrooms and other facilities, contestants are well taken care of.
In addition to finisher medals and shirts, participants are treated to snacks, drinks and even massages at the finishline. But the true prize is the beauty of St. George and the surrounding area, with many participants using the marathon as an excuse to visit the area, planning vacations around the race.
Written by Erik Anderson: Paragon Guide