On March 14th, I ran the Zion Half Marathon. It was put on by Vacation Races and this was the company's third year of putting on this race.
Packet pickup was the day prior to the race. It was at the Springdale movie theater which was also the site of the finish line. Packets were quickly found by volunteers and then I moved on to the t-shirt table. T-shirts were available in two colors and size changes could be made at that time. There was also a table to pick up bracelets for the shuttle to the start line. There was a small expo but I didn't pay too much attention to it.
Race morning started with getting on the bus at 5:30 AM. I got on the first bus and we made the 13.1 mile drive to the start line. At the start line, there were a massive number of port-o-potties, a refreshments table with coffee, hot chocolate and bananas, and a spot for drop bags. There was also a very nice feature in that Vacation Races had a tent set up that was large enough to squeeze in virtually all of the 2000+ runners and had heaters piping warm air into it. While waiting for the time to tick down to the race start, there were a lot of raffles of equipment from sponsors.
At 7 AM, everybody moved from the tent area to the start line. Everybody lined up in a chute that was 6-8 feet wide and waited for the time to tick down. During this time, there was a small quadcopter being flown around getting photos (was also on the race course in several spots) and the music was rocking. I lined up about 300 meters back in the chute and waited. At 7:25, the race director came across with final directions and reminded everybody that results were going off chip time, not gun time, with the exception of the overall winners so there was no need for people to stress over their place in the line. At 7:30, the National Anthem was played and then the race began. It took me a little over 5 minutes from the start for me to shuffle through the chute and across the line to begin running. This did raise one interesting thing. There were pace crews but where were they? All of the pacers ahead of the 2:45 pacer was already gone by the time I started actually running and the majority of the runners were behind me which meant that there weren't many people with the faster pace crews.
The course was primarily uphill and went along Highway 9 from Virgin, UT to Springdale, UT. The course wasn't overly steep with the exception of a 3/4 mile section that topped out at Mile 7 but was more of a steady uphill grind. Aid stations were consistent at about every two miles and were stocked full of Nuun and Honey Stingers. There were also a lot of bathrooms available on the course at the aid stations. Traffic control was great and the weather was nice with temps in the 50s and the sun rising. Winds were low until we hit a section starting at Mile 9 when the road turned to the north and we continued to have a decent headwind until we reach Mile 12 in Springdale.
The finish line was a short downhill into the parking area. As I ran toward the finish line and crossed the first mat, I heard the announcer call out my name and a few seconds later, I crossed the finish line. I got my medal, had my chip cut off and headed into the post race area. It was well stocked with food (lots of bananas and oranges) and drinks (chocolate milk, Nuun and water). There was also medical support and massage stations set up.
Overall, it was a well managed race in a scenic location. With 2098 finishers, it was definitely the largest half marathon that I have been in. Time-wise, I finished with a 2:22 chip time which was good for 864th overall and 55 out of 108 in the Male 40-44 bracket.
Next up: Summerlin Half Marathon on April 12th