Canyonlands Half Marathon marks official start of Moab’s tourist season
by Jeff Richards
Contributing Writer
Mar 13, 2014 | 2751 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Runners follow SR 128 as it curves along the scenic Colorado River for a long section of the Canyonlands Half Marathon race course. Courtesy photo
Runners follow SR 128 as it curves along the scenic Colorado River for a long section of the Canyonlands Half Marathon race course. Courtesy photo
The 39th annual Canyonlands Half Marathon and Five Mile Run is scheduled to kick off Moab’s tourist season once again, with the races scheduled for Saturday, March 15.

Race director Ranna Bieschke said March 11 that approximately 4,500 runners have signed up for the 2014 event.

“We do have a cap of 5,000 people, but it looks like we are not going to need to do a lottery this year,” Bieschke said.

The races typically attract a wide range of runners of all ages and abilities. Although a large number of the participants are from Utah and Colorado, Bieschke said that 44 different states and seven foreign countries are represented by this year’s field. 

Additionally, according to post-race feedback survey given by race organizers, each runner is accompanied by an average of 2.3 other people, and the average length of stay in Moab is two nights, Bieschke said.

That amounts to a substantial economic boon to the Grand County area, which is expected to essentially double in population for that weekend.

“The Canyonlands Half Marathon has a great economic impact on Moab,” said Jodie Hugentobler, executive director for the Moab Area Chamber of Commerce. “The revenue is pretty healthy for the month of March. It is an event that starts the season with a boost, especially to hotels and restaurants.”

“The half marathon is really the go-ahead kickoff that gets everyone’s year started,” agreed Marian DeLay, executive director of the Moab Travel Council. “Things start to pick up a little on the weekends in February, but by the time the half marathon happens in mid-March, nearly everything in town is pretty much up and running.”

This year, the Canyonlands Half Marathon occurs nearly a full month ahead of the Easter Jeep Safari, which runs from April 12 to 20. Bieschke acknowledged that timing puts a little more pressure on the race event.

“Local businesses are really counting on us, chomping at the bit to get people coming to town,” she said. “We do everything we can to bring them here.”

“People don’t just come here to run the race and leave again that day or the next day,” Bieschke added. “They and their families will be looking for other things to do while they are here.”

Both the half-marathon and five mile races start on state Route 128 and finish at Swanny City Park in Moab. The five-mile run starts at 9:30 a.m. and the half-marathon starts at 10 a.m., with wheelchair participants starting at 9:50.

SR 128 will be closed to all motor vehicle traffic starting at 8 a.m. the day of the race. The road closure typically lasts until early afternoon, by which time most runners will be off the road.

Last year’s top finisher was 26-year-old Patrick Smyth of Salt Lake City, who crossed the finish line of the half-marathon in 1 hour, 9 minutes, 55 seconds. The top female finisher was Kim Dobson, 28, of Grand Junction, Colo., whose time was 1:20.32. The all-time course records are by Brandon Rhodes, who ran the race in 1:05.33 in 1997, and Nadia Prasad, who recorded a women’s time of 1:17.31 in 2003. 

The course records in the five-mile run are Nicholas Kipruto’s time of 23:55 in 2009 and Janell Burgon’s mark of 28:34 in 1992.

For more information on Moab’s half marathon events and related races, visit

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