Canyonlands Half Marathon grows under Mad Moose
by Jacque Garcia
The Times-Independent
Mar 22, 2018 | 1675 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Canyonlands Half
Arizona-based runner Georgia Porter holds up her medal after winning the women’s half marathon in a time of 1:20.05.      Photos by Jacque Garcia
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More than 1,600 runners took off for the Canyonlands Half Marathon and 5-mile race on Saturday, March 17. The annual race first took place in 1976 with just 22 runners participating — and has grown so large it was acquired this year by Moab-based Mad Moose Events.

“Moab is a special place, and we felt like with the seven events in Moab we could really focus a lot of our attention on this town,” Justin Ricks, race director of Mad Moose, said. Ricks purchased the race from previous owner Ranna Bieschke in July.

“We already had the three ultra events in town, and we were looking to add to our mix of events. We made a bunch of new changes.” Ricks explained, “The highway used to be closed longer and we got it open a little sooner. We made it so that the community members weren’t trapped in their houses for quite as long, so that it flows better.”

The roads surrounding Swanny Park were closed at 6:30 a.m., and roads along the racecourse were closed from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

“We were able, by changing the starting times, those people were only inconvenienced by a couple hours,” Ricks said. “We made some changes to try and make it a more sustainable event, better for the community and better for the runners.”

Because Mad Moose orchestrates several events in Moab every year, the company often coordinates with community volunteers. This year, the race had volunteers from the Grand County High School basketball and track teams, a local Girl Scout troop, Girls on the Run Moab, Moab Taiko Dan, the GCHS debate team, Young Life, the GCHS Band, the Sierra Club, Community Rebuilds and Second Chance. In return, Mad Moose was able to donate almost $15,000 to their volunteer groups.

Runners traveled to the St. Patrick’s Day event from 35 different states and four different countries.

“I personally believe there aren’t many half marathons in the country as beautiful as that,” Ricks said of the race’s popularity. “They didn’t just stay for the day, they came and stuck around and saw the national parks.”

Connor Belson and Miranda Wodarski, a couple who traveled to the event from North Carolina, were the first man and first woman to finish the 5-mile race. “We came for the national parks, but we try to race as often as we can,” Wodarski said. “The course along the river was beautiful.”

Whitner Chase from Durango, Colorado, won the half marathon in a time of 1:13.54. The first woman to finish the half marathon was Georgia Porter of Flagstaff, Arizona, with a time of 1:20.05.

Moab residents participated in Saturday’s races, with 15 running the 5-mile race and 16 in the half marathon. Sid Glick finished first of the local participants in the 13.1-mile race with a time of 1:44.21, followed by Alisa Knight, Moab’s first female finisher in a time of 1:50.24. In the 5-mile race, 14-year-old Bella Welch placed first of the local participants in a time of 43.38.

After the race, a reception was held at Swanny Park featuring beer from the Moab Brewery and live music from the Jack and Jill Band.

Mad Moose will host the Behind the Rocks Ultra this Saturday, March 24, featuring a 50-mile race, a 50k race and a 30k race beginning and ending on BLM land south of Moab. For more information visit

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