There’s more to a race than the race.
Not in the moment, of course. In the moment, all that matters is the mile, the next step, the next breath. But for a marathon weekend to be a truly exceptional experience, there are a lot of little things that add up, and the St. George Marathon does a lot of those things well.
Honestly, my biggest complaint is travel difficulty. Unless you want to spend quite a lot of money, you can’t fly directly into St. George, so you fly into Las Vegas instead. For me, that meant a layover in LA as well, so after a 3 hour flight to California, 90 minutes in the airport and another hour to Vegas, you then get to unwind with a two hour drive through a beautiful-but-slightly-nerve-wracking gorge. Of course, without the location, you wouldn’t have the 2500-foot net drop on the course, so it’s all a matter of what that’s worth. The trip was worth it for me once, but would probably be the thing that keeps me away in the future.
And really, it would be the only thing. I started my weekend at the expo, hoping to catch the First Timer’s Clinic, but a ground stop in Vegas due to wind delayed me just enough to miss the course explanation. The expo was impressive, with better-than-average giveaways, including my favorite expo coupon of all time: $10 off dinner at Buca di Beppo. In addition to the usual plastic gear check bag, they also included a nice-ish drawstring bag, which I thought was a nice touch. The tech shirt is bright and long-sleeved, two things I’m going to need out of a shirt in the coming months. Swag goes a long way with me, and I was pleased to start.
One thing to watch out for is booking hotels. You want to do this as soon as you know that you’re in the race, because they fill up very quickly. That being said, I was a latecomer, and ended up in the Econolodge, which, okay, is an Econolodge, but it perfectly suited my needs. It was within half a mile of the finish line, had a hot tub that was almost never in use by anyone else, and had a coffee maker in the room. Yes, those are my only requirements.
I had the added bonus of getting a room with a handicap-accessible shower. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of a post-marathon shower (a fun little game called Find the Chafing), you can imagine the unequaled joy of having a fold-down seat and not having to climb over the edge of a tub. It was magical. Sure, the shower head only came up to my chest, but I made do just the same.
The race packet was flush with information, and there was not a thing I needed to know that I couldn’t find in there. The bus-loading was orderly and focused, and they even handed out free gloves as we got to the starting area, just in case you’d forgotten yours. The bonfires were excellent and well-tended, and despite the huge number of people, I always had access to warmth and a restroom within a reasonable amount of time. I imagine those who got there late did not have the same experience, but we early risers were care for nicely.
Gear check got a little hectic right before race time, and we started a few minutes late, but once I was on the course, all was forgotten. Some of the water stops were a short way from the mile markers, and as someone who has to plan for my refueling carefully, I would have liked more exact measurements, but they were well-stocked and well-staffed. Not a lot of crowd support until the very end, but enough scenery that you don’t mind so much. Finish line was fantastic. Again, well-stocked, though I would have liked some sort of bag or box in which to carry all the goodies they were passing out. I used my hat instead.
I was a little woozy, so I can’t comment on the awards ceremony or anything like that, but I greatly appreciated the app they had set up for the race, which included accurate and immediate results. I guess they had some issues with the half-marathon point for live-tracking, but it showed up in my splits when I finished. Overall, excellently run race day.
The rest of the day was sort of lazy, and I guess there really is not too much to do throughout the town of St. George, though most marathoners aren’t looking for crazy nightlife right after a race. There’s a bar in town called The One and Only because, you guessed it, it’s the one and only bar in town. I found great food, however, at George’s Corner and Iggy’s, and that’s just where I could bring myself to walk.
It’s a lovely town, with an excellent race and an elevation drop that can carry you right over the wall. If you’re looking for a fast race in a quiet town, you’ve got it, just be ready for the travel.
And for the hill at mile 19.