Travel Running: Canyonlands Half-Marathon – Moab, UT

Registering for Moab’s Canyonlands Half-Marathon was a decision-made-easy by the TAD crew, at least 5 of whom would be joining in for the fun. It was confirmed as a good life decision when we started doing some research about what areas could be explored before and after running 13.1 miles in southern Utah! What was not part of those initial plans (for me) was a one-week trip to Israel right before this race, or an additional half-marathon, or jet-lag.

In other words, this post should actually be titled one of the following:

“What not to do before racing Canyonlands Half-marathon!”


How to make the most of your Canyonlands – Moab,UT weekend! No PR included.”

You choose.

Arches NP Devil's GardenH Hike_DOTR

We arrived late on Thursday night, because Moab is actually much further from Las Vegas than we had anticipated (but not much closer to any other major city; especially not one with a direct flight from Monterey, CA). Friday morning was reserved for some exploring in Arches National Park, and by exploring I mean choosing the longest “difficult” hike (7.2 mile round-trip trek to the Double-O Arch) and also getting lost (not recommended).

Four hours later, we finally sat down for lunch at Eklectica Cafe, which I highly recommend paying a visit to! I opted for the Vegetable Hummus Wrap and a side of potatoes, because carbs.

Eklectica Cafe_Moab_DOTR

The rest of Friday was spent checking out downtown, the race expo (easy to find and navigate!) and our hotel room. Feet up!


One of the tricky aspects of this race is the start time – scheduled for a late morning kick-off, at 10 a.m. I assume there must be some logic behind this, from a Race Director stand-point, but I couldn’t tell you what that is. What I do know: there’s a generous window within which you catch a shuttle to the starting line (7:30am – 8:15am) and then a long waiting period within which you try to stay warm and entertained before actually letting your feet move!

We left the hotel early and hit-up the Love Muffin Cafe (I mean, seriously – the names of these little places!) for coffee & breakfast. Then we walked over to catch an early shuttle – we were dropped off around 8am and plopped ourselves up on a rock and bundled up. There’s a DJ, water + coffee + hot-chocolate station, plenty of bathrooms, a short walk up to the bag-check and and starting line and no sunshine (yet).

Canyonlands Half Marathon_Us_DOTR TAD Group_Canyonlands Half Marathon Start

All the TAD people! Left to Right: Emma, Jeff, Ashley, Jen, Katie, Hope & me.

Okay, let’s finally get this ball rolling…

Miles 1 –3: have a net downhill, so I had the go-ahead to let the legs be free and the strides be open and gauge how things felt. What I would soon learn I had severely underestimated: jet-lag (see: Jerusalem), altitude (see: 4500 ft) and hiking (see: 8 mile, 4 hour trek). I was pretty quickly aware of how the day would go – these miles were just under 8s, but they should have been a very comfortable sub-8. There were not.

Pleasant surprise: Beth! Oh hey, girl. Hadn’t seen her smiling face in a few days and after a full Israel-week of her energy, that’s a long stretch! She snuck up behind me like a jerk and I was all cranky like “personal space!” and then I realized who it was. That was probably the one and only time I laughed for the next 90 minutes…

Miles 4-8: were supposed to be “comfortable, but close to the edge”. It was pretty clear that for today, that blissful middle-racing-ground was nowhere to be found. It was either ease up and prolong the suffer, or keep the speed, even though it’s much closer to uncomfortable than anything else. My headphones quit but my ego was all charged up. The good thing is that this wasn’t a goal-race. It was meant to be a PR-attempt in the middle of marathon training, but then an opportunity to travel to Jerusalem popped up that I couldn’t turn down, and I got home two days before turning the suitcase inside out and leaving again. I had to have a little chat with myself that basically relayed this message:

It’s okay if you don’t PR today, but it’s not okay if you give in. It’s okay if you don’t run your fastest miles, but it’s not okay if you don’t remind yourself what it feels like to put in the effort. It’s okay if you’re tired, it’s not okay if you let fatigue wear you down. It’s okay if you have nothing left to give, but it’s not okay if you stop giving anything at all.

Canyonlands Half Marathon Mile 3_DOTR

Somewhere around mile 9: I had to pick it up, because that was the plan and because I want my legs to remember how it feels to push through that familiar race-day fatigue and maintain a pace nonetheless.

Miles 10-13: are bare and rough. Up to this point you have bouts of shade thanks to the canyon walls, but now? You have the almost-noon desert sun beating down on you. You’re out of the beautiful canyon and onto a highway. You know you’re close, but you’re not nearly close enough. Mike hopped back in to run me through that last mile (his finish – 1:30), and I immediately told him “No coaching!” (which means “no encouraging cheerleading statements about “almost there!” or “pick it up!” or whatever – nada!). Which was just a more efficient way of saying I am so effing exhausted WHERE IS THE FINISH LINE?! He caught on. As soon as the Finisher’s shoot began he hopped out but said “Catch that  guy ahead of you – you’ve got him!” and I sure as hell tried.

2015 Canyonlands Half-Marathon – 1:47
: 278 of 2121
AG (F 25-29): 13 of 161

TAD Group 2_Canyonlands Half Marathon

 The team had a great showing – a few PRs and a lot of happy runners!


What you should know about the Canyonlands Half Marathon:

– Moab, UT is a gorgeous town with great opportunities for hiking and general desert exploring. Plan at least a day or two to get through Arches National Park, enjoy craft beer & great food, and see the sights.

– The organization and execution of this race are seamless! All of the provided information is easy to follow and everything was on-time.

– Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts book up quickly! We stayed at the River Canyon Lodge, walking-distance to the shuttle pick-up, and the rest of the team shared a vacation rental home, also within walking distance. There are a lot of options that won’t require you to drive or park on race-day!

– Canyonlands National Park is stunning. You’re in for a treat! The course is beautiful for 11 miles, and then kind of brutal at the end. But you’ll be tired during those last two miles either way, so just get through them.

– It’s chilly at the start, but you can throw clothes ‘away’ or pack them into your bag before letting it go (which we did). You’ll warm up in that southwestern sun very quickly, so don’t overdress!

– Moab’s elevation is around 4,000 feet – plan accordingly!

Where we ate before and after the Canyonlands Half-Marathon (and recommend!):

– Sweet Cravings Bakery & Bistro (coffee + post-race treats)

– Eklectica Cafe (Friday lunch)

– Peace Tree Cafe (Post-race Lunch)


Add this one to your scenic half-marathon bucket list – you won’t be disappointed!


  1. March 28, 2015

    “snuck up on my like a jerk” hahaha!! I could tell you were so annoyed until you realized who I was. Wish we could have spent more time together. Looking forward to hearing about Zion!

  2. April 1, 2015

    I love the name “Sweet Cravings” – so true! Story of my life!

    I also like the idea of pushing a race to the best of your ability on race day, whether or not that means chasing a PR. Not giving in on a less-well-trained day is just as mentally important as throwing down PR pace. Learning to push through those hard times is only how you realize that you can do it! Also, love the RUN hat.

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