Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fall Marathon Rundown

As many of our club members know I recently completed running a marathon in all 50 States. So what’s next? I’m basically running a marathon a month, however choosing those marathons that offer something special.
This fall I was fortunate enough to run two of the most beautiful marathons, in September, one that I’ve always wanted to run, the Maui Marathon and in October- St. George, Utah. This was my third St. George, as it’s one of my favorites. Both are very different, however at the same time, very similar.
As they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder-so take your pick. Both boast beautiful scenery; one mountains and ocean, the other buttes, canyons and high desert.
From Las Vegas we are just two hours away from one of the world’s most spectacular marathons-St. George. The St. George Marathon is held every year on the first Saturday in October; however don’t wait until October to decide to run! Unless you’re a resident, you need to be a lottery winner to run this marathon! On line registration begins April 1, and stays open until May 1. A drawing is made shortly after, the results are announced a few days later and that’s it. The race is closed.
Who would have guessed that this small town race would be so popular? Probably no one, until Runner’s World magazine voted it one of the 10 most scenic marathons in the USA, as well as one of the fastest courses!
If you are looking for a PR or a Boston qualifying time, this is the race to run. With a drop in elevation from 5243 feet down to 2678, this a super fast course! Based on my unscientific study, I would say your St. George finish time will be about 20 minutes faster than your average marathon time.
Amazing as this may sound, do keep in mind that a drop in elevations does not mean all downhill. There are plenty of small, steep hills. Train for a downhill race, but don’t overlook the up hills. And before you even begin your training, make your hotel reservations even if you are just thinking that you may want to run- don’t wait until you’re accepted into the lottery. With 7000 runners coming into town, St. George will be booked solid.
If you are checking now and finding everything already sold out, don’t worry. One of my favorite hotels, The Rococo doesn’t even start taking reservations until August-three months prior to race day. The hotel itself is basically a motel. Rates run about $85 per night and they strictly enforce the two night minimum stay that all of the town’s hotels have agreed to. This hotel, however, has one unique feature that none of the newer, more posh hotels have-it’s perched on the bluff by the airport overlooking the entire city with a spectacular view.
On race day, buses leave from the finish line from 4am to 5:30am taking runners to the starting line up in the canyon. Be sure to wear something warm! Pre- dawn temps at 5000 feet plus can be chilly-30-40 degrees! The good news is the bonfires lighting up the night and keeping the runners warm.
Once the race gets started you’ll see the sunrise over the mountains and view spectacular rock formations as you run one of your fastest marathons. I’m not exaggerating, the average finish time this year was 4:11. With a cut off time of 6 hours this is not really a race for walkers or the undertrained.
If you’re not into a fast time and more into a vacation, the Maui Marathon may be your choice. In fact, if you’d like to do a destination marathon but hate training in the summer heat, Maui also offers a half marathon and even a 5k.
Currently ATA has a nonstop flight from Las Vegas to Maui at very affordable fares. Hotels and condos are plentiful, however this is one the world’s most popular resort areas so expect too many bargains! In fact, this is an ideal opportunity to plan early and use your frequent flyer miles, hotel points or time share exchange.
The Maui Marathon is run on the second Sunday in September. The race headquarters and finish line are located at the Maui Westin next to the Whaler Village in Kaanapali. You don’t necessarily need to stay at the Westin, however it would be easiest to stay in the area. Marathon morning buses depart from the finish line at 3:30am, two hours prior to race time to take runners across the island to the starting line near the airport.
With a 5:30am start you’ll be running through sugarcane fields as the sun rises over Haleakala, the island’s dormant volcano. The only uphill section of the race is the next few miles as you come around the West Maui Mountains and make your way along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. Once you’ve passed through the tunnel, from mile 12 to 22 you’ll have amazing views of the neighbor islands Molokai and Lanai.
As for entertainment, at mile 17 you’ll hear and then see the Maui Taiko Drummers. At various other points on the course you’ll see “keiki” hula dancers.
From about mile 13 on the course is basically flat-in fact, if you opt to run the half, the entire course is flat!
At mile22, you’ll pass through the historic old whaling town of Lahaina, now a mecca for art galleries, shops and restaurants. And remember the course is only 10 to 100 feet from the ocean, so expect trade winds. The only real challenge I found was dealing with the humidity-especially coming from running in Nevada where there is none! And the sun-it is an island beach resort, so do plan that it may be sunny and warm-expect temps in the 80s!
In this race you won’t have to worry about speed. There is an 8 hour cut off time. The average finish time this year was 5 hours! The marathon usually gets about 3000 runners total-1000 for the marathon and 2000 for the half.
Whether you choose Utah or Hawaii either marathon will be a great tune up for our hometown Zappos Las Vegas Marathon in December. Happy running everyone! See you on the road!

No comments: