Brian Nicholson: Ogden Marathon, Utah's spring run off

Published: Tuesday, May 29 2012 4:29 p.m. MDT

Runners make their way around Pineview Reservoir during the Ogden Marathon Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bryan J. Smith, Only in Ogden

In about the same time it would take to drive from Ogden to a Brigham Young University game, 3,000 people signed up last fall to run 13.1 miles from the north side of Pineview Reservoir to Ogden’s Historic 25th Street. Eighty minutes was an Ogden Half Marathon PR (or personal record in race speak). The full marathon closed in 2.5 days, also a PR.

So what is it about the Ogden Marathon that people (and Runner’s World Magazine) find so attractive? Could it be the gradual downhill course? Is it the flawless organization and professionalism of the organizers, the GOAL Foundation? Perhaps it’s the countless volunteers with unlimited enthusiasm at the EXPO or along the course. Or could it be the amazing vistas and rolling river that follow runners all the way to the 25th mile of the course? Whatever the fascination, something seems to be working for the event that was held this year on May 19.

“I think it’s the reputation of the race, both the beauty of the course and the organization of the GOAL foundation” said Shane Story of Ogden. And if anyone knows, it’s Story, since he is one of 12 runners who has participated in all 12 years of the marathon.

“It’s my hometown race. I’m stuck in a streak and can’t get out of it,” he said.

The course begins just below Causey Reservoir on the South Fork of the Ogden River, meanders around the north side of Pineview Reservoir and gradually drops through the canyon into the Ogden River Parkway, leaving the rivers’ banks for only a mile to reach the finish line on 25th Street.

“I don’t think it’s a super easy course,” said Story. “It’s nice that the downhill is gradual, but for a lot of people, it’s hard to be prepared for a spring marathon.”

This year, the weather and the temperature couldn’t have been better. It was a cool 38 degrees to start, with high 50s and low 60s at the finish. “I remember in 2003 when runners got hit with a hailstorm. Luckily we were just fast enough to miss it but it was wet and cold. This year was perfect.”

Despite the beauty along the South Fork, the half marathon seems to be the more popular race. The 3,000 available spots were scooped up at a rate about 37 entrants per minute, temporarily crashing the website on registration day.

Preparing for a spring race can be a challenge for some. “The half marathon was awesome, and could be even better if you train for it,” joked Ogden native Abraham Shreve. He also said he talked to a lot of runners who felt they hadn’t trained well enough.

Brian Stromberg, race director of the R-Scape Relay, had the option of running either the full course or the half. “When I thought about it, the half just sounded a lot better,” he said. “A lot of people want to do a marathon, check it off their bucket list, then run half marathons because they are more enjoyable.” And considering the narrow road, “How often do you get to run down Ogden Canyon? That second half (of the marathon course) is so beautiful.”

Apart from the full and half marathon distances, there is also a 5K race, a “Kids K” and the option of running the marathon distance as a relay, divided into five sections. Runners of all abilities and all ages have plenty to choose from to participate in the events of marathon weekend.

And the reputation continues to grow as organizers look for ways to handle the increased demand, and another potential registration PR this coming November.

Brian Nicholson has completed marathons from Boston to Beijing, a host of Ragnar relays, and has developed a keen taste for all things Gu.

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