by MANDY CROSMAN
Running has been a favorite pastime of many people. The St. George Marathon is one of the many races that quench people’s thirst for the sport. It began in November 1977, and grew quickly.
Sherm Miller was the first person to organize the race. He had recently run a race in Salt Lake City called the Deseret News Marathon, which was the first marathon held in Utah. He was a resident of the southern city of St. George and wanted a race in Southern Utah. He worked for the office of Parks & Recreation in St. George at the time. He was able to organize the race in a quick and timely manner. 
The first year the race had only 43 runners, of whom only 38 finished the race. (Murray) In 1979, the entries grew to more than 600. In 1980 it brought in more than 950 runners. (Murray) The St. George Marathon that was held in 1981 was the biggest race in the state of Utah. It had 1,516 runners. In 1983, only six short years after the first race, entries had grown to over 2,000 people, but only about 1,500 finished because of the wind, rain and cold temperatures. (Vilbiss) The number did dwindle in the 8th annual race in 1984 to approximately 1,900, The Spectrum stated on October 5, 1984. Of the 1,900 that year only about 1,700 ended up finishing. (Stoddard) The 14th year of the race was in 1990, about 2,308 people ran in the race with approximately 2,009 finishing. In 1995, approximately 3,900 runners competed. (Ferguson)
The race now has an entry cap of 7,400. The organizers initially adopted the entry cap in 1995 with 3,600 runners, and then raised it to 3,908. Race organizers realized they had to increase it in order to keep this a well known race, and to accommodate the runners who were eager to participate. (Ferguson) In 2011 the St. George Marathon had its 100,000th runner cross the finish line. (Jenkins) The St. George Marathon Committee now uses a lottery system to select runners, because the race has so many entries. If a runner is not selected two years in a row, he or she is automatically chosen to participate in the next marathon. Also, residents of Washington County are automatically admitted for the run. Since the marathon has grown over the years, it is now causing traffic to be diverted or halted, and minimal road openings begin at 9:00 a.m. (Mims)
The race begins in Pine Valley, Utah. It begins at an elevation of 5,240 feet. The entire race is downhill. It ends in Vernon Worthen Park in the heart of St. George. The ending elevation is 2,680 feet. (Powell) It is deemed one of the “Fastest Races.” (Adams) It begins at 6:45 a.m. and is typically between 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit. By the end of the 26.2-mile journey temperatures can be between 60-85 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2006 the St. George Marathon coordinators changed the route of the course. (Johnson) The race also has a wheelchair section of the race to accommodate people who may not be able to run. In 1983 Jim Peterson beat the wheelchair race record for the race by going nearly 40 mph down the wet road. He finished in 1:57:44. His record held until 2006, when Vance Anderson completed the event in 1:46:20.
The St. George Marathon has received many great titles. In 1985, the 9th annual St George Marathon was rated one of the top-20 marathons in the nation. (Murray, 2) In the year 1995 it was the 14th largest marathon in the United States. (Ferguson) In 2010 Runners Magazine named it the “Most Organized Marathon in the US.” (Hamilton) St. George has received the name of “The Fitness City” in 1995. (Hafen)
The race is the first Saturday of October each year. Since it is later in the year, colder temperatures and higher altitudes make it a chilly start. If necessary, volunteers set up bonfires at the beginning of the race to keep the runners warm. The race coordinators set up about 70 bonfires around the starting line, and in 1983 provided garbage bags when it began raining to keep the runners dry. (Vilbiss) There are about 70 massage therapists at the end of the race who are there to help relieve tension from the runner’s legs in Vernon Worthen Park. (Hamilton) The race is the 15th largest race in the USA, and the largest marathon in the state of Utah. (Cowart) This race is unique to Utah because it can be run as a Boston Marathon qualifier. (Adams)
The St. George Marathon has a 10- and 20-year club for individuals who have completed the race 10 or 20 consecutive years. Sixty percent of the race is male, while approximately 40 percent is female on a typical year. In 1995 every state in the U.S was represented in the marathon except North Dakota. (Ferguson) There are over a dozen countries have runners that have participated in the race. About 80 percent of entrants complete the race in the time allotted. (www.stgeorgemarathon.com) In 2011, about 60 percent of the runners were from Utah and the other 40 percent were from 48 states, and 12 countries. California has the second-highest number of racers. In 1985 a survey showed that the amount of money spent by runners was about $300,000, and family members and friends of the runners spent nearly $2.1 million. (Rusk) The race generated about $4 million in revenue for the city of St. George in 2011. (Dallof) Because of the injuries that can occur during the race, the Army Reserve’s 172nd Medical Logistics unit waits at the finish line to help people with their injuries. (Passey)
The race organizers believe that during the race nearly 4,200 gallons of water are consumed. On top of that, nearly 1,900 gallons of Gatorade are consumed. Nearly 200,000 cups are used at 15 aid stations to hold all of that water and Gatorade for the 7,200 runners involved in the race. (www.travelwest.net). That is a dramatic difference from the mere 42,000 cups that were used in 1990, and 20,000 cups that were used in 1985. (Fox, Messerly)
At Vernon Worthen Park there are nearly 32 divisions in which the runner can win a medal. They run eight deep in each division. Of the titles and awards the race has received, it has also received the “Best Marathon to build a vacation around.” (Hamilton) It is also no. 4 out of 26 best marathons in the United States. It falls just behind the very famous New York and Boston Marathons.
The St. George Marathon has grown from only 57 runners 35 years ago, to a cap of 7,200 runners. It has received numerous awards along the way and continues to triumph other marathons. It has given other marathons a template of how to structure theirs and make it work. The St. George Marathon continues to dominate Utah as the largest marathon in the state.
Mandy Crosman is a junior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in strategic communication and minoring in business.
Jon Ferguson, “St. George marathon runners eyeing Boston,” St. George, Utah, Spectrum, June 10, 1995.
Doug Fox, “Marathon’s history, but numbers remain,” Spectrum, July 10 1990.
Michelle Hamilton, Runner’s World, January 2010: 67-73.
Lynn Hafen, Total Health, October 1995, 60.
Kevin Jenkins, Kevin, “Marathon celebrates 100,000 finisher,” Spectrum, February 10, 2011.
Scott David Johnson, “Marathon runners come our for ‘perfect’ weather,” Spectrum, August 10, 2006.
Bob Mims, “Road Travel Restrictions planned for St. George,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 29, 2011.
Kristine Messerly, “SG Marathon: ‘It’s like organizing a small war.'” Spectrum, April 10, 1985.
Stan Murray, “Peterson sets the wheelchair race record,” Spectrum, February 10, 1985.
Stan Murray, “Swift, slow converges on Dixie,” Spectrum, April 10, 1985.
Brian Passey, “Joy, pain mixture at the finish line,” Spectrum, March 10, 2004.
Jeanette Rusk, “‘Hawk’ captures Dixie Marathon,” Spectrum, July 10, 1984.
Jeanette Rusk, “Marathon impacts local economy,” Spectrum, April 10, 1985.
Janelle Stoddard, “Crowds buoy runners through last miles,” Spectrum, July 10, 1985.
John Vilbiss and Staff Writers, “Winners with 2:20 Time,” Spectrum, February 10, 1983.
Lori Adams, “Marathon Guide 2007,” Runners World, August 12, 2006.
“Best Road Races in North America: St. George Marathon,” UjENA Fit Club.
Kim Cowart, “St. George Marathon lives up to the hype,” Deseret News, October 5, 2011.
Sarah Dallof, “St. George Marathon grows, boosts local economy,” KSL.com, October 1, 2011.
Allan Kent Powell, The Utah Guide (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2003), 273.
St. George Marathon, TravelWest.net.