The 2013 Trail Half Marathon National Championship will be held here in Moab on Saturday.
The 13.1 mile course features narrow canyons, slickrock and views of the La Sal Mountains. It then veers into Kane Creek Canyon. During November, the water may be running in the creek, which will require runners to get their feet, and maybe even their knees wet.
“The Half Marathon, with its national championship title has drawn over 50 elite runners who will via for top honors,” said Danelle Ballengee, the race director.
The top runners in the half marathon will be recognized as national champions and will receive a $2100 prize purse.
The Trail Half Marathon National Championship is one of four races scheduled for the day in the Kane Springs area.
“It is recommended that those hikers, bikers, and jeepers wishing for solitude recreate elsewhere, although spectators are welcome,” Ballengee said.
The three other races are the trail marathon, the 5K Adventure Run and the Kids’ K.
The 26-mile trail marathon follows trails in the Amasa Back and Behind the Rocks area with an elevation gain and loss of 3500 feet. Top racers are expected to finish the course in less than four hours. Average runners who will do a bit of walking are expected to finish in the five to six hour range.
This is the second year that event proceeds go to the Project Athena Foundation, an organization dedicated to “Helping Survivors Live Their Adventurous Dreams.”
Project Athena helps women to ‘live life’ and ‘be inspired’ beyond trauma or setbacks. Several survivors will be competing as well.
Race director Ballengee is one of those survivors.
Ballengee is known for a racing history that earned her induction last year into the Colorado Runner’s Hall of Fame. She also has a survival story which garnered her dog, Taz, the National Hero Dog Award.
Ballengee was a four-time Pikes Peak Champion and was considered by Sports Illustrated to be the “world’s premier female endurance athlete”. She summited 55 of Colorado’s 14,000-plus mountains in less than 15 days.
In 2006 Ballengee was in Moab running in the Amasa Back area when she slipped on a boulder. She took a 60-foot fall, from which she remarkably landed on her feet but shattered her pelvis. While she lay bleeding internally for 52 hours in wintertime temperatures, she did “head push-ups” to stay warm. Her dog, Taz, spiraled out at 30-minute intervals looking for help.
Her neighbor Dorothy Rossignol and parents alerted Grand County Search and Rescue on Dec. 15.
Moab City Police detective Craig Shumway located her car at the Amasa Back trail head. John Marshall, the Search and Rescue officer in charge, had treated Ballengee as a backcountry expert and medical representative month’s earlier at Utah’s 10-day Primal Quest.
When Taz encountered the rescuers he drew them in and then abruptly took off through the middle of the group with intent, guiding them to his master.
When Ballengee saw Marshall, her first words were “I’m glad to see you.”
He responded in kind.
“And I’m glad to see you, and that you can tell me you’re glad to see me,” he said.
Ballengee trained in Moab in the spring and fall when she was a resident of Summit County, Colo. She became a full-time Moab resident in 2007 when she and her husband BC Laprade opened Milt’s Stop and Eat, a popular burgers and shakes joint on 400 East.
She designed the Moab Trail Marathon race course and had the first competition in 2008. It has continued each year, except in when she put the race on hold in 2010 when her second son was born.
More than 1500 runners are signed up for the four races.
The race is the official 2013 Trail Marathon National Championship and is sanctioned by USA Track & Field. The U.S. Mountain Running Team and Ultra Runners are among those competing. Merrell will provide running shoes for age group winners.
The 5K Adventure Run features both natural and manmade obstacles – including a natural arch to run under, a run through a cave, use of a hand-line to go up and down a small cliff, two ladder climbs, two creek crossings, running through two culverts, crossing a sand pit and then over a rock maze.
The races for grown-ups are full. However, there is still room in the Kids’ K, which features running through an arch and cave, going down a ladder, and through a bouncy house.
Parents need to register their children for the race either between 3:30 and 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 2 or race morning between 7 and 9 a.m. at Milt’s Stop and Eat on Mill Creek Dr.
The Project Athena Foundation, of which Ballengee is a founder, will use proceeds from the race towards scholarships to fund an athlete’s goals and recovery, paying for things like equipment, adventures, airfare, and coaching.
Ballengee has the title of Seraphim of Survival at Project Athena.
“It’s constant recovery; you never really recover, you just keep going. I think about my accident every day,” she said. “I look at my children, and I feel grateful.”
With an opinion reflective of many survivors, she believes accidents will happen. “It’s more important to really live one’s life – to be out in nature.”
“Project Athena’s outlook is that life is not just about living, it’s about living well. I think the Moab Trail Marathon races encompass that. Every year the same volunteers are calling back. And the runners are eager for this experience; they want to race! And by running on these desert trails, people are learning respect for the environment. They’re getting to see how beautiful it is out there.”