Up to 700 women will be toeing the line at the third annual all-women’s Thelma and Louise Half Marathon on Saturday, June 7, which includes, for the first time, a relay race.
“It just makes sense to do [a relay],” said Ranna Bieschke, race director and owner of Moab Half Marathon. “Especially with this race, it’s obvious that one runner is Thelma and the other is Louise.”
The movie “Thelma and Louise,” partly filmed in the Moab area, was released in 1991. Bieschke said the movie had a profound impact on her. When she started producing races in Moab she thought, “why not put the two things together that mean a lot to me, running and those characters.”
Bieschke isn’t alone in her enthusiasm.
“We have at least 35 states represented and two other countries,” Bieschke said. “The thing about this race is that it has much more of a national appeal because of its uniqueness and because so many women can relate to Thelma and Louise.”
Bieschke’s company sells DVDs of the movie and says they sell out every year. Many runners also wear accoutrements, such as a bandana or cowboy hat, inspired by the movie characters.
To further the fun with the movie theme, race organizers go so far as to place well-known story props from the movie along the course. The characters of Thelma and Louise themselves, will drive the vintage convertible lead-car and racers will be able to refresh themselves at the Brad Pitt-stop aide station along the way.
To beat the heat, the gun fires at 6:30 in the morning for the 13.1-mile out-and-back course starting at Gold Bar Campground on state Route 279.
Relay team members will run 6.55 miles, exchanging at the course turnaround point near the Potash boat ramp. Because the road is closed to traffic, team members will be shuttled to and from the exchange point by local tour-boat company Canyonlands by Night and Day.
The first team member has an hour and 15 minutes to get to the exchange point if she wants to make the shuttle, but Bieschke said, that should be plenty of time. “The average [running-time] is a 10-minute mile for most half-marathons,” she said.
This course, along what is commonly called the Potash Road, has only 20 feet of elevation gain.
“It’s flat and fast,” said local racer Jeri Hamilton, who ran in the race last year and plans to run again on June 7. “I was surprised at my finish time—because I’m not a super fast runner—and I thought, this is a great course to try for a PR (personal record). So I’m trying for 2 (hours).”
The current course record is held by last year’s winner, Florida runner Sara Petrick, who finished in one hour, 26 minutes and 39 seconds. The anticipated front runner this year, however, is Sara Peterson, who is originally from England and now lives in New Jersey.
“She’s run a 1:19 and change,” Bieschke said. “If she’s in that kind of shape, she’ll definitely shatter the course record.”
Another runner to watch is returning local racer Lauren Atkison, who came in second overall in 2013 with a time of 1:32:26.
However fast some of these women are, this race is known more for its camaraderie than its competition, as is fitting for a race named after two famous best-girlfriends on the run.
“Even though some people are there to run a PR, it doesn’t feel intense,” Hamilton said. “It’s just fun, like a big girl-friend party.”
Race organizers help spread that female fellowship by donating proceeds from the race to the nonprofit organizations Girls on the Run, a nation-wide running and life-skills focused program for girls in third through eighth grade, and to the local Seekhaven Family Crisis and Resource Center.
“We chose two organizations that, we felt, support and empower women and girls, because that what the movie was about,” Bieschke said.
Thelma and Louise Half Marathon fosters camaraderie among racers
“Even though some people are there to run a PR (personal record), it doesn’t feel intense. It’s just fun, like a big girl-friend party.”
What: Thelma and Louise Half Marathon
When: Saturday, June 7, Race begins at 6:30 a.m. Post race festivities begin at about 8 a.m.
Where: Gold Bar Campground, state Route 279
To register or for more information, go to www.moabhalfmarathon.com