Runners compete during a previous USA Trail Marathon Championships event. More than 1,500 people are expected to compete in this year's championships on Saturday, Nov. 8. [Photo courtesy of Danelle Ballengee]

It’s too late to register for the upcoming USA Trail Marathon Championships, but spectators will be welcome to cheer on some of the nation’s top runners as they race across the finish line this weekend.

More than 1,500 people have signed up to compete in the Nov. 8 championships’ Moab Trail Marathon, 1/2 Marathon and 5K Adventure Run events, which have the reputation of being some of the toughest cross country races around.

Participants will run 13.1 or 26.2 miles along a rugged course that follows the Kane Creek corridor, from Pritchett Canyon, Hunter Rim and Jackson Trail, to unnamed trails and a fixed-rope section along the way.

Moab runner Danelle Ballengee designed the course after an event organizer from Canada approached her with plans for a distance-oriented cross country race. The route that she came up with features a mix of Moab’s unique four-wheel drive roads and trails that tourists might not otherwise see.

“When I was hired on to set the course, I was just trying to find a place that was unique to this area and anywhere else in the world,” Ballengee said.

While the terrain that runners pass through is decidedly unique, so is the story behind the route that Ballengee designed: In 2006, she was injured in the area, following a 60-foot fall that left her with a shattered pelvis. After two freezing nights out in the cold, her dog Taz and her neighbor, Dorothy Rossignol, came to her rescue.

“They actually pass right by that point where I fell,” Ballengee said. “For me, it’s like a celebration of my life to be able to survive that and then be able to show the place off to the runners.”

Although she’s alive and well today, the organizer’s original plans are not: He ended up pulling out of the event, leaving it in Ballengee’s hands.

“I just sort of took it over,” she said.

Over the years, the event has changed slightly, with the notable addition of the 5K Adventure Run. Perhaps the biggest change has come in the form of attendance numbers: Registration has swollen from about 200 participants to well over 1,000 during the most recent event.

This year, Ballengee expects to see a good showing of runners from California, Montana, the Midwest, the East Coast and Canada, along with contingents from Flagstaff, Arizona, and Leadville, Colorado. As usual, though, most participants will be coming from the Denver and Salt Lake City areas.

“It’s a good time for them to come and enjoy the awesome weather in Moab before the ski season begins,” she said. “It’s good for Moab’s economy, too. It’s one last big weekend.”

Aside from the boost to local businesses, Ballengee said the event will help a number of good causes.

This year, organizers joined up with several local nonprofit organizations that will also be helping out on race day. Proceeds from the race will go to benefit those groups, including Community Rebuilds, Friends For Wheelin’, Humane Society of Moab Valley, Trail Mix, Young Life, Grand Mountain Bike Team, Grand County Search and Rescue and others.

The event is full, so organizers are not accepting registrations. However, local kids are welcome to compete in the Kids’ K, which features a run through an arch and cave, as well as a trip down a ladder and through a bouncy house. Parents need to sign their kids up at Milt’s Stop & Eat on Friday, Nov. 7 between 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m, or on the morning of the race between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Anyone who would like to watch the runners come and go is encouraged to stop by the start/ finish line at the end of the pavement on Kane Creek Boulevard.

“The start/ finish area is actually a good place to watch from,” Ballengee said. “We’ve got a lot going on there.”

But spectators are not advised to go beyond that point.

“The rest of the course is pretty remote,” Ballengee said.

For more information, go to, or call Ballengee at 435-259-7844 or 970-389-4838.

1,500-plus runners expected to compete Trail Marathon Championships

What: USA Trail Marathon Championships

When: Saturday, Nov. 8. Elite runners will start off at 8:30 a.m., followed by 8:37 and 8:44 a.m. departure times for the second and third waves of runners. Recreational/ non-competitive runners will set off at 8:51 and 8:58 a.m. Start times for the 5K Adventure Run vary. In addition to the main events, a Kids’ Kilometer/ Adventure 1K will be held at 9 a.m.

Where: The start/ finish line is located near the end of the pavement on Kane Creek Boulevard. From downtown Moab, drive south on Main Street (U.S. Highway 191) and turn right on Kane Creek Boulevard, which is between McDonald’s and Burger King. Continue about three miles, following the Colorado River until the road turns from pavement to dirt. Park in the signed lots on the left. Hikers, bikers and jeepers looking for solitude are encouraged to avoid the area. For more information about the course, go to

Registration: The event is full and registration is closed, but spectators are welcome to observe at the start/ finish line.