Canyonlands Half Marathon runners race down the Colorado River corridor. More than 3,200 people are expected to return to this year's event, which runs on Saturday, March 21. [Photo courtesy of Whit Richardson]

… And they’re off.

More than 3,200 runners from at least 44 states and five countries are coming to Moab this weekend to join the 40th Canyonlands Half Marathon. There’s still time for others to sign up, but anyone who wants to join the event should hurry. The registration period will close at 9 p.m. on Friday, March 20, at the end of a half marathon expo.

“They can register at the expo in person if they didn’t get a chance to do it online,” Moab Half Marathon President and owner Ranna Bieschke said.

Even if you don’t plan to participate, you should pay attention to one important detail about the event: State Route 128 will be closed to through traffic between milepost 12 and U.S. Highway 191 on Saturday, March 21 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Vehicles, strollers, bikes, dogs and runners heading upriver from Moab will not be allowed on the course.

The event kicks off at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 21 with a five-mile race, followed by the half marathon itself at 10 a.m. The half marathon begins near Takeout Beach and continues down the meandering Colorado River corridor; it concludes at Swanny City Park near downtown Moab.

“We call it a rolling course,” Bieschke said.

With gorgeous scenery in every direction, marathon organizers couldn’t come up with a bad route, even if they tried.

“It’s kind of hard to go wrong in Moab,” Bieschke said.

The weather is one thing that Bieschke has less control over, but this year, she expects that Mother Nature will cooperate. Forecasters are calling for a daytime high of a 76 degrees Fahrenheit, with sunny skies overhead.

That will be a welcome improvement over last year’s race, when strong winds prevailed.

“It was pretty harsh, so we hope we’re due some calm, nice, summery weather this year,” Bieschke said.

While the course itself is great for runners, Bieschke said it isn’t really spectator-friendly.

However, the sights and sounds of Moab Taiko Dan drummers pounding away are two things that runners can always look forward to, Bieschke said.

“It’s really good support for them,” she said. “Between the Taiko drummers and the campers along the road, that’s really the only cheering section.”

When they reach the finish line, the Swashbuckling Doctors of Fort Collins, Colorado, will be there to greet them. Participants will also be able to cool off with local microbrews from Moab Brewery.

The top three finishers in various age groups will receive awards; prizes include homemade cutting boards from Triassic Industries of Moab.

In addition the main events on Saturday, the marathon is hosting activities on Friday, March 20.

From 1 to 9 p.m., participants and members of the general public can drop by the Center Street Gym at 203 E. Center St. to check out lots of cool stuff from expo vendors, including Clif Bar, Black Diamond and the Salt Lake Running Company.

“It’s open to the public,” Bieschke said. “You don’t have to be in the race to come to that.”

That same evening, the Youth Garden Project will be holding a pasta dinner at the Moab Valley Inn, 711 S. Main St., from 5 to 8 p.m.

“A lot of stuff is grown in their garden,” Bieschke said. “We’ve gotten really good, rave reviews.”

Bieschke said that hundreds of volunteers and sponsors, including Classic Air Medical, ultimately help organizers pull off the major event.

The Moab Adventure Center and the Grand County School District help out with transportation, which limits the event’s reliance on buses from Grand Junction, Colorado.

“We used to have to get 50 to 60 buses from Grand Junction,” Bieschke said. “Now, we’re down to three.”

Other volunteers range from Grand County High School athletes to the Moab Valley Humane Society, Community Rebuilds, Moab Young Life and many more.

“We’ve got a lot of great groups in town helping us out,” Bieschke said.

Canyonlands Half Marathon set for March 21

When: Saturday, March 21

Where: Routes follow State Route 128; other event locations vary

Cost: $95 through Thursday, March 19; $110 on March 20

Information: Go to, or call 435-259-4525

For more information, go to You can also call 435-259-4525.