Lauren Atkinson placed second overall at last year's Thelma and Louise Half Marathon. [Photo courtesy of Aktiva Sport Photography]

“Thelma and Louise” drove off the Shafer Trail and into pop culture history 24 years ago this week, but their spirits live on at an annual race along the Colorado River, not far below their final resting place.

Moab Half Marathon president and owner Ranna Bieschke said the fictional duo’s strong bonds are an inspiration to the 600 women who will compete early next month in the Thelma and Louise Half Marathon and Relay.

Actually, the word “compete” is probably the wrong one to use. According to Bieschke, most runners at the women-only race are not fiercely competitive in the way that some male athletes are.

“It’s just a different energy,” she said. “Women tend to support each other a little bit more.”

“It’s not just about running the race,” she added. “It’s about the bonds and the camaraderie.”

The race, which will kick off at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 6, begins and ends at the Gold Bar Campground on state Route 279. Runners are expected to complete the half marathon within three and a half hours, and that 16-minute-per-mile pace shouldn’t be too challenging, since the largely flat course has an elevation gain of just 20 feet.

In addition to the half marathon, the relay is returning for its second year. Relay teams feature two women who take turns in both directions along the course; part of their journey includes a boat shuttle trip along the Colorado River, courtesy of Canyonlands by Day and Night.

Along the way, runners and relay team members will pass by eight aid stations – including the Brad Pitt Stop, where volunteers dress up as the then-unknown actor’s breakout role.

Bieschke is still looking for six to seven volunteers from a local organization to help out at one more aid station. In exchange for their support, Moab Half Marathon will donate funding to their group.

“It’s a great way for a group to make some money and have some fun,” she said. “The runners are especially appreciative in this race, and you’re outside in this beautiful environment.”

Participants will also encounter familiar sights along the course, such as the likeness of the “Rastafarian biker” who appears in the movie, which was filmed partly at Dead Horse Point State Park and other locations around Moab.

After the race and relay, the half marathon will hold an awards ceremony, where participants will have the chance to win prizes – and test their knowledge of the movie – during a trivia contest.

Bieschke knew all about “Thelma and Louise” when she moved to Moab, and the name for the half marathon came naturally when she and other race organizers began to plan for an all-women’s race.

“I saw the movie when it came out in 1991, and it just really had a profound effect on me,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.”

She said she believes the name of the event is a lure for many other women who travel from 35 states for the chance to participate.

“I think that part of it is it’s ‘Thelma and Louise,’ and not ‘The Tinkerbells,’” she said.

Participants register using their real names, but only one of two names will appear on their racing bibs.

“It’s always kind of interesting to see who picks Thelma, and who picks Louise,” she said. “It’s always Louise more than Thelma, but not by a lot.”

In keeping with the movie’s spirit, funds from the race benefit Girls on the Run and Seekhaven.

Girls on the Run teaches girls in the third through eighth grades about health, friendship, body image, self-esteem and community service, offering them positive group experiences with their peers, as well as role models for healthy lifestyles.

Moab-based Seekhaven provides emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Other services include crisis counseling, a 24-hour hotline, a resource center, education and awareness, and help with referrals.

Bieschke said that both organizations’ commitment to women embodies the heart of the movie.

“It made sense that those would be the two charities we focus on,” she said.

Participants can pick up their packets ahead of time on Friday, June 5, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center (MARC), 111 E. 100 North; tickets will also be available for a pasta dinner at the MARC from 5 to 8 p.m. The dinner will help raise money for the Grand County High School Marching Band.

Half marathon and relay finds inspiration in pop culture icons

“It’s just a different energy … Women tend to support each other a little bit more.”

When: Saturday, June 6, at 6:30 a.m.

Where: Gold Bar Campground, state Route 279 (Potash Road). The road will be closed to through traffic between 5:30 and 10 a.m.

Cost: $95 per person for the half marathon; $99 per person for the relay

Information: Call 435-259-4525, or go to

For more information, call 435-259-4525, or go to