World-class local runner Danelle Ballengee has a special connection to the Moab Trail Marathon she organizes each year.
She designed the course that crosses the path where, in December 2006, she fell 60 feet and spent two nights stranded with serious injuries outside in freezing temperatures. She was rescued when an observant neighbor, Dorothy Rossignol, noted her absence and alerted authorities. Ballengee’s dog Taz, who she adopted from a puppy rescue organization, led rescuers to the spot where she crawled to a sinkhole.
“I have a passion for trail running. Each year I see all these runners and it feels like a second birthday,” Ballengee said. “I survived and to be there with all these runners and provide an opportunity for them in the beauty of Moab – it’s special to me for a multitude of reasons.”
At the hospital, the long-distance endurance runner was told she might not walk again. Now a mother of two, and co-owner with her husband, of Milt’s Stop and Eat, Ballengee not only walks, but also runs. She recently competed in the Adventure Extreme Race in Moab, where her team won its division. She ran in another Adventure race last summer, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
“I still have a little pain; I’m not as fast as I used to be, but I can’t complain,” Ballengee said. “I get to do what I love to do – run, be outside and exercise.”
Ballengee’s story will be chronicled in ABC’s television series “In an Instant” – slated to air next spring. A camera crew will film footage for the show during the upcoming Moab Trail Marathon event on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Ballengee has organized the Moab Trail Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K Adventure Run since 2008. Marathon race runners will compete for the title of 2015 Trail Marathon National Championship. This year, the race is also a qualifier for the 2016 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championship in Slovenia. The top two U.S. males and females in the marathon will earn a position on the 2016 U.S. Long Distance team.
“We’ve got 50 elite athletes in the race this year,” Ballengee said.
While most runners come from Utah and Colorado, some come from as far as Germany, as well as from across the country. This year’s race is full, with 1,800 runners registered. Local kids, however, are welcome to participate in the Kid’s K, a “fun and challenging” course that goes through a tunnel, arch, cave, and down a ladder.
The main 26.2-mile marathon route will take runners through narrow canyons, along canyon rims and across various terrain, and is expected to take participants anywhere from four to six hours. At 13.1 miles, the half-marathon follows the first nine miles of the marathon course before climbing up switchbacks of Kane Creek Road, then down to the Kane Creek drainage. The 5K features both natural and manmade obstacles such as running through a cave, and climbing ladders.
For the past three years, Jason Ricks, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, has finished as one of the top three runners. He said he especially enjoys the Hunter Rim section, for its technicality and its views.
“The race is so much fun,” the 35-year-old man said. “What better place to run, than in Moab – especially in November.”
Annie and Jaeson Murphy also travel from Colorado to run in the marathon. The Carbondale couple once helped out at an aid station when the race filled before they could register that year.
“It’s a hugely popular race,” Annie Murphy said. “It’s a spectacular course. It’s a rugged course – especially if you’re new to the desert. I’m super-excited about (this year’s race).”
Proceeds go to support several Moab nonprofits, such as Community Rebuilds, Friends for Wheelin’, the Grand County Mountain Bike team, Trail Mix, Young Life, Grand County Search and Rescue, and, of course, the Humane Society of Moab Valley.
Top runners to compete this weekend at sold-out trail marathon
Each year I see all these runners and it feels like a second birthday … I survived and to be there with all these runners and provide an opportunity for them in the beauty of Moab – it’s special to me for a multitude of reasons.”
When: Saturday, Nov. 7; various start times
Where: Trails along the Kane Creek corridor; meet at Kane Creek parking lot
Cost: Main events for adults are sold out; Parents can still register their children for the Kid’s K at IMAthlete.com
To register kids online in the Kid’s K, go to www.IMathlete.com.