There's a great caliber of competition at the Canyonlands Half Marathon, but the mood is also laid back. [Courtesy photo]

Over the past 14 years, New York City resident Mary Lou DiNardo has participated in all but one of Moab’s Canyonlands Half Marathon and 5 Mile Run events – which makes her a member of the Ten Year Club.

People who have participated in at least 10 events since 2003 – a year after Ranna Bieschke began directing the race – earn the Ten Year Club distinction, which makes the run even more rewarding, with some special, added features. Bieschke, who began volunteering in 1996, took over ownership of the race in 2006.

“The course is stunning, coming along the Colorado River,” DiNardo said. “There’s a great caliber of competition, yet it’s laid back. It’s organized to a T – but relaxed.”

The 41st annual event is scheduled for Saturday, March 12. Moab’s longest running half-marathon race starts 11 miles up state Route 128 from Moab, just after Take Out Beach on the Colorado River.

This year’s race has approximately 2,600 runners signed up, compared to 5,000 participants when it was the only gig in town. In the past, a lottery system was used to gain entry because organizers couldn’t accommodate all those who wanted to run, Bieschke said.

Still, the race draws people from Utah’s Wasatch Front and the Denver-Boulder area of Colorado, as well as runners from across the country, like DiNardo.

“It’s the high point of our year,” DiNardo said. “It’s an exhilarating race; it’s very edifying.

“Moab is really special, sandwiched between two national parks. We take full advantage of the day before, hiking Arches, and the day after, traveling to Canyonlands.”

The race follows the Colorado River to U.S. Highway 191, then turns south, ending at Swanny City Park in downtown Moab. The 5 Mile course follows the last five miles of the half marathon course, with both races sharing a finish line. The half marathon starts at 10 a.m., and the Five Mile Run begins at 9:30 a.m.

“It’s a beautiful course, and one of the things that is special about it – we do close off the road to traffic,” Bieschke said.

State Route 128 will be closed to motor vehicles from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The half marathon has a cut-off time of three hours and 15 minutes, at miles three, six, nine and 10.6. Runners who do not make the cutoff point must board a sweep vehicle for safety concerns because the road is windy and has no shoulder.

Water and Gatorade will be available at regular aid stations along the route. One of the aid stations will have a banner memorializing the late Jim Markle, who died last year. Markle had helped out with aid stations for at least 20 years, Bieschke said.

Participants who have been inducted into the Ten Year Club receive a shirt and hat, and get to visit the VIP tent for a special treat at the finish line, Bieschke said. There will also be a raffle of prizes at the VIP tent, and a massage therapist will give massages as a “thank-you” for supporting the event for 10 years. Many people have participated for much longer, Bieschke said.

Moab entities, such as the Grand County High School track team, the high school boys basketball team, Community Rebuilds, Humane Society of Moab Valley, Young Life and Moab Charter School help out with the event for which Bieschke gives each a donation afterward, she said.

Canyonlands Half Marathon returns on March 12

When: March 12

Where: Starts approximately 11 miles up state Route 128 from Moab, just after Take Out Beach on the Colorado River

Cost: $85; discounts available for those who participate in both the race and the Skinny Tire Festival

Information:; 435-259-4525

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