Volunteer crews are set and racers are tapering their training for the Moab Half Marathon’s 13th annual autumn-season Other Half race this weekend. The course has never changed, but every year’s race has a unique story, and this one is no exception.
One racer this year will come to Moab from Charlotte, North Carolina. Laura King Edwards has pledged to run a half-marathon in every state over the course of 10 years in honor of her younger sister and others who are battling rare diseases around the world; so far, she’s run races in 14 states since 2014.
Edwards will join runners from across the country and the world to race the standard 13.1-mile course as the sun rises over soaring red rock canyon walls cut by the Colorado River. State Route 128 between mile markers 17 and 30 will be closed to traffic for the race on Sunday, Oct. 23, from 7 a.m. until noon.
One of four Moab Half Marathon, LLC events, The Other Half half-marathon is a favorite of owner and operator Ranna Bieschke’s, she said. Various organizations and members from around the Moab community will fill a team of about 175 volunteers, who cover logistical bases from watering stations to checking IDs at the finish line’s beer garden.
Although Moab Half Marathon is a for-profit company, Bieschke said its mission includes donating at least $25,000 to nonprofit organizations, most of which are based in Moab or nearby.
“We appreciate everything that the community’s done to help us out, we feel like that’s a little something we can do to give back,” she said.
Longtime volunteer Jan Radcliff is looking forward to another year celebrating with runners at the finish line party, where Moab Brewery serves locally brewed beer for the racers in commemorative keepsake glasses.
“I really like the crowds,” she said. “It’s so fun to just be in that energy, the people out dancing and having a good time afterward. People who come for these events just have such great energy. I love it.”
Edwards and her husband will be at Dewey Bridge on Sunday as well; he’ll be running his first half-marathon in honor of his sister-in-law.
Eight years ago, then-10-year-old Taylor King surprised her parents by announcing her intention to participate in the nonprofit after-school program Girls on the Run at her elementary school. They were surprised because she had recently been diagnosed with a rare, fatal neurological disorder called Batten disease, and was already going blind.
Taylor completed her first 5K race without stopping once, tethered to a running buddy. The following year, they did it again, shaving 12 minutes off the previous year’s time.
“Watching her finish the first 5K, I knew immediately that I had to start running for her,” Laura King Edwards said. “We were all just awed by her, facing the limitations of Batten disease, and without even a second thought deciding she was going to shirk those. She was going to take everything this world had to offer her and she was going to beat that disease.”
Today, Taylor is wheelchair-bound as the illness progresses, and Edwards remembers that as she fights through her own aches and pains to the finish line in race after race. She chooses her running destinations strategically, she said. She chose Utah to connect with Utah Rare, a nonprofit advocacy and awareness group that promotes research to cure rare illnesses.
“I know that I’m going to lose my sister to this disease, probably fairly soon, unfortunately. I’d be lying if I said this was easy – it isn’t easy at all,” Edwards said. “There’s something about getting out there on race day at the starting line – there’s something about that that energizes me. I always leave the race feeling like I am ready to give rare disease the big fight.”
Stories like Edwards’ are the fire that fuels events like The Other Half, Bieschke said.
“The thing that we do is we help people find a goal to commit to, a reason to stay healthy,” Bieschke said. “I think that’s pretty cool. I think that’s my passion, that’s what keeps me going.”
13th annual event returns on Oct. 23
“People who come for these events just have such great energy. I love it.”
When: Sunday, Oct. 23, at 8:30 a.m.
Where: Race starts at Dewey Bridge on state Route 128 east of Moab. Shuttles depart from Moab Valley Inn and Helen M. Knight Elementary at 6:30 a.m.; and from Red Cliffs Lodge and Sorrel River Ranch (guests only) and the Gravel Park Lot on state Route 128 at 7 a.m.
Cost: $95. Online registration ends on Friday, Oct. 21. You can still register for the race in person on Saturday, Oct. 22, during packet pick-up from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North.
For more information, go to: www.moabhalfmarathon.com/otherhalf/index.cfm, or call 435-259-4525.
To learn more about Taylor’s Tale, go to www.taylorstale.org.