Justin and Denise Ricks, directors of the Canyonlands Half Marathon and 5 Mile Race, stand with their children Malachi (left) and Kylah. [Photo courtesy of Denise Ricks]

The annual Canyonlands Half Marathon had already been happening for 30 years when it was featured in a 2005 “Runners World” magazine article.

As one of the few running events of its kind at the time of its founding, its longevity is part of what makes this event special – that and the scenery, said avid Moab runner Matt Olding.

“It’s one of the oldest half marathons in the nation,” he said.

Olding, 54, has run the Boston Marathon, the New York Marathon and many other races in the country. Though he won’t be running the Canyonlands race this year, he will be there helping out as a volunteer. He’s either run or volunteered for the event on more than a dozen occasions.

“The nicest thing about this race is its uniqueness; running down the river road,” Olding said. “It’s just beautiful; it’s stunning, it’s amazing.”

This will be Moab’s 43rd annual Canyonlands Half Marathon and 5 Mile event – though it’s the first time that new owners Justin and Denise Ricks will direct the spring event. The Ricks acquired the race from former race director Ranna Bieschke in July.

Both the half marathon and the 5-mile run take place on state Route 128, along the Colorado River. The road will be closed to vehicular traffic until noon – when all runners must depart from the highway.

Aid stations along the route will serve water and Gatorade for those who need it.

“We have a sweep vehicle that catches any remaining runners at noon,” Ricks said.

Participants who finish will receive a finisher medal, custom-printed race Brooks podium shirt, Canyonlands Half Marathon socks.

There were 22 finishers, including a dog, at the first-ever Canyonlands Half Marathon in May 1976; Signed up for this year’s race, thus far, are 2,000 people from 35 states, and four nations, including Mexico, New Zealand and Canada.

“Usually we (also) have someone from Europe, and Australia,” Justin Ricks said.

Kate Avery, of western Colorado, will run her fifth Canyonlands Half Marathon this spring.

“Coming from Grand Junction, it makes for a great weekend getaway and serves as a great way to kick off my spring racing season,” Avery said.

The event is also a fundraiser – Ricks said he expects to donate from race proceeds $15,000 to more than a dozen community groups, including Grand Junction High School sports teams, the high school debate team, Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation, and more.

After leaving the highway, runners will race through town to finish at Swanny City Park, 400 N. 100 West, where there will be beer and food for the participants, and live music and an array of vendors for anyone who wants to attend the festivities in the park. The Grand Junction Indie/Alt rock band “Jack and Jill” will perform from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Canyonlands Half Marathon & 5 Mile Run happening March 17

When: Saturday, March 17; Half marathon start time is 8:45 a.m., 5 Mile start time is 9:15 a.m.

Where: State Route 128, along the Colorado River

Cost: $105 for Half Marathon; $95 for 5 Mile Run before March 16; $125 registration on Friday

Information: www.moabhalfmarathon.com or 435-259-4525