State Route 128 will be closed to traffic until noon on March 16 to give runners the full roadway during the Canyonlands Half Marathon and 5 Mile Run. [Photo courtesy of Kate Avery]

You know spring is almost here when Moab’s first races of the season are announced. The 43rd annual Canyonlands Half Marathon and 5 Mile Run will take place on Saturday, March 16.

Kate Avery, of Grand Junction, Colorado, plans to run the half marathon this year for her sixth consecutive year racing. She said the fact that the race is held each year in March keeps her training throughout the winter season. 

“Canyonlands is also one of the few races I know of that is still run on a completely closed course, which is one of my favorite things about this race,” Avery said. “There’s no other day of the year you can run traffic-free through state Route 128.”

Runners will have the road to themselves during the race because the highway will be closed to vehicular traffic until noon. At that point, racers must leave the highway. A sweep vehicle will pick up any remaining runners beginning at noon.

Denise and Justin Ricks purchased the Canyonlands race event in July 2017 from the event’s previous longtime owner Ranna Bieschke. The Rickses added the race to their other Mad Moose Events, which includes three other annual trail events. 

Both the half marathon and the 5-mile race on Saturday will happen simultaneously, beginning at different trailheads.

“We’re expecting about 1,700 people this year,” Justin Ricks said. “Runners come from all over the country. Last year we had participants from over 40 states, and seven countries.”

The event is capped at 2,000 participants. 

The half marathon starts at mile marker 11 on state Route 128 and the 5-mile run begins at the Grandstaff trailhead. 

Aid stations along the route will supply water and Gatorade for the athletes.

Avery said Mad Moose Events does a great job of organizing the race and she loves that it ends at Swanny City Park, at 100 West and 400 North, where beer is served at the end of the race before people head to restaurants in town for lunch.

Both races will end at the park and Moab Brewery craft beer will be on tap. The finish line closes at 12:15 p.m. Runners will receive water, Gatorade Endurance Formula and food. 

The Grand Junction-based musical duo Jack and Jill will add to the festivities with a two-hour performance in the park. The park concert is free and open to the public.

Race participants can pick up their race packet on Friday, March 15, from 1 to 7 p.m. at the Center Street Gym, 217 E. Center St., or on the day of the race, between 6 and 6:45 a.m. at the gym.

Shuttles to the half marathon starting point will leave from the south side of Swanny City Park, along Park Drive, between 7 and 7:30 a.m. Those running the 5-mile race may catch a shuttle in front of Helen M. Knight Elementary school, 505 N. Mi Vida Drive, adjacent to the finish line. Parking will not be allowed at the start area. Taking a shuttle is required of all participants. 

Runners will receive finishers’ medals and top contenders will win handmade pottery pieces created by Herbert Stash.

Annual run packed with scenery, music and beer

When: Saturday, March 16; Half Marathon start time: 8:45 a.m.; 5 Mile start time: 8:30 a.m.

Where: Course follows the Colorado River through red-rock canyon country on state Route 128

Cost: $110 Half Marathon; $100 5 Mile Run; Email event organizers for more info on applying for the locals discount

Info: Visit online at or email

“Canyonlands is also one of the few races I know of that is still run on a completely closed course, which is one of my favorite things about this race.”