Race Review Running

Vacation Races Zion Half Marathon: Race Review

The Zion Half Marathon is a beast – but a beautiful, glorious, wildly wonderful beast. Challenging but gorgeous. Totally worth it, just so long as you know what you're getting yourself into.

Y’all… I’ve been stuck in the mire of “I haven’t posted in forever” for entirely too long. (Like, it’s been waaaay too long). Until now! The only way out is through! So. Let me be back on the horse and tell you about my recent adventure with the Zion Half Marathon.

[The tl;dr of the last year was that I spent Jan-July house hunting, then bought a house, moved in, and started renovating the property and the basement. It was a lot. It’s still a lot! Hence why you haven’t heard from me. I’m hoping to change that henceforth. But no promises…]

Back to Zion. I cannot even begin to tell you how nice it has been to be doing to in person races again. It fills my cup in a big way. There’s really nothing like it. I did the Jackson Hole half last September, and it was absolutely glorious, and maybe I’ll get around to posting about it at some point (ha. Wishful thinking much?). That was my first in-person race since the fiasco of the Mississippi Blues Half in 2020, and it really brought home to me how nice it is to run near natural wonders. With other people. In real life.

I had been toying with the idea of running a full this spring, but I scrapped that idea in January when Omicron was raging and everything felt tentative again. But I stay in shape for running halfs, and picking domestic races seemed more viable than devoting so much time and energy to getting up to a full. So, when I gave up on the idea of a full, I looked around for a March race. Utah was still on my list, and the Zion half was a good time on my calendar, driving distance from Vegas (so I could easily borrow the parents’ car), and sure to be gorgeous.

I wasn’t disappointed. Zion is amazing. The race is outside the park but still absolutely lovely. And, well, I really earned my medal this time.

I experienced several firsts on this race – none of which I’m super keen to repeat… First time running in hail! (More on that below). First time I had to ask a complete stranger to help me re-fasten my sports bra. (Embarrassing, but racers are kind and understanding and that’s just the kind of thing that happens when you’re racing alone). And the first time I’ve ended up with sawdust in my tights – thanks to the composting toilets at the start. I support composting toilets. I also now know to be wary of the way sawdust ends up all over the port-o-John’s…

The Zion Half Marathon is not an easy race. Let’s be clear on that. It’s essentially uphill the whole way – you run up to the entrance of the park. You have to get on the shuttles ridiculously early (5 am for a 7am start). And there is a good chance the weather will be terrible. For me, this meant it rained for the first 8 miles or so, with a half-mile interlude of hail (!!) around mile 7. Thankfully, the hail was blowing sideways at our backs… but it was still pretty unpleasant. Would not care to do that part of things again.

So! This race reminded me that running half marathons is hard. I’ve done a lot of them at this point, and I can sometimes forget that. But this race was challenging both physically and mentally. And while I don’t typically seek out races that look like they will be quite this difficult, I’m so glad that I did.

I got the opportunity really reflect on why I do this, why I subject myself to 13.1 miles of potential discomfort. And the truth is, I do it because I can. And in that “can,” there is so much beauty and achievement and, as one friend put it, type 2 fun. The experience itself wasn’t pleasant by any normal measure of pleasantness. It was cold and wet and exhausting. But it was such a joy at the same time. Joyful to feel the strength of my body and spirit. Joyful to choose to enjoy the experience while it was happening – in spite of the less than ideal conditions. Joyful to be alive and able to get outside again and enjoy the camaraderie of enduring something challenging with a few thousand other intrepid souls.

I’m so happy to be back to running with people again. There’s something magical about running with others that I hadn’t fully appreciated until March of 2020 took the option away. Running “virtual” halfs around my neighborhood helped to keep me sane for most of 2020 and 2021, but it was a poor substitute for a “real” race – for having to get up stupid early and mill around with strangers, for having to run a difficult course instead of flat but boring circuits in familiar territory, for getting a reason to go be and see and experience somewhere new.

Next up is Boise in May, and I’m really happy to be back on track again. Things still feel uncertain in a lot of ways, but it’s nice to have a return to hope.

Oh, and Zion is freakin’ gorgeous, y’all. Did I mention that? I may have mentioned that. But it bears repeating: so. Stinkin. Pretty.

Zion Half Marathon medal
It’s a pretty sweet medal.

Overall Assessment: Highly Recommend for the Intrepid Racer 

Time of Year: beginning of March (3/5/2022)
Start Time: 7:00 am (shuttles leave at 5:00)
Temperature: 41° at start, maybe in the mid 40s at finish. Raining for half the race, with a brief interlude of hail. Wind: 12 mph
Size of Field: around 2,200
Elevation Gain: 1024 ft (according to Garmin) or 607 ft (according to Strava) or something significantly lower according to the race website.


  • Great medal.
  • Good organization and communication on the whole (I did miss the memo that there were shuttles back to your hotel after the race and ended up walking unnecessarily).
  • Plenty of water stops with hydration at each.
  • Amazing scenery. Seriously amazing.
  • Lower elevation option for Utah (3600 feet at start).


  • Expensive both for registration and accommodation. Between race fee and two nights in a hotel, I spent around $600.
  • Challenging course with very unpredictable weather (it ended up starting to snow an hour or so after the race ended. Apparently in 2019, it was 10° at the start).
  • Super early shuttle situation and then a lot of sitting around waiting to start without cell service. i.e. cold and boring.
  • Parts of the course are on the shoulder of the road in ways that felt a little unsafe.
  • Without downloading the app, results were a bit hard to track down.

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