Updated: Oct 26, 2019
Guest Author: Sylvia Bedford @sylviabedford
The St. George Marathon was my very first marathon, and quickly became my favorite for several reasons. It is a beautiful course that starts in the Pine Valley Mountains and descends 2,600 feet through incredible scenery to finish in the city of St. George.
Although it has a significant net drop, this course still gives you a little bit of everything, including some challenging uphills. The first 6 to 7 miles are smooth downhill. Once you hit Veyo at mile 7, you begin the "Veyo hill" climb, which is the first steep climb. After you have made it up the Veyo hill, you continue to climb gradually until about mile 11.
The course is fairly flat (maybe with some gradual rollers) through the halfway point and until mile 14. Then, the awaited and infamous downhill of the St. George Marathon begins! From mile 14 to 18 the drop into Diamond Valley and Snow Canyon provide some great downhill rollers, where you can typically make up time lost on the Veyo climb.
Just before mile 18, there is one more short and steep uphill climb, which is also short and sweet, but feels pretty challenging at that point in the race. Once you've hit mile 20, the downhill rollers come back until you hit St. George at about mile 23. Although it flattens out at this point as you go through town, the crowds and the anticipation of the finish help motivate and bring the runners into an exciting finish.
FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT THE RACE
Almost Guaranteed Amazing Weather
Great Atmosphere and Crowd Support
Popular Local Race
If you run it right, it’s FAST
MY EXPERIENCE As much as I race, I have never actually sat down to write my thoughts or recap my race. After looking back at the ups and downs of this race, it is probably a good idea! So here we go! I had great experience last year at the St. George Marathon. My race came together really well. I came out with a PR and I was the female overall winner. Going back to this race after that tends to add a little bit of pressure, especially when asked, "Are you defending your title this year?" Of course that's the goal, but to avoid unnecessary pressure, I set my sights on seeing if I could break the course record. I don't typically like to set goals based on placing, but rather on goal time. I'd hate to go have a great race and set a PR and be disappointed because I didn't get the place I wanted. I have no control over who shows up and who has killer race, but I do have control over myself and my time. So I didn't focus on pressure of winning. The training cycle for St. George went well. I run pretty much year round, whether it's for training or just enjoyment, and then I take about 3-4 months to build for a marathon. I hadn't run a marathon since St. George 2018, but had done a couple half marathons that were good indicators that I was getting faster. This cycle, I got up to about 75 miles per week, which works well for me. I am on my feet all day with my job, so right now much more than that is probably not going to benefit me.
The majority of my training is done alone, not by choice, but due to my schedule of juggling my family, my job, training, and other demands of life. I tend to take my running one day at a time and fit it in where I can. I have an awesome group that meets up mostly every Saturday for long runs, so thankfully I have those friends to push me through the long miles. I truly think that having good running friends make all the difference! My taper week was eventful and different than my average easy-going taper week, so I better write about that. I had a girl's trip planned to go to Zion Nation Park and camp with some friends from college. This trip was Monday through Thursday and the race was Saturday. Monday night, my friend that I drove with, and was in the tent with, came down with a bad case of the flu. Bless her heart, it was a rough night for her. I kept saying to myself, "If I catch it, at least I still have 4 days to bounce back," but I was worried. Thankfully, nobody else caught it! We had a great trip. My normal running was replaced with some lighter hikes, along with friends and scenery that were a positive distraction and calmed my nerves for the race.
Thursday after the trip, I met my family in Cedar City and we were planning on spending the next few days in St. George. While in Cedar City, we stopped by Mike's Running to say hi to my friend who works there. While in the store, I was holding my 4-year-old daughter who, out of nowhere, threw up all over herself and me. Oh boy. Here we go. Again, as a mom there are no barriers between you and your child to the point of literally using your body to catch whatever is coming out of hers. My thoughts went to," Well, if I get sick, I will have one day to recover." Luckily, it must've been a bout of carsickness and we were all fine. Phew.
Expo time! I love the expo for the St. George Marathon. It is so much fun running into so many friends, I love checking out the vendors and my husband, Cam, and I are both suckers for whatever free samples are there. If you are in the Elite Division, this race allows you to set up to six bottles out on the course of whatever fuel you'd like to use during the race. My fuel plan is always the same. Oatmeal before breakfast, Generation UCan 40 mins before the start, and then I use CarboRocket, Maurten, or EFS on the course. I'm not too picky and like all 3 of those, but I do not particularly do well on Gatorade or gels. I picked out six little kid Paw Patrol juice bottles, because they are small and have a squeeze top, and filled them with CarboRocket. They come with a toy so my daughter was stoked about that.
Anyway, we headed to the expo and I didn't see the Elite table. I went to an employee and asked where it is so I can drop off my bottles. She told me that the deadline to drop them off was at 5 PM. It was now 6:30 PM. What?! I had a vague memory from last year of a deadline, but completely spaced it and must have missed the memo. She told me that the bottles had been dispersed to the aid stations and that I had the option of driving them onto the course, but the aid stations weren't set up so I'd have no clue where to put them and they'd be on the side of the road. Embarrassingly enough, I was stressed and totally started to tear up. Then I looked around the expo at all the other people and thought, "Who do I think I am?" Literally, 99% of these runners don't get to set out bottles. They just use what's available so, really, I should stop whining and feeling sorry for myself.
I got it together and Cam and I came up with a solution. I bought a fuel belt and one bottle that I would fill with more concentrated CarboRocket. I gave one of my Paw Patrol bottles to a friend who would have it at Veyo for me. Once I used the Veyo bottle, I could sip on the one in my belt and that should be sufficient. All was going to be fine with my fuel. I thought.
We got to the start, huddled around the fire, stripped layers, and the gun went off. Wahoo! About 15 steps into the race, my one CarboRocket bottle flew out of my belt. I looked back and it was gone under the stampede of 4,500 people. There was no way I was getting that back. Gatorade it is! I didn't cry that time, I laughed. That fuel plan was not meant to be. I cruised down the first few miles, then had to make a quick bathroom stop at mile 5.
Unfortunately, I am not one that can pee my pants while running so I figured that if I was going to go, I would do it on the gradual downhill. I made a quick stop and continued on. I was in first place still coming into Veyo. I got my bottle and took a few sips before making the Veyo climb. On this course, I always try to relax on the first 7 miles, and continue to keep it relaxed until I get up the steep part of Veyo hill. Then I pick it up.
I was by myself up until mile 11ish, then I caught up with a guy and we ran about a mile together. I was so excited to be with someone (I am a social runner), that I probably chatted his ears off and eventually he slowed down and I was back to running by myself.
I hit the half marathon mark a little ahead of my goal (1:18.37). You should negative split on this course if you run it right so now it was time to work. I was feeling good, but was a little bit tired mentally. I like to zone out as much as possible and had trouble doing that the first half being by myself with no music. I was still sipping on that one bottle of CarboRocket and actually ended up carrying it from mile 7 until Mile 18. I made it up the big hill at mile 18 and it was time to pull the pin and fly on the downhill rollers!
I was by myself but knew I needed that negative split to hit the course record. I looked at my watch at mile 20, and my pace was saying 6:35. I was going downhill and had been consistently sub-6 minute mile up until this point. I tried to pick up the pace and the next time I looked, my watch said 7:35 min/mile. What?? Are my legs giving out on me? Then it said 8:15 min/mile.
At this point, my mental game started to slip and I felt dizzy. My thoughts spiraled and I thought maybe I didn't fuel enough (obvi), and maybe I am really bonking hard. I felt like I was going fast but you can't trust your legs (or your watch apparently) at that point in a marathon. I got into town and kept pushing. A friend yelled, "Go Sylvia! You've got 5 minutes on the next girl!" Yay! I was struggling so I was glad there was a buffer.
Next thing I knew, I was coming up on what I thought was mile 24ish, and I see the sign that says 25.2. What?! My watch was SO off, which was why my paces were so off. At that point, I could do a little math and knew that if I hung on for this last mile, I would have the course record. So off I went.
My mom gets excited and always walks a few blocks down from the finish. I saw her and my daughter cheering their hearts out. I turned the final corner, seeing my dad and Cam cheering like crazy! I could see the clock and it was still in the 2:33's. The course record was coming! I pushed into the finish, and broke the course record. It was a PR by almost 4 minutes, which still has not sunk in. I was thrilled and exhausted.
This race wasn't perfect, but it ended perfect with a 2:34:18 finish! It was a learning experience for me that racing rarely goes exactly how we want it to. But the more we can relax and roll with the punches, then it can still turn out to be an incredible experience.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sylvia Bedford lives in South Jordan, Utah with her amazing man (Cam) and sweet 4-year-old daughter (Alyia). She works at Lifetime Fitness as a Personal Trainer and Run Club Coordinator. She grew up in Fairview, Utah and attended North Sanpete High School, where she fell in love with athletics. She was on the volleyball, basketball, and cross-country/track teams.
After high school, she attended Southern Utah University (SUU) and wanted to participate in a collegiate sport, but wasn't quite fast enough to earn a scholarship. She was able to walk onto the SUU XC and track team, where she developed her running and was able to earn a scholarship the next year. She had a great experience and left with SUU with a Bachelors Degree in Exercise Science, and the majority of her Masters Degree in Sports Conditioning. She moved to Salt lake and began working while continuing to run for fun.
After her daughter was born, her love for running grew a ton because it was her "me" time between parenting and her job. She says that it made her a better person in both aspects of life. Her biggest running accomplishment was qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Trials at Grandma's Marathon in June of 2018. She will race the Olympic trials in Atlanta in February 2020. Her most recent accomplishment was winning and setting the course record at the St. George Marathon earlier this month.