Updated: Aug 15, 2019
The Utah Valley Marathon is a scenic downhill race that features wide open country, the majesty of Mt. Timpanogos, the curves of the Provo River and Canyon, Bridal Veil Falls, and a stroll through the hometown of Brigham Young University in Provo, UT.
The race starts on a country road at an elevation of 5,963 ft and ends in downtown Provo City at 4,504 ft, with a net elevation loss of 1,700 ft. There are very few 90 degree turns, but there are lots of curves. Its downhill just enough to give you an advantage, but not enough to kill your legs. The temperatures are great, starting in the 50's and not getting too much above the 70's by the time most people come through the finish line (depending on the year).
The scenery is definitely one of the best things about this race. They claim on their website that it is the "...most scenic race in Utah." Given the several local iconic sites along the route, this could be true, but some might argue that other races in the state are equally scenic, such as Big Cottonwood Canyon, Ogden and even St. George, which goes through Snow Canyon. All of these races are also arguably as fast. Regardless, this really is a beautiful, scenic and fast course.
The downhill begins right off the bat, but it is not so dramatic that you feel like you have to constantly put on the breaks.
Just after mile seven, you run into what is cordially known as, "The Three Sisters," and for good reason. These three beauties roll progressively higher with each hill for two miles, slowly increasing 170 feet of elevation. Just when you think you have found a bit of relief from one hill, the next begins.
As you pass the nine mile mark, you begin a wonderful downward decent of 350 ft, ranging up to 8%. As you finish mile 10, you begin another brief ascent of three smaller rolling hills that climb approximately 50ft for 1.5 miles. As a reward, you get a lovely view of the back side of Mt. Timpanogos and a relatively flat decent for nearly 4 miles, losing approximately 100 ft.
Caution at mile 13, where the half marathon starts: there were a dozen or more smokey, hot and smoldering fire rings from the start of the half marathon on both sides as you approach the half-way mark--not cool.
If you look to your right around mile 14, you will see the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway (Hwy 92), which heads up to the Sundance Resort.
At mile 16, you start to climb up the last big hill in the race. This hill lasts about 0.80 of a mile, climbing 100 ft, with a grade that ranges from 2-4%. After that, you descend back down the other side of the hill until you run into another little hill, which feels like nothing in comparison and lasts only about a half mile. From there, its all a rolling decent. If you look on your left around mile 17, you will see a great view of Bridal Veil Falls.
Around mile 20 you emerge out of Provo Canyon and head toward downtown Provo City. Halfway through mile 24 (at 23.5 miles) you run into a very faint uphill that lasts about a half of a mile and only climbs about 20 feet. However, this happened to be my slowest mile of the race.
If the pain after that mile does not distract you too much, look to your left around 24.5 miles and you will see Brigham Young University's LaVell Edwards Stadium.
From there its a wonderfully flat decent on University Ave all the way through the finish line into the downtown Provo City Center Street.
PROS & CONS
On time start!!!
Plenty of food, water, bathrooms (and fire rings to stay warm) at the start
Aid stations every 2 miles on the course
Awesome finisher medals (and volunteers to catch me at the finish)
Cool winner plaques and negative split plaques
Well organized finish line, separating the marathon finishers on one side an other races on the other
Boston Qualifier shirts at the finish to those who BQ
Free photos (With a bit of confusion. See con below)
Jamba Juice and Creamies at the finish line
Gave nice running shorts with the race shirts (but ran a bit small)
Medical tent too far from the finish line and no where near message vendors
Running in between smoky, hot and smoldering fire rings on the course at half-way mark
The webpage has a link to the 2017 photos, which was confusing. Just click on the homepage of the photography website itself
Expo and registration layout (Before you can get your packet you had to weave through the whole expo as vendors bugging you...and then you have to walk back through it again just to get out. Don't force me through twice. Just let me get my race packet and then let me walk through and look at vendors)
Not enough good expo vendors (One of the best things is looking at running gear and getting free samples, which was slim pickings.)
Race shirts were "meh" in material and design
Last fall I ran the Big Cottonwood Marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon. However, right after I qualified I realized that going to Boston would not be the same unless I ran it with my wife, who ran it 13 years ago. So I decided to wait and qualify again, but this time with my wife.