St George Marathon
St. George Marathon and its History
The St. George Marathon was the brainchild of Sherm Miller in 1977, who worked for the Parks & Recreation Department of St. George City at that time. He came up with the idea as he crossed the finish line of the Deseret News Marathon held in Salt Lake City. When he returned home, he found the idea of hosting a marathon in St. George was not met with much enthusiasm by city leaders. However, he was allowed to hold his marathon. Within a few short months Miller had put together the first St. George Marathon. It was held in November 1977.
The day was cold and the runners had a strong head wind to fight. The only spectators that turned out for the event where the cows that happened to be grazing along the race coarse. Of the 58 participants, 57 runners and one wheelchair racer, 38 people finished the Marathon. One participant was almost hit by a hay truck as they reached the 20 mile mark; and after the marathon was completed they discovered that the course had been plotted as much as 40 yards too short. Even with all of the of the problems associated with that first year the next year 378 people stood at the starting line of the St. George Marathon.
Through word of mouth, marathon participants from around the country had heard about the scenic beauty along the course and came to participate in a race that was non-sanctioned at that time. The number of runners has increased steadily every year since. The St. George Marathon has since become a sanctioned race.
By 1987, the St. George Marathon had its first member of the 10-year club, Debbie Zockoll. She was also the first member inducted into the 20-year club and currently racing towards becoming the founding member of the 30-year club. Zockoll was one of the original 58 runners that first year and is the only person to have participated in every St. George Marathon that’s been held, so far.
Today the Annual St. George Marathon is scheduled for the first Saturday in October. Participants are limited to 6,200 and are chosen by lottery drawing; with the exception of the marathon’s 10-year and 20-year Clubs members as well as Washington County residents. They are officially entered in the race prior to the lottery drawing. The St. George Marathon is now a USA Track & Field Certified/ Sanctioned race. Race-times are used by participants to enter other marathons such as the Boston Marathon, New York Marathon and even the Olympic trials.
The St. George Marathon has been called “the fasted fall marathon” and “one of the most scenic marathons” by Runner’s World Magazine. It is also listed in the top 20 marathons in the United States.
The marathon’s course begins high in the mountain community of Pine Valley, which is located west of St. George; then descends more than 2,600 ft into the valley below. The finish line is in beautiful Worthern Park, located in the City of St. George. The race begins at 6:40 a.m. with temperatures at the starting line as low as 38 degree. However, as the marathon runners progresses towards St. George temperatures increase to between 65 and 85 degrees, making October the best time of year to run in the deserts of southwestern Utah.
It is estimated that 6,200 runners use more than 150,000 cups during the race and consume more than 4,200 gallons of water and 1,900 gallons of Gatorade each year. There are more than 460 runners that live in Washington County and at least 80% of all participants complete the race.
Other Marathon Events
As the size of the marathon grew so did the events surrounding it. This is due to the fact that winners are not awarded prize money. All registration fees are used to promote the marathon and other related activities, such as:
- The Mayor’s Walk-This event is held the day of the St. George Marathon and covers the last 2.2 miles of the race course. There are more than 1,500 participants each year, who are accompanied by the current Mayor of St. George and his predecessors. The walk begins at 7:00 a.m. so that the walkers won’t impede the marathon runners as they enter the city. Participants of the Mayor’s Walk are served free scones and juice at the finish line.
- Pasta Dinner-This high-carb dinner event is held at the Dixie Center the Friday night before the race. Racers and spectators alike are invited to this all-you-can-eat social feast.
- Saturday Breakfast-Spectators can purchase breakfast at Worthern Park beginning at 8:00 a.m.
- Post Race Food for Runners-St. George Marathon Sponsors provide a post race feast for participants once they reach Worthern Park.
- Post Race Massage-Free massages are available for runners at Worthern Park. Get in line fast!
- 10-Year Club Dinner-This event is held the night of the race and is free of charge to Club members and their spouses. Other family members or friends joining them for dinner will be charged for the meal.
- International Dinner-This is an invitation only event held the Friday before the race and is geared towards welcoming any international participants.
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