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Cottonwood Holladay Journal

Scenery and speed draw a big crowd to Big Cottonwood Marathon

Sep 20, 2018 02:45PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Runners are cheered as they finish the Big Cottonwood Marathon. (Josh Wood/City Journals)

By Joshua Wood | joshw@mycityjournals.com 

The Big Cottonwood Marathon returned for the seventh time on Sept. 8, bringing runners from across the country to experience the scenery and race toward their personal records and Boston Marathon qualifying times. 

The race continues to grow, drawing around 5,000 people for the 2018 marathon. The beauty of Big Cottonwood Canyon and the speed of the largely downhill marathon drew runners from a wide range of backgrounds, from people running their first half marathon to people who have run over 20 full marathons. 

“This was my first official half marathon,” said Madison Jasperson. “My family is in the area. I live in California, and I thought it would be a good trip to come out here.” 

The Big Cottonwood Marathon is part of the REVEL Race Series. The organization partners with host communities like Cottonwood Heights to deliver fast, typically downhill races, through spectacular scenery like Big Cottonwood Canyon. 

“We started REVEL about seven years ago,” said Lane Brooks, founder of REVEL. “There are a lot of races in Utah, but we realized there wasn’t one in the best canyon in Utah, which is Big Cottonwood. We didn’t know what we were getting into. We opened it for registration, and people just flocked to it because of the canyon.” 

In its first year, the race sold out its 1,000 slots in six weeks. It grew to 4,000 the second year and has continued to grow to 5,000 runners in 2018. It is now the second biggest race in the state behind the St. George Marathon. Since its founding, REVEL has added events throughout the west, from Colorado to Hawaii. 

Runners traveled from places like Arkansas and Indiana to run the event. “I’ve done 27 marathons and an ultra in South Africa, and this is by far the most beautiful,” said Martha Shedd, who traveled from Indiana for the marathon. “It’s super hard. You think, ‘Oh it’s downhill, I’ll go so fast.’ But it’s super hard. In Indiana, it’s like 770 feet, so there’s that. But great, great volunteer support. I would recommend it to anybody.” 

After crossing the finish line and grabbing a chocolate milk and a banana, runners could check their official times at the results table. Staff members regularly shouted out the names of runners with times that qualified them for the Boston Marathon. Qualifying times for Boston varied depending on age and gender. 

Sean and Jolie Morris ran the marathon together for the fifth time. It was Jolie’s sixth time running it. Her time qualified her for Boston. “The downhill just pushes you all the way,” Jolie said. “It’s probably one of my favorites because it’s so pretty and so well organized.” 

Marisa Lizak, Suzy Bills and Jennifer Hillam finished with the top three times for women, respectively, while Kyle Brush, Preston Gardner and Jose Cruz finished with the top three times for men in the full marathon. 

Speed was certainly the name of the game. The average time for the Big Cottonwood Marathon is 4:03:53, compared to an average of 4:28:54 for the St. George Marathon. 

“It’s probably the easiest and the hardest race mixed together,” said Terrence Baptiste, who had run 13 marathons but ran Big Cottonwood for the first time this year. “The downhills made it fast, but the uphills made it really hard. Overall, it was great.” 

Next up for many of the runners, after that chocolate milk and some rest, is more running. Baptiste will head to Houston for another race, while others continue their quests for personal bests and the big races like Boston. For those who ran their first half or full marathon, the adventure continues with one major accomplishment checked off. 

The Big Cottonwood Marathon is scheduled to return on September 14, 2019.