Race Report: The Inaugural Zion Half Marathon

zion half marathon logoOn Friday, after wrapping up some meetings for work, my mom, Alexis and I loaded into my car and drove to Springdale, UT so I could participate in the Zion Half Marathon. We stayed at the Bumbleberry Inn in Springdale, a cute little mom-and-pop type place. Interesting note: my husband and I stayed there on our honeymoon in 2001 and my mom and my dad stayed there on their honeymoon back in the 70’s!

After checking into the hotel, we put Alex in her portable stroller and pushed her the one mile to the Zion Canyon Giant Screen Theatre for packet pickup/expo. The theatre is right outside the entrance to the national park. We got my bib, race shirt, Hydrapouch along with other packet items. This race was cupless, thus participants were required to bring their own hydration carriers or use a race-provided Hydrapouch and fill it at the aid stations. I like that concept, the aid stations weren’t a mess of cups to navigate through and it seems really wrong to throw garbage on the ground in general, but especially at a National Park (even if we were racing outside the park).

The expo was small, with a few vendors there. American Flyers Race Pacers had a table for people to sign up for pace groups (and get a small Fat Boy ice cream sandwich from them for free), Chums was there, Ultraspire had their cool water belts that you can custom build. I chatted with the people from RooSport and I almost wish I had bought one of their race pouches. It’s a magnetic item that can hold an iPhone (or other smartphone) and gels securely on the waistband of your pants/shorts or on a race belt to add another pocket. You could also use it if you’re at a theme park or somewhere that you need a little extra storage but don’t want to carry a whole bag.

When we walked back to the hotel the wind had really kicked up and was blasting sand right in our faces, thus we had to turn the stroller backwards and pull it along with us so Alex wasn’t pelted. The stroller does not navigate as efficiently when it’s going backwards… just FYI!

We packed food to eat, a mix of quinoa/beans/veggies that we had cooked the day before. That tasted really good and we were able to reheat it in our room since the room had a microwave and refrigerator. Although, the microwave seemed to blow a fuse after about 12 seconds of cooking and we kept having to flip the switch on the powerstrip it was plugged into. I don’t think microwaves are supposed to be plugged into power strips!

After Alex went to sleep, my mom and I kind of turned in as well. We dozed off and on, even though Alex had a little bit of a restless night. I’m grateful my mom took some time to cuddle Alex in the middle of the night so I could attempt to sleep as much as possible for the race.

I woke up at 4:45, ate a Clif bar and drank a Vita Coco while getting dressed. And at 5:30 we had to wake up my poor baby and force her to eat, since I had packed my pump but forgot one tiny little part thus rendering the entire thing worthless. I knew she would need milk and I needed to empty myself out to be comfortable for running, but I felt so incredibly selfish about having to wake her up to eat so I could go run.

The temperatures dropped just in time for this race, that made me sooooooo happy! Because I LOVE being cold. (sarcasm alert!) I had packed shorts and a short-sleeve shirt for the race. Even though I never wear a race shirt during the race, I broke that rule for this event since the race shirt was a long-sleeve top and I knew I needed that extra layer. Fortunately I had a pair of gloves in my coat that I had packed as well, since I hadn’t packed a pair specifically for the race.

Zion Half Marathon race shirt - front
Zion Half Marathon race shirt – front
Zion Half Marathon shirt - back
Zion Half Marathon shirt – back

I wore:

After feeding the baby, I set out on the one-mile walk to the theatre since that was the finish line and they had shuttles running from there to the start line. I was on the 6:15 AM shuttle bus for a 7 AM race start. I got on a bus and after waiting for a little while, we were off on the drive to the start line. 13 miles in the dark on a bus seemed really far. It also seemed long due to the fact that the road was closed down to one lane several times for the race, since the road was still partially open to cars while we were running. That slowed us down and we actually got to the start line AFTER the race had already started. It was kind of anti-climactic to get off the bus, go drop my stuff at gear check, use the porta potty and then go to the start line and trot across the timing mats by myself.

I also left my Hydrapouch on the ground outside the porta-potty when I set my stuff down. I grabbed my race belt but missed the pouch, so I didn’t even get to use it during the race. 😦 So a couple of times I had to stop at aid stations and unscrew the lids for my small bottles and refill them instead of the  convenience the pouch was supposed to provide.

Island Boost was my fuel for the race and I DID NOT have any digestive distress during the run, that’s a first! Go Island Boost, that stuff totally rocks!

The race is uphill the whole way. I’m pretty good at uphills, so it wasn’t uphills that bothered me… but the race did feel pretty difficult to me in general.

Zion Half Marathon elevation profile

I’m going to blame some of the difficulty on the simple fact that nearly 7-months earlier I was cut open so a baby could be delivered from me, but the honest fact is that the biggest reason I struggled was due to mental games. I kept trying to tell myself that I was a BAMR (badass mother runner) and that I was tough, but I also kept telling myself what a selfish jerk I am for disrupting my baby’s life and schedule to haul her to Utah for my work and then to Springdale for the race and then waking her up and then not being able to leave some milk behind for my mom to feed her while I was on the course.

The biggest downhill of the course was probably the stretch into the finish line! My mom said that the announcer was saying just before I came through that an “interesting fact is that these finish times now are the times that some people can run an entire marathon in, so there’s something to aspire for.” Uh…. that’s kind of tacky. Telling people their great accomplishment isn’t as good as an elite athlete and they should try to work toward that? Not very motivational!

As I was approaching the announcer said, “It has warmed up to 35° now, so you guys can shed those layers!”

Crossing the Zion Half Marathon Finish Line
Crossing the Finish Line

When I went through the finish line I immediately started to scour the crowd to find my mom and baby. When I spotted them my vision locked in there, I almost didn’t even stop to get my medal because going to see my baby was a bigger prize! I was all teary-eyed to see her, and the people all around my mom started to get teary-eyed at our joyful reunion!

Zion Half Finishers Medal
Zion Half Finishers Medal
Hugging my baby at the Zion Half finish
Hugging my baby at the Zion Half finish
My sweet baby proud of her mama at the finish
My sweet baby is proud of her mama at the finish – or just happy to see me!

I ate a chocolate chip cookie and grabbed some peanut m&m’s at the finish line (one of my favorite candies of late), refilled my water bottles and we started the walk back to the hotel. But Alex was STARVING, started to scream and there wasn’t really a spot to sit down and feed her, plus it was really cold out, so I carried her as we walked the mile to the hotel as quickly as we could and then got her some food. After she was satisfied (which was difficult because she was pretty worked up and my body had just worked hard, so milk production needed to ramp up!) we went to Wildcat Willies, the restaurant connected with the hotel and famous for Bumbleberry Pie, to get Bumbleberry pancakes for breakfast. FYI: Bumbleberry = blueberries and blackberries combined!

Alexis chewing on the menu in her fleece jammies
Alexis chewing on the menu in her fleece jammies

I am very pleased to have finished the race. My finish time was 2:19. I didn’t have a time goal, but that still disappointed me a little bit. I know I need to just be proud of the accomplishment. But I’m still trying to process my thoughts and feelings about the race, so I’ll probably be back with a post about that!


  1. That sucks about the shuttle being late…I had the opposite. I was on a 5:30 shuttle and had to wait in the wind for over an hour! I couldn’t feel my feet for the first few miles! Good job!! I know the feeling of feeling selfish but you’ll (hopefully) get over it soon and realize that you run for her! So that you can be mentally & physically fit to be a good mommy. Plus children imitate their parents so what better habit for her to pick up. I was bummer that I didn’t get to hike Angels Landing afterward. We couldn’t find parking near the trailhead! Zion was more crowded than I’ve ever seen it. Really took away from what I love about Zion.

    • I would have liked to do the Angels Landing challenge, but that wasn’t feasible with the baby! 🙂

      I wonder if it was so crowded because it was the last weekend before the shuttles started?

      And thank you! I do want her to emulate living a healthy life and I do want her to find something that makes her happy. I need to nurture that in myself for her!

  2. Congratulations on a great post-birth run! That really is a tremendous accomplishment! Mike has been so worried about me running at all while pregnant, and he really wants me to breast feed so I’m sure he’ll be even more concerned about my running after Little Moe arrives. I’m anxious to get back to it, though. I miss running. I can totally understand your concern about shaking Alexis from her routine, but it sounds like she survived pretty well. 🙂 You’re such an inspiration! Great work, Jill! 🙂

    • Oh… thank you! I definitely didn’t feel like an inspiration!

      I think that’s sweet that Mike is concerned about you running during pregnancy. There’s something about a husband showing that tenderness and affection in regard to an upcoming baby that is so heartwarming. My biggest issue with running and breastfeeding has been in regard to supply. I find it hard to eat enough to maintain my nursing and my running.

      Yeah, Alexis survived. She really was a trooper this whole week. I definitely saw some anger and frustration from her that I’ve never seen before, but she recovered quickly too. It’s so hard, you just want to make them happy and comfortable all the time!

  3. Hi Jill, great review. We are very aware of the shuttle situation and are already making plans to adjust things for next year. If anyone else has input feel free to email us at salem@vacationraces.com. We will be sending out a post race survey soon to see where else we can improve.


    • I figured it was something that you were going to address. For an inaugural event, things really went well. I’ll wait until the survey comes out before I give you more feedback! 🙂

  4. 1. You totally ran a HALF-MARATHON a mere seven months after giving birth. YOU ROCK.

    2. I don’t think waking your baby up early to nurse her is selfish. First of all, I’m guessing that Alex enjoys nursing and snuggling with you! Second, I’m sure it was a nice way for you to start the day, nicer than pumping. Third, babies are pretty adaptable. If mom’s happy, they’re generally pretty happy too. Don’t sweat stuff like that too much if you can help it.

    3. That shirt is really quite cool.

    4. Seeing the blanket I made in the photos actually made me tear up a little bit, it was so unexpected. I don’t know why it was unexpected, exactly. But it really makes me happy when I see people using the blankets I made them—like I’m hugging them from afar or something totally cheesy like that. 🙂

    5. This sort of follows what I said in #2. I don’t think taking Alex to Utah so you could run a half-marathon is selfish AT ALL. I think it’s fantastic that you took her with you, and she got to see you at the finish line! She’ll grow up thinking it’s so cool to run because Mommy runs races. And wait till she’s a little older, and she can run to meet you at the finish line—there is nothing like seeing your kid run to meet you because they’re so excited to see you. And in a broader sense, babies are portable! You can take them everywhere, pretty much! And the each new place you take them expands their horizons and adds to their understanding of the world. By taking her with you and exposing her to new people and sounds and sights, you are giving her a boost in brain development. Seriously!

    • You’re right that cuddling with her to feed her is WAY WAY WAY better than pumping!

      We love the blanket you made for Alex! Thank you so much! I love that it’s such a nice size for holding around her and using in the carseat or stroller. I don’t see us not having a use for it, unless we wear it completely out. It gets complimented everywhere we go too! And the analogy of hugging her from afar is a totally good kind of cheesy, I like that idea!

      I hadn’t thought that it was boosting her development, but I should have. She’s an observer, she likes looking around at people around her and noticing things. So going to the expo and the race was kind of fascinating for her. With the exception of when she decided she was too cold and hungry to deal with it anymore!

  5. […] love zero-drop shoes… In fact, that’s all I run in these days. I ran the Zion Half in Altra Intuition and was alternating between those and the Brooks PureDrift for all of my runs. […]

  6. I was looking for reviews of the Zion Half and found you =) I am new half marathoner and am looking for good local ones to sign up for!! I did a 10k just 10 weeks after my 4th C-section and it was tough!! Good for you for getting back in to running so quickly!! Don’t feel bad at all! The few races I’ve done since the birth (8 months ago) I’ve woken her up before I leave to nurse and then felt more guilty having to leave her with hubby and her having to have formula until I got home! I’m doing the Disney half in November and thinking about this race for March next year. I’m a walker/jogger and the 4 hour time limit on this one makes me happy since I don’t have to worry about time, I can enjoy the race! Thank you for your review…I still wonder how well those hydropouches work!!

  7. A Bumbleberry is a combination of Blueberries, Blackberries, AND Boysenberries. (I worked there all through high school) 🙂 just a fun fact.

  8. I found your race review while debating whether to sign up for this race. The reviews seem mixed, but I’m planning on running the 2016 race with my Dad (it will be his first half marathon). It sounds like a great destination race, while it still has a few kinks (and weird comments from the announcer have hopefully ended haha). For my Dad’s first time, his goal is to finish, so I’m hoping we will enjoy it. Thanks for sharing this!

    • I so hope you enjoy it! I also have spoken with the organizers and they work SOOOOOOO hard and want to provide great events. They learn more and more each time and put improvements into place. I wouldn’t never recommend against it!

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