By far, my best memory of Bryce Canyon National Park, is running (and finishing) the Bryce Canyon Half Marathon.
For as long as I can remember, I said “I am not a runner.” I didn’t think I liked to run and I thought I wasn’t built for it. I have been reasonably fit on and off over the years but I still never ran. I would do any kind of fitness class at the gym, lift weights, walk on the treadmill, and hike but I never ran. I was not a runner – or at least that is what I would tell others and myself.
When we were deciding whether to go to Bryce for the summer, I was looking for interesting things to do while we were there. There was a Balloon Rally and a Quilt Show in nearby Panguitch and the Bryce Canyon Half Marathon.
Coincidentally, around the same time, we were watching the Biggest Loser and Jillian was yelling at the participants that they should be able to run 5 minutes at 5-1/2 MPH by that point in their training. Alan and I took her message personally and decided we better see if we could do it. It wasn’t easy but we managed.
I then suggested we start training for the Half Marathon that would be at the end of our stay in Bryce – July 13. We had plenty of time and besides, it is a downhill course and you have three hours to finish it! Alan wasn’t on board at first but he came around after a few weeks. We started running regularly at the gym before we left for Bryce and kept at it after we got to the Park. Alan did all his training on the treadmill at the Park gym but I ran mostly on the rim of the canyon.
We had to cut back on some hiking when the race was getting closer and I had a few minor injuries to deal with – nothing that serious. I was still nervous before the race that I wouldn’t be able to finish. (Our co-camp host Tom, who definitely knows about these things, kept saying not to worry.) You have to finish in under three hours to get a participants medal. I really, really wanted to finish in under three hours.
We started getting up earlier each morning for the week before the race since it started at 6 AM! Luckily, we were only about ten minutes for the starting line but we were still worried about parking, etc. so we left the trailer around 5:10 – it was dark and cold! I was so excited, though and got goose pimples as we started walking to the starting line!
They were playing music and little bonfires were lit along the side of the road. I was there with a bunch of runners! I was going to run 13.1 miles! (I’m getting goose pimples again as I write this.) It was such an amazing feeling to be part of such a cool event.
I found my pace group – 2 hours and 45 minutes. Alan and I split up at this point and I never saw him again until the finish. Then the race started. I can’t describe how awesome it felt to be running through such a beautiful part of the country as the sun was coming up! And, I was running fast – downhill, of course!
There was a guy in front of me with a T-shirt that read Just Believe and the message resonated with me. I believed I could do it and I kept telling myself I could. (I also kept telling myself that I didn’t have to pee – the lines were just too long at the porta-potties!)
It was so cool – as I ran I kept seeing people from the Park along the road and at the water stations that I knew! It started with Hilda near the start (although I’m pretty sure she didn’t know who was yelling to her), then Sarah, the Park Biologist, new Ranger William, LE Virginia was at the First Aid Station. I got a huge cheer from the cutest LE Mark (but don’t tell him I said that) going through Tropic and then there was LE Tyla being super supportive near the end! We even saw the head LE, Daniel at the finish mingling with the crowd.
Tyla told me I was coming close to the finish. My phone had failed me by this point so I really didn’t know my time. I did know I was way ahead of where I had hoped to be for my stretch goal of 2 hours and 30 minutes. I had planned on doing regular run/walk cycles but I had run most of the way (that downhill made a huge difference, especially when compared to running along the rim at Bryce.)
As I’m heading to the last turn, I see Alan just sitting on a curb talking to some people – not even looking for me! I had to yell to him to get his attention. He said later that he wasn’t expecting me to be along that soon, even though he had run way faster than he had expected. He runs along side me and says I can break 2 hours and 15 minutes so I start running really hard.
The finish line was the most amazing sight. I was so very, very thrilled to be crossing it and even more so because I was still running! I was pretty much crying at this point but they were happy tears! It was one of the most amazing feelings of my life. Some volunteer handed me my finishers metal and I just stared at it with a huge smile.
I won’t deny that I was very sore after the race and limped around for a good week. The downhill aspect of the race was great for my time but bad on my quads! I did start running again regularly before we left Bryce with a whole new level of enthusiasm. I can now say without any hesitation:
I AM A RUNNER!