Lake Powell Half Marathon

by Shirley LeMay

I happened upon my first “true destination race” (meaning I had to get on a plane to fly to the race locale) in serendipitous form, signing up after another race fell through. I signed up for Vacation Races’ Lake Powell Half Marathon after my new-to-running friend (Grace Gao) declared that it would be her first half marathon. I would be joining Grace and her friend, Julia, another first-time half marathoner. We planned to arrive Thursday evening, explore the area on Friday, then drive to Zion National park after Saturday’s race.

Unfortunately, Grace got injured and bowed out of the event. Julia and I still had an awesome time and recommend this event to anyone looking for a great race in a scenic location with plenty of sightseeing opportunities.

The location:

Lake Powell, a man-made reservoir of the Colorado River and part of the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area near Page, Arizona, just south of the Utah border. Lake Powell was created after the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River.

The race:

The point-to-point course starts near the city of Page in an outdoor, cavernous amphitheater and winds through the town’s streets before taking a two mile stretch of single track trail with 270-degree, spectacular views of the Colorado Plateau. The runners then leave Page behind, cross the Glen Canyon Dam bridge and enter the Glen Canyon Recreation Area with views of Lake Powell and canyonlands.

Being a point-to-point event, transportation was available from the finish line to the start line, pre- and post-race. Our hotel was close to the finish line, so early race morning (5am!) we walked to the shuttle bus. With the remote location, inky darkness, and clear skies, we could see incredible detail of the starry sky, including the Milky Way.

An outdoor amphitheater served as the race’s starting line and on race morning winds reminiscent of the Illinois prairie were whipping and cold. We took shelter under the theatre stage, huddled together like bats waiting in the dark. Fortunately, once the sunrise started, the winds calmed down. The race start coincided with sunrise and we took off into the golden sunrise.

Race highlights:

Since the city of Page sits atop the area, the views along the edge of the city were stunning. My favorite part of the race had to be the trail portion, with its sweeping views of the canyons below. I also enjoyed running across the Dam bridge.

Overall, I enjoyed the race - I treated it as a training run for the upcoming Monumental marathon, so there was no pressure to race. I loved the constant scenery. I even ended up buying the race photos because they were reasonably priced and captured the spirit of the run experience. All participants receive a free photo opportunity, a great memento of the race.

Tourist Activities in Page:

A walking tour of Antelope Canyons. These are slot canyons on Navajo lands. The Upper Canyon is a perfect pre-race tour with an easy half mile walk in and out of the water carved formations. The mixture of ambient light, rock colors, and the carved sandstone formations result in a beautiful scene.

Another popular destination is Horseshoe Bend, another geological formation carved out of the Colorado river. This 3/4 mile hike proved to be a little more strenuous but not too taxing. The view at the rim was breathtaking.

Tourist Activities near Page:

After the race we headed north to Zion National Park, a short two-hour drive. One could spend a week or more exploring Zion and during our two-day visit, we hiked the two most popular trails - Angels Landing and the Narrows.

This appeared to be an obvious destination after the destination race as we encountered other runners from the Lake Powell race out in the park. Bryce Canyon is another popular tourist option post-race.

Travel details:

While we flew in and out of the little town of Page, most people opt to fly via Vegas due to the plethora of flight options and lower cost (there were two flights per day in Page, on a stripped-down, 7-seater prop plane - something I hadn’t been in since the 90’s).

Would I run the Lake Powell race again? Probably not, but I would consider any of the other races Vacation Races puts on, including the Zion Half Marathon or their Coastal Redwoods Trailfest. Vacation Races also puts on a series of Ultras – one in Antelope Canyon, (part of Lake Powell area), Zion and Bryce Canyons. David Ammermann wants to get a group of Second Winders to run their inaugural Mount Rushmore Half Marathon scheduled for late September. I think I could get on board with that! 

This race report originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue of In Passing.