About 1,100 runners competed in the 26.1-mile marathon, half-marathon and 5k events that also included a special short race for children.
Former Southern Utah State University distance runner Cody Moat was the top marathon finisher in a time of 3:08:00. The 34-year-old Fillmore resident pulled away from the field at mile eight when the trail became single-track.
Moat said the course through canyons and along rims was demanding but beautiful.
“I was ready to get away from the boring stuff,” he said of a switch to trail running after college. “I ran a trail marathon in Park City at 8,000 feet elevation and this felt harder.”
Justin Ricks of Pueblo West, Colo., bided his time in 12th place for the first eight miles before moving up on the field to finish second. He said he jogged the course a couple of weeks earlier to become familiar with its undulations.
“I knew what was coming and I didn’t want to go out too fast,” Ricks said.
Jason Bryant, 40, traveled from his Elkin, N.C., home to finish third in the marathon. He said he lacks the speed of other runners, but thrives on difficult courses where endurance is a premium.
“I like it rough,” Bryant said. “This (course) plays more into my skills. This is a good course, although there’s not as much elevation gain as some places. But the footing is tough. You can’t build a rhythm in sand.”
Kerri Lyons of Salt Lake City, a former Cornell University runner, surprised herself by winning the women’s marathon. She had entered the half-marathon and only decided on the longer run the morning of the race after a friend suggested it would be a better adventure.
“He found my weak spot,” she said with a grin after finishing.
It was only the 24-year-old runner’s second marathon and third trail race.
“There were some technical areas,” Lyons said. “I’m definitely going to do more trails races.”
Megan Kimmel of Silverton, Colo., ran with Lyons for the first half of the marathon before falling back. Kimmel is a confirmed trail runner, saying, “They are a lot more stimulating” than road races.
Parker Mildenhall, 21, of Salt Lake City, won the half-marathon with a time of 1:30:00. He called the scenic course “awesome.”
Mildenhall was chasing some marathon entrants, thinking they were doing the half-marathon instead.
“Those guys were flying,” he said. “One of them was two minutes ahead of me. I thought he was a half-marathoner, then I found out I was leading.”
The 5k race provided some unusual challenges, including ladders, ropes, tunnels, an obstacle section, and a Frisbee toss.
“It was the most fun of any race I’ve ever done,” said Heather Richerson of Salt Lake City. “It was really different.”
The half-marathon was an unusual experience for Ginna Ellis, 25, of Boulder, Colo., because she’d never done a trail race before. She said the trail required much more strength than the road half-marathons she has run.
“Here you never plant your foot in the same position,” Ellis said. “I was on my hands and knees coming down some hills. You were sliding on your butt.”
Entry fees for the races benefitted the nonprofit Project Athena, a five-year-old program that supports women who have suffered emotional or physical trauma. Project representative Louise Cooper of Los Angeles said the program even provides financial help for women to attain their goals, whether it’s to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, raft a whitewater river or run a marathon.
Domestic abuse victims and amputees are among those that Project Athena has helped over the years, according to Cooper.
“The need to heal extends to more than the body,” she said. “That’s where we step in. The doctors can heal your boo-boos. We heal your soul.”
Cooper said the marathon course laid out by Moab trail marathon owner and race director Danelle Ballengee was “fabulous and challenging, just what a trail marathon should be.”
Spectators applauded every finisher, with most runners showing the strain of their effort. As if to emphasize the trail’s testing nature, one half-marathon runner finished while wearing one shoe and holding the other in her hand.