IFS St. George, UT - 10/2/2021 - St. George Marathon
For the first 14 months of Virtual First Saturdays we visited every college campus in the state of Utah. But now, we're out of universities to visit! So we're switching things up and visiting the places in Utah where major events take place – on or around the time those events usually happen.
In October we visited St. George, Utah where, every year on the first Saturday in October, the St. George Marathon takes place. And to celebrate this first Saturday event, one of our POCs - your's truly - actually even ran the race.
The 26.2 mile (42.2 km) race has been held on the first Saturday in October in St. George since 1977 with one exception - the race was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID.
When Sherm Miller, who worked for the St. George City Parks and Recreation Department, returned to St. George after running the Deseret News Marathon in Salt Lake City, he was inspired to host a marathon in St. George. Although others were not as enthusiastic about the idea, he was allowed to hold his marathon. He quickly organized the first St. George Marathon, held in the fall of 1977.
That first race began on a cold day with 57 runners and one wheelchair racer. The participants faced a strong headwind as they ran. Near mile 20, one runner was almost hit by a hay truck. Of the 58 who started the race, only 38 reached the finish line, a finish line on a course that was later discovered to be 40 yards too short.
The next year the number of participants grew to 378 just by word of mouth, drawn by the descriptions of the scenery of Southwestern Utah, including red and white sandstone formations in the Snow Canyon area just outside St. George, even though the race at that time was not yet a sanctioned marathon.
Since then, the St. George Marathon has grown steadily and has since become a USA Track and Field Certified and Sanctioned race.
In 2006, the 30th anniversary of the St. George Marathon, the race was limited to 6,700 participants, with applicants selected by random lottery, except for residents of Washington County, Utah and members of the St. George Marathon's 10-year and 20-year clubs who are officially entered into the race before the lottery. Also in 2006, the course was changed slightly in the last two miles for the run within the city, providing a route that is less congested with automobile traffic.
Debbie Zockoll, a first-grade teacher in the Washington County School District, was one of the 58 runners who competed in the first St. George Marathon in 1977. She became the first member of the 10-year club in 1987. She was also the first member of the 20-year club, and in 2006 she became the first member of the 30-year club. She became the first member of the 40-year club in 2016 and Zockoll would go on to run in the first 43 St. George Marathons before dying of cancer in March of 2021.
Race times are used by many participants to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Runner's World magazine has included the St. George Marathon in the Runner's World 10 Most Scenic Marathons, Fastest Marathons and the Top 20 Marathons in the USA; calling it one of four "marathons to build a vacation around." Based on surveys of runners, Runner's World magazine named the St. George Marathon, the Most Organized Marathon. The race is known for tremendous volunteer support.
Thanks again for all the First Saturday fun!