Why I’m Running The Zion Half Marathon

Hey everyone!  I wasn’t originally planning on writing a post for today, but I just have something I feel like sharing with you all because I have been feeling pretty down about race training lately.  As you know, I ran my first half marathon last February (yay Disney Princess Half!), and basically ever since then I’ve been in and out of training for a half marathon.  I go from one race to another with only a few weeks off in between (or in the case of the Her Tern Half, a giant cross-country move), and I think it’s starting to wear on me.  It’s hard to enjoy running when it’s something that you have to do instead of something fun that you’re doing for yourself, you know?  And then I really started thinking about it:  why am I actually running the Zion Half Marathon?  Aren’t I doing it for myself?


The first thing that comes to mind is the moment when I discovered the race.  I was a homesick, stressed out mess in Seward desperately trying to find a job so that we wouldn’t be poor and homeless in Anchorage.  I was on Facebook trying to zone out, when I noticed a suggested page:  Vacation Races.  I love vacations and I love races, so I decided to check it out.  And that’s when I discovered the world of running to visit national parks.  At the time I was living on the edge of a national park and thought it was the greatest idea ever.  You may have remembered this post where I was trying to choose my big race for 2015.  Andrew and I kept going back and forth about it, but then I saw this video and my mind was made up.  If you have an extra 2 minutes, watch it.  It’s the post-2014 Zion race review and it gave me goosebumps.  Even now, it gets me teary eyed.  Zion looks absolutely beautiful and so different from any place I’ve ever been before.  And seeing all of those happy runners racing through the sunrise with huge smiles on their faces is inspiring.  It was that video that caused me to want to run this race.  I signed up, and didn’t look back – that is, until training started.

IMG_3782Despite having an awesome training shirt, I was not feeling it for a while

Sure, I’m back on track now and getting ish done when I need to.  But it’s not as easy as it should be.  There needs to be something I can think of when I’m just over the treadmill or want to take an unauthorized rest day or feel myself dreading a tempo run and just want to run for fun instead.  And that’s why I’m writing this post today, because I need these reminders so much lately.  So I present to you all the 13 reasons I’m running those 13.1 miles in Zion National Park:

  1. Because I love to run.  I really, really do.  No matter what my brain says on long run day.
  2. To travel to a beautiful part of the US where I’ve never been before
  3. To cross Utah off my racing in 50 states list
  4. To get another stamp in my National Park Passport (who else has one?)
  5. Because I can run, and I want to run as much as I can while I can
  6. To try to break my 2:30:35 PR, even on an uphill course
  7. To get my old running strength and motivation back
  8. To eat post-race pizza while wearing the race medal (yep, it’s that important)
  9. To hike a giant mountain after the race with my medal on so I can join the Angels Club  (note: I may die if I attempt this so I might stick to pizza instead)
  10. To stick to a training plan for the first time since Disney Princess and prove that I can finish what I start
  11. To find cross training that I like and stick with it to make me a better runner overall
  12. To run through an incredible course that will be beautiful, humbling, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience
  13. To finish half #5 with a smile on my face – I want redemption for the last two half marathons!

It’s so hard for me to lose sight of why I started this journey in the first place.  In fact, when I’m feeling overwhelmed I feel like I’ve always been on a training journey!  But I need to remember that each race is a new journey – one that I come to with excitement, worry, and nerves.  I have no idea what will happen on race day, so I need to focus on the journey ahead of me instead.  I’m 1/3 done with training and I’m going to focus on embracing each workout because it’s taking me closer to my ultimate goal:  #13 on that list.  And okay, maybe the views aren’t that bad either  🙂


Are you training for a race?  Why?  And how do you push past tough moments in your training?

*EDIT: I just realized this is my 250th post!  Whaaaaaaaaat!  Who knew I’d be blogging this long?  Thanks for reading, and props if you’ve read all 250!*

25 thoughts on “Why I’m Running The Zion Half Marathon

  1. Great post, Kristen! I think racing at Zion – or any of the other races at National Parks – would be amazing!
    I’ve been reading your blog (plus a early Alaskan) pretty much since you began, and have really enjoyed the story of your and your husband’s big move to Alaska. For those of us who just dream about moving there, it’s been great to read about what it’s like first hand!

    1. Thanks Elaine! I am the worst at keeping up with Bearly Alaskan – I know my family doesn’t care too much about all this running stuff, and our lives have been a bit boring lately! But this reminds me that I need to write a post soon 🙂

  2. Wow, how cool to be running in Zion. I’ve never been and if you can believe it have never been to the big National Parks in the US. I must change that soon!!

    1. You do! I’ve only been to 4 I think (Denali, Kenai Fjords, Mt. Rainier, and Acadia) but they were awesome and I’m trying to make sure that I can see them all! There’s so many in Alaska so I’m going to hit up a few more this summer maybe!

  3. It’s great to have this list of reasons written down for yourself and to be able to use it to motivate you! I’ve been struggling with my current training for the Rock n Roll Half in DC because of a strained muscle in my foot. I’m trying to find a balance between letting my foot heal and still being able to do the race. I’m really looking forward to the period between March and July where I won’t be actively training for any big races to just have fun with running.

    1. I know exactly how you feel! My training plan amped up my running days from 4 to 5 this week and I’m like “Nope!”. I think my body can only handle 2 days of running in a row before something weird starts hurting. I’m trying to get through this thing in one piece! Good luck with the rest of your training, we can do this!

  4. OMG, I LOVE Zion – so JEALOUS – one of the most beautiful places EVER. I spent my 30th birthday there – trail running, hiking and enjoying the beautiful canyon. 😉

    1. That’s awesome! We’re there for a week – do you have any suggestions? Did you visit any other parks while you were there?

    1. Haha thanks for your support! It’s been a while since I felt good about a training plan and I’m just hoping I can do it with this one!

    1. Haha it’s all new to me too! Did you watch the video? You’ll totally want to run the race after seeing that!

  5. Wow that looks like a beautiful race. I’d love to run in Utah someday! I think for many of us, racing becomes habitual and the training somewhat of a grind. Since running NYCM last fall I’ve changed focus to strength and learning to swim for the winter. Of course I still run, and I’ll fire up training for RnR Nashville in a couple of weeks, but I’m hoping to go back refreshed. Good for you for reviewing the ‘why’ you do this!

    1. This is such a good idea! I already have another half planned for July (ugggggh) but after that I might need to shift focus to something totally new as a fun distraction. I’m enjoying my time learning yoga on cross train days so maybe I’ll focus more on gaining flexibility!

  6. This would be a fantastic race. I’ve never been there but have heard how amazing it is from my hubby. One day I’d love to take the whole family for a trip there. I can’t imagine running it too.

    1. Awesome! Yeah when people tell me about it I get so excited! I really can’t wait to go there, I’m just dreading all the tough training runs between now and then haha. Hopefully you can run the race someday. It’s worth checking out the website – they have a ton of awesome races (including Yosemite!) that I want to do someday!

  7. That race looks amazing…and you’re right, you picked it for a reason! Sometimes you forget why, but that’s why you wrote this, to remind yourself every time you want to give up!

    Personally, I think you’re 100% on track with your reasoning — totally legit reasons. I mean, who doesn’t want to explore a Natl Park on foot, you get to see so much more! Enjoy your training, and your post-race summits + pizza! 🙂

    1. Haha thanks! The race looks and sounds (from past race reviews) incredible so I’m trying to focus on my excitement and not on my tough training schedule. It’s hard though when I’m not feeling it and just want to take an extra rest day for no real reason! I want to enjoy my time there though so I really do need to put in the miles!

  8. Great post, Kristen! I definitely relate with feeling like if it’s not training for one race, it’s training for another. I like your approach of remembering all the reasons you’re running the race and also to take it one day/workout at a time until then. No doubt you’ll complete your training and race strong. You can do this! 🙂

    1. Thanks! Yeah I really feel like I was so unprepared mentally and physically for my last two half marathons and I want this one to be different – mostly because it’s such an amazing location and I couldn’t imagine being miserable in a place like this!

  9. This is a great post. I think a lot of runners at some point find themselves in the same boat. I know I did post Boston and was just running and had no goals and then I felt disconnected from it and it wasn’t as fun as it should have been. I took a step back over the holidays, didn’t run for a full month but instead did the Asylum program and it was the hardest 4 weeks of my life in regards to workouts and came back to running with my heart and head in it. All the reasons you listed for running Zion are wonderful and mean something to you, so just keep that in mind when it gets tough!

  10. You will have so much fun in Zion – it is spectacular! Running is such a personal journey and everyone’s reasons for putting on those shoes and heading out the door are different. But traveling to new places and challenging yourself – those are some good ones!

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