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Top of Utah Marathon: One-day event takes a year of prep, but worth it

September 25th, 2014 Posted in Sports

By Michael Royer

HYRUM— A pull of a trigger started it all Saturday, when more than 1,500 runners and athletes from across the country competed in the 16th annual Top of Utah Marathon.

The race started at Hardware Ranch in Blacksmith Fork Canyon where a group called the Cache Mountain Men stood along the starting line and pointed their muzzleloaders to the sky. Runners traveled down the canyon on SR 101. The course then veered right onto Hollow Road in Nibley and continued north through Millville, Providence and River Heights, ending at Merlin Olsen Park in Logan —26.2 miles from the starting line. Over the course of the race, runners drop 1,045 feet in elevation.

For race director Todd Hugie, this is a one-day event that takes a full year to prepare for.

Top of Utah Marathon runners race down Blacksmith Fork Canyon. Photos courtesy Todd Hugie.

“Putting on this event is a ton of work,” Hugie said. “It is expensive. There is a huge hassle going through the permitting process, it seems like these days everything we try and do we have to apply for some sort of permit.”

The Cache County Chamber of Commerce came up with the marathon idea in 1999. The chamber reached out to Hugie and Robert Henke, the current assistant race director, in an attempt to organize an event that would bring people, money and tourism to the valley.

They succeeded.

Hotel rooms filled quickly in the Logan area, and many runners had to stay in Ogden.

Still, that didn’t dampen the directors’ spirits. “This has been a very positive event,” Henke said. “A lot of people look forward to this each year. It is a pleasure to be involved with this and help make it happen each year.”

Hugie said one of the favorites in this year’s race was Allie Moore. The 27-year-old is a veteran of the race and has completed it 10 years in a row. “This is a big one for me,” Moore said. “I graduated from Utah State and love the area and it is a great time of year to run. It’s a beautiful course.”

Moore has lived in Utah all her life but is moving to Atlanta next week and wants to make the most of her last race before relocating. “I have trained hard,” she said. “I am ready but you never know how your day is going to go until you get out there.”

The marathon isn’t about finishing first for many of the registered athletes.

“I don’t do this to be competitive,” said Tom Emmett, who ran the marathon for his eighth year on Saturday. “It is a great race, it’s fun to see familiar faces. I enjoy running with people I know and taking it all in. My favorite part of the race is when it is over, knowing that I accomplished something.”

Tia McGregor, from Washington, Utah, ran in her eighth Top of Utah Marathon Saturday. McGregor has been an avid runner since 1997 when she became inspired seeing people cross the finish line at the St. George Marathon. She has competed in 34 marathons so far in her life.

“I run because I can,” she said. “It is the time when I find myself. It is when I solve and resolve. Running has never failed me; it always has something to gain from it, whether it is a positive health impact, a new friendship, a beautiful route, a fastest time, an idea, a new favorite song or a different perspective.”

One of the goals of the marathon is to promote fitness around the area, Hugie said.

“People set this race as a goal for them,” said Hugie. “I have seen people who are very overweight make this their dream. They work hard and lose 250 pounds and run this race. I have seen people like that with tears streaming down their face as they cross the finish line because they did it. They made the effort and it means the world to them. This race has an impact on people’s lives.”

A big part of a runner’s life is the preparation leading up to an event.

“There is definitely a program that you need to follow if you want to perform well,” Moore said. “It took me a while to figure out what I wanted and didn’t want to do. There was a lot of trial and error.”

Getting ready for a marathon takes a lot of specific workouts that need to be structured so runners are ready when the event happens, she said. “When the race is about two months out I run 60-70 miles a week,” she said. “Then I pick it up to 80-90 miles a week about a month out, running everyday. Once the race is closer I rest my body so that I am ready for the race. I take a few days totally off prior to the race.”

Top of Utah photo courtesy Todd Hugie.

The event has police support, emergency medical services and fire support, as well as several ambulances stationed along the course. “One of the biggest reasons I keep coming back and competing in this race is because of how well organized it is,” Moore said. “It takes a lot to put something like this on and the amount of effort that is put forth is really noticeable.”

More than 900 volunteers showed up to help in all aspects of the marathon, race directors said. Participants began boarding buses at 5 a.m at Merlin Olsen Central Park. They were transported from the park to Hardware Ranch for the 7 a.m. start.

Although there are many people who don’t run for the competition, there are perks for those who finish first. “We give away thousands and thousands of dollars in prize money,” Hugie said. “This is a high quality event that we put on for our runners.”

Participants in the marathon were split into 15 different age categories starting at 11 years and younger, and then increasing by four years up until the last group, of 75 and older. The top five male and female finishers in each of those age groups received prize money. The event also had relay, wheelchair, and hand cycle categories, as well as a Clydesdale and Filly division for heavier individuals.


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