ST. GEORGE — The St. George Marathon turned 40-years-old this year and the old girl, well, she’s doing just fine.
“It’s as healthy as it’s ever been,” said St. George mayor Jon Pike. “Marathon, 40 years, incredible history, and a wonderful opportunity to host people from all over the state, country and even the world.”
Riley Cook of South Weber, Utah, won the men’s event, missing the all-time record for the St. George Marathon by just 13 seconds. He finished with a time of 2:16:09. The SGM record is 2:15:56, set by this year’s second-place finisher, Bryant Jensen.
“My good friend, Bryant Jensen, was right behind me,” Cook said. “I hit a wall at mile 25 and really felt quite poorly. It felt like he was right there on me, so I just pushed with everything I had. Every step was a struggle, all the way to the finish. But I made it.”
Cook said he was exhausted, more than he usually is after such an event.
“I was running scared,” he joked. “It was very competitive this year, a lot of great runners.”
St. George’s own Aaron Metler actually beat his winning time from the 2015 race, but had to settle for third place in this year’s race. Metler spent the first 30 minutes after the race in the medical tent, getting treatment for cramps and exhaustion.
For the women, on old friend of the race returned triumphantly as Rosy Lee broke the tape for the win. She came in at 2:40:45, 14 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Lindsay Nelson. Lee won the race in 2013, but took the last two years off. At age 40, she said this was, perhaps, her last marathon.
“I’m 40 now and I’m like, this is my marathon. We’re both 40,” she said. “I took two years off, but I had to do this one. My husband said this is my last one. But we’ve said that before. But I think this is it.”
It took everything Lee had in the tank to outlast Nelson, the 27-year-old who was running her very first marathon.
“Yeah, this is my first one,” Nelson said. “Three years ago I was training and I was in really good shape, but I got pregnant. I had a daughter and she’s now two. But I’ve been putting in the miles, 70 to 80 miles a week, sometimes 20-plus mile runs, to prepare for this. I’m pretty shocked by how well I did. I was hoping for 2:50 and I was, like, 2:40 high.”
St. George’s Amber Green, who won last year, placed in fourth.
There were nearly 7,800 runners registered for the 2016 Marathon, with finishers as young as 10-year-old Ava Simmons of South Jordan and as old as 81-year-old Vera Vann-Wilson of Blue Diamond Nev.
St. George city race officials were happy with the participation this year, both from the runners and the volunteers.
“It’s been a lot of fun, with it being the 40th anniversary, and we’ve been trying to do a lot of extra fun things,” said SGM registration’s Emilie Pinkleman. “With the volunteers who come back every year, they help put on an incredible event. There are hundreds of them, working on course preparation, filling bags, aid stations, clean up. So many things. I think that’s why events like this do so well here. It’s just the tremendous support from the community.”
Pike echoed those sentiments.
“It’s a beautiful day, a beautiful course and an incredible event,” he said. “St. George and the surrounding communities come out in force to help out.”
In all, 47 of the 50 states in the US were represented in the 2016 race, as well as runners from 24 foreign countries, including China, Japan and Australia.
However, more than half the runners are from Utah, plus another nearly 900 from California.
About 1,100 of the runners are from Washington County, approximately 14 percent.
The wheelchair winner was Emily McQueen of San Jose, Calif. (with a time of 1:44:03), while the handcycle champion was Chris Sproule of Las Vegas, who completed the 26.2-mile course in 1:03:15.