Slow traffic expected on SR-9 during sold-out Zion Half Marathon

In this 2016 photo, Walter Brown (left, black singlet) and Aaron Metler (right, black singlet) of St. George lead the pack at the start of the 2016 Zion Half Marathon, Virgin, Utah, March 12, 2016 | Photo by Lucid Images and courtesy of Vacation Races, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The town of Springdale has issued a traffic advisory for Saturday during the Vacation Races Zion Half Marathon which will run from Virgin to Springdale on state Route 9.

Runners will start in Virgin at 7 a.m. and will run along SR-9 through Rockville and end in Springdale in front of Cable Mountain Lodge near the mouth of Zion National Park. See race details here.

Pilot cars will be implemented along the portions of the route where runners are on the road to help with safety and traffic flow, Vacation Races event director Lyle Anderson said, adding that part of the course will be run on an adjacent path.

Those wishing to avoid added delays, including race spectators, should plan to be in Springdale prior to the race’s start.

This will mark the eighth year for the Zion Half Marathon, which is part of a larger series of half marathons and ultra marathons held near national parks all over the country.

This file photo from 2015 shows the finish line of the Zion Half Marathon, Springdale, Utah, March 14, 2015 | Photo by Scott Young, St. George News

The popular half marathon brings in roughly 2,500 participants and sells out nearly every year due to its proximity to Zion, Anderson said.

Since 2013, the race has been held along SR-9 all but two of the years. Races were held on the east side of Zion National Park in 2017 and on Smith Mesa above Virgin in 2018 to accommodate for road construction being held along the highway and in Springdale.

While Anderson understands motorists’ frustrations with the traffic delays, he said Vacation Races works very hard to make sure the race is beneficial for the local community in many ways.

Anderson estimates that for every participant there are 1 1/2 spectators, many of them from out of town, who stay in hotels and bed and breakfasts, frequent area restaurants and purchase souvenirs.

And not just in Zion but the outlying communities as well, Anderson said.

This file photo from 2015 shows runners along Zion Park Boulevard in the Zion Half Marathon, Springdale, Utah, March 14, 2015 | Photo by Scott Young, St. George News

“It’s a huge economic boom,” Anderson said, adding that the race, which had previously been held in the spring, was moved to February in 2019 in order to help spread out visitation to the shoulder season and bring more people in when there typically aren’t as many tourists.

In addition to the economic boost, Vacation Races operates a nonprofit called Wander Project, which raises funds through donations as well as a charity bib program to give back to local nonprofits that are beneficial to Zion National Park and communities within the Zion corridor, race director Dehn Craig, said.

Funds collected from this year’s race will be distributed in July through a grant process.

“We are encouraging community nonprofits in and around Zion to apply for funds based on what they have identified as the most important needs within the community,” Craig said.

Interested nonprofits can learn more on the Wander Project website.

Saturday’s race is expected to have good weather with temperatures in the mid- to high-30s at the start and warming up to the low 60s during the day with a 0% chance of precipitation, according to the Weather Channel’s five-day forecast for Springdale.

“We’re just excited to have everyone come and to share the beauty of Zion with all our amazing participants,” Anderson said.

The traffic advisory will be in effect until about noon.

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