Review of the 2011 Mid Mountain Marathon
The Mid Mountain Marathon is not your typical marathon. There are no paved roads here. Instead, the race is on a singletrack trail that traverses a mountain range. Stretching 26.2 miles from Silver Lake Lodge at Deer Valley to the base of the Canyons Resort, the Mid Mountain Marathon is a trail runner’s test piece – a marathon for anyone looking for a change from the monotony of pavement and asphalt.
My aversion to road running is why I chose the Mid Mountain Marathon as my first. After training and running for the Ragnar Relay in June, I figured it was the best time to go ahead and check a marathon off the life list. But all the autumn marathons in Utah were already full… except for the Mid Mountain. So I signed up, and started exclusively running trails as preparation.
Seeing as how it’s my first marathon, I have no context to place this event in. But overall I felt it was well organized, flowed smoothly, and was well staffed from the organization, to the aid stations, and the party at the finish line.
The morning of the marathon, all the racers gathered outside the Silver Lake Lodge at Deer Valley. The pre-dawn air was chilled with the oncoming autumn, and several people hid in the heated building to keep warm until race time. Volunteers were on hand to make sure everyone signed their release forms and picked up their numbers. When 7:45 rolled around, the crowd gathered beneath a stationary ski lift. At the stoke of 8 am, a person on a megaphone counted down to zero, and the racers were off.
The beginning of the run looped through the base village on paved roads, where the fast runners could easily be separated from the slow. After about a mile, the course became singletrack as it flowed onto the Mid Mountain Trail, where it would remain until the end of the race. At this point, groups of runners congealed into amoebas as slow runners held up the quick until wide portions of the path allowed room to pass, or aid stations provided opportunity to hang back, or jump ahead of the crowd.
Marathons are hard, but trail running marathons have added difficulties. Rocks and roots are a constant tripping hazard. The trail rolls up and down over and over again, eventually adding vertical gained and lost over the course of miles. Curves obstruct obstacles, the trail’s edge threatens rolled ankles, and runners in front can make you run slow, while the ones behind give a sense of urgency to pick up the pace.
Nine aid stations were dotted along the 26.2 miles as volunteers cheerfully encouraged runners with cups of water and energy drinks. Gels, bars and bananas were also handed out for anyone who needed a boost before continuing on.
In the end, I wouldn’t want to run a marathon any other way but on a trail. The fantastic scenery, the constant danger of tripping, the smell of pine trees, the sound of trickling creeks, and the interaction with other like-minded trail runners make the Mid Mountain Marathon well worth all pain and months spent training. It’s also good to konow that the event benefits the Mountain Trails Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting & maintaining Park City Utah’s trails for non-motorized recreational use.
If I had to gripe, I have only one. The t-shirt prize at the finish line was the ugliest color I’ve ever seen. My eyes almost burned when they gazed upon the neon lime green polyester blend with a peach Mid Mountain Marathon logo. Is it some unwritten law that all free t-shirts have to be butt ugly? I doubt race organizers will ever see anybody out on the trails wearing that monstrosity, including myself. But at least the medal is pretty cool.
I felt I ran pretty well for my first marathon ever, finishing in 4 hours, 43 minutes. That put me at 16th place in my age group… right in the middle of the pack.
So if you’re a marathon runner or a trail runner looking to do your first 26.2 miles like I was, then I highly recommend the Mid Mountain Marathon. The mountains, the organization, the well maintained trail, and friendly fellow runners encouraging you along the way combine to create a classic event.