Half Marathon

Quick Race Info

Note: We are excited to announce our new half marathon course, which we plan on keeping for years to come. In an effort to plan for long-term growth, we have instituted the changes described below to provide the best possible course for the half marathon.

This course gives runners a large and secluded staging area at Spruces Campground and eliminates the need for a significant walk-down to the start line. It also gives runners an additional mile in the canyon compared to the previous course.

Best of all, this course ends with the best downhill finish possible. Runners exit the canyon and continue straight down Fort Union Boulevard, without making a single turn, to finish in front of the Cottonwood Heights city offices. Check out more details below.

The Big Cottonwood Half Marathon may be the fastest and most beautiful half marathon course you will ever run. Experience the amazing views in the canyon with the sun coming up and the fall leaves glowing brightly.

The half marathon begins at Spruces Campground in Big Cottonwood Canyon and runs straight downhill among the canyon cliffs and alongside Big Cottonwood Creek for nearly 10 miles to the mouth of the canyon.

After exiting the canyon the course is straight, downhill, and fast, without a single turn on the entire course and a continual slope down to the finish. At the mouth of the canyon runners will continue straight onto Fort Union Boulevard and continue due west to the finish line in front of the Cottonwood Heights city offices.

The half marathon course is USATF certified with number UT12016GAN.

The following interactive map shows the course. Feel free to zoom in and pan around to see all the details of the course.

The elevation plot for the Big Cottonwood Half Marathon is shown below. The half marathon has a net downhill of 2900 feet, with minimal uphill and a 500-foot drop from the mouth of the canyon to the finish line. The average grade in the canyon is 5%, and outside the canyon there is still an average grade of 2.5%. This course is fast!

According to a study highlighted in a recent Runner's World article, the grade in Big Cottonwood Canyon is near optimal for running efficiency. We are confident that you can set a personal record (PR) on this course regardless of where you are coming from, where you have raced before, or how many races you've run.

Based on the experiences of runners coming from lower elevation in previous years, altitude has not been a factor and many have been able to achieve personal records by significant amounts. Because the race is significantly downhill, the cardiovascular requirements are largely minimized. Additionally, because atmospheric oxygen levels increase as the course descends, runners benefit from increased oxygen intake as they progress in the race.

The elevation plot below is interactive. Feel free to zoom in and check out every detail of the elevation profile.

This may be the fastest half marathon course you will ever run. It is not uncommon for our runners to achieve significant PR's in the half marathon on our course, with many of them accomplishing double-digit PR's. Check out the "PR testimonials" from our runners on the left side of our home page to get a feel for how fast the course is.

The following chart compares average half marathon times for the Big Cottonwood Half Marathon and other half marathons in the state of Utah. If you want a PR, this is your course!

Race Expo

Information regarding the Big Cottonwood Marathon & Half race expo is forthcoming.

Race-Day Parking & Busing

Maps and additional information regarding race-day parking & busing is forthcoming.

Race Bags & Personal Belongings

You may take your race bag and any personal belongings with you to the starting areas. A number that matches your race bib will be affixed to the outside of your race bag. This is to identify your bag at the finish area after the race, and you will need your bib to prove ownership of your bag when you pick it up. Please carry any belongings to the starting area in this bag, as opposed to any other personal bags, which cannot be identified by your race number. Bags must be placed in the transport vehicles at the starting areas no later than 6:45 AM.

Starting Areas

The half marathon will begin approximately 10 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon at Spruces Campground, and the full marathon will begin approximately 15 miles up the canyon at Brighton Ski Resort. Porta-potties, water, hot chocolate, coffee, basic first aid items, and last-minute instructions will be provided at the starting areas. While we will provide gloves and mylar blankets, we highly recommend that you come prepared for cold temperatures at the start line by layering and then shedding your layers to put in your drop bag just before the race begins.

Timing

The races will be chip-timed. Your time will begin when you cross the starting line, not at the start gun, and will stop when you cross the finish line. However, overall race winners will be determined by gun time, not chip time.

Please do not tamper with the timing chips, as they cannot be replaced once linked to your bib number.

Race Bibs

Your timing tag will be affixed to your race bib. It is important that you do not cover your bib with clothing or other objects that may interfere with the bib tag reader when you are crossing the start and finish lines. Furthermore, in order to ensure that race volunteers, officials, and photographers can properly identify you, you must wear your bib on the front of your person in an unobstructed position.

Course Description

Both races descend Big Cottonwood Canyon for a majority of the race distance.

After exiting the canyon the half marathon course continue straight onto Fort Union Boulevard and head due west to the finish line in front of the Cottonwood Heights city offices.

The full marathon course exits the canyon and heads north for an out-and-back on Wasatch Boulevard. After returning to the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon the marathon course will enter Cottonwood Heigths and follow the same course as the half marathon to finish in front of the Cottonwood Heights city offices.

Aid Stations & Nutrition

Aid stations will be located every two miles along the courses. All of our aid stations will be supplied with electrolyte drinks, water, and basic first aid supplies. Additionally, various aid stations will be supplied with energy gels, fruit, and other nutritional items as well as medical personnel.

Details regarding nutrition along the course (brands, flavors, locations) will be provided soon on the website and will also be given in the race program.

Road Safety

The canyon will be partially closed to traffic from 6:45 AM until 10:30 AM on race day. During this time, the westbound lane will be reserved for our runners. Traffic in the eastbound lane will be limited to one direction, which will be coordinated by our pilot cars. Candlestick barricades will be placed every 80 feet along the center of the road, and for your safety you must stay to the right of these barricades at all times while in the canyon.

Once runners leave the canyon, the course will continue to be marked by candlestick barricades and road signs. Please stay within the barricades at all times and be aware of any road traffic around you.

Race volunteers and police officers will be present at all major intersections and turns on the courses to guide runners and stop traffic when necessary. Please follow their directions at all times in order to ensure your safety.

Course Time Limits

Because road closures for the race must be re-opened for normal traffic, we are required to set course time limits. Road closures will be lifted based on a 6:00:00 marathon time. Any runners still on the course after the rolling cut-off times may continue to proceed along the course route to the finish area, but aid station and traffic control support will not be available.

For the full marathon, the cut-off time is equivalent to a 13:45/mile pace for the marathon. This is equivalent to a very light jog or brisk power walk.

Because the half marathon begins further down the canyon and heads straight to the finish line after exiting the canyon, the cut-off pace for the half marathon is slower than it is or the full marathon, at roughly 22:00/mile.

The expectation is that only a few runners, if any, will be affected by the course time limits.

Race Pacing

Pacers will be at the both the full and half marathon to lead everyone to a fast time.

The full marathon will include pacers in 10-minute increments at the following paces: 3:05, 3:15, 3:25, 3:35, 3:45, 3:55, 4:05, and 4:15. Whatever level you're at, you'll be in good company running for that Boston mark!

The half marathon will include pacers in 15-minute increments at the following paces: 1:30, 1:45, 2:00, 2:15, 2:30, 2:45, and 3:00.

Photography

There will be photographers at multiple locations along the course to take pictures of your race experience. Be sure to smile big, make a tough face, or strike a pose for the cameras as you go by. Please make sure your bib is visible as well. Photographers will also be at the finish to capture your sprint across the line and take your photos in front of our backdrops.

All race photos will be provided for free via Facebook after the race.

Weather

While we can't predict the weather, we can provide some historical data for you. Please remember that these are average temperatures for the Salt Lake Valley, and that temperatures in the canyon will be considerably cooler in the morning. While we will provide gloves and mylar blankets, we highly recommend that you come prepared for cold temperatures at the start line by layering and then shedding your layers to put in your drop bag just before the race begins.

Average Low:55 F
Average High:77 F
Average:66 F

Medical Assistance

Each of the aid stations will be supplied with a first-aid kit that will include items such as bandages, moleskin, vaseline, anti-inflammatories, etc. If you are in need of any of these items, simply stop and ask the volunteers at the aid station and they will be able to help you.

In addition to the first-aid kits, various aid stations will be staffed by medical volunteers and equipped with a medical tent and cot.

Spectator Locations

Because the canyon will be closed to spectators, we recommend that your family and friends find other good spots along the course to cheer you on. There are countless places they can stake out with multiple opportunities to see you pass by if they plan it right. Refer your fan club to the course maps under the marathon and half marathon tabs to plot out their desired locations. Spectators will also be allowed to park at the finish line to cheer you in and celebrate with you after you cross the line.

Finish Area

Maps and additional information regarding the finish area is forthcoming.

Age Divisions

Age divisions follow the standard USATF guidelines and include the following:

  • 18 & under
  • 19-24
  • 25-29
  • 30-34
  • 35-39
  • 40-44
  • 45-49
  • 50-54
  • 55-59
  • 60-64
  • 65-69
  • 70 & over

Results

Race times will be available shortly after you cross the line at the race, and will also be posted online as soon as possible after the race.

Awards & Ceremonies

All runners completing the race will receive one of our famous finisher's medals as they cross the finish line. Age division and overall awards will be given as well. Additional details regarding these awards and timing for the awards ceremonies are forthcoming.

Airport

If you are traveling to the Big Cottonwood Marathon & Half, the closest airport is the Salt Lake International Airport. It is only fifteen miles from the finish line in Cottonwood Heights, and even closer to downtown Salt Lake City.

Partnering Hotels

We are happy to partner with a number of hotels this year to provide special rates and amenities for our runners.

In addition to the discounted rates, a number of hotels are partnering with us to offer busing to the start lines from the hotel and shuttles back to the hotel from the finish line after the race.

We also want to thank those hotels that will be staffing aid stations along the course, and invite you to look for them during the race and express your appreciation for their support.

Please consult the table below for information regarding special pricing, amenities, reservation details, and hotel locations.

Hotel Rate Miles From Finish For Our Runners Reserve Room
Crystal Inn
818 E Winchester St
Murray, UT 84107
$86 1
  • Special Rate
  • Race busing & shuttling
  • Free pre-race dinner
  • Race-day bag breakfast
  • Additional Amenities
801-685-9300
Doubletree Suites Hilton
110 W 600 S
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
$99 12
  • Special rate
  • Race busing & shuttling
  • Massage therapy
  • Aid station support
  • Additional Amenities
Make Reservation
Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham
6990 S 1435 E
Salt Lake City, UT 84121
$74 - $94 0
  • Special rate
  • Race-day bag breakfast
  • Aid station support
  • Additional Amenities
Make Reservation
Hilton Garden Inn
250 West 600 South
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84101
$99 12
  • Special rate
  • Additional Amenities
801-364-5200
Hyatt Place
3090 E 6200 S
Holladay, UT 84121
$109 4
  • Special rate
  • Race busing & shuttling
  • Race-day bag breakfast
  • Aid station support
  • Additional Amenities
Make Reservation
Residence Inn Marriott
6425 S 3000 E
Salt Lake City, UT 84121
$104 4
  • Special rate
  • Race busing & shuttling
  • Race-day bag breakfast
  • Additional Amenities
800-331-3131

Make Reservation

Perks for Big Cottonwood Marathon & Half Participants

Aside from offering the chance to run down an incredibly beautiful rocky mountain canyon, witness the bright colors of the leaves changing, and getting the best PR opportunity you may ever have, we strive to make this event even more memorable with some additional perks.

Free Photos & Personalized Videos

We provide all our runners with absolutely free race-day photos and personalized race-day videos. It's crazy to pay $50 to $100 for a single image download like other races make you do, and if you want multiple pictures you can easily end up paying more than what you did for your registration. We not only provide all your photos for free, we also compile a memorable highlight video that is customized with your photos and give that to you for free as well! At the Big Cottonwood Marathon & Half, your memories are on us! A registration email will be sent to each runner prior to the race to sign up for the free photos and videos, which will be made available shortly after the race.

Race Medals

Our race medals are not your run-of-the-mill awards. We award huge, high-quality medals that are equal to your effort. Medals from previous years can be seen in the slider at the top of our home page. These are certain to win a place at the top of your medal collection.

Shirts

You will receive a high-quality gender-specific race shirt. We guarantee that this will be a shirt you will want to keep, and maybe purchase an extra or two.

Great Swag

While this year's swag is still to be determined, last year we offered a "GO BIG" silicone wristband, a temporary tattoo to pump you up on race day, a leaf logo window decal, race day gloves, and a mylar blanket to keep you warm at the start lines - all on top of some great promo materials from our sponsors.

Finish Line Festivities

Once you cross the line, stay to enjoy the exciting atmosphere at the finish. Runners will be greeted with some great food as you celebrate your achievement with friends and family. Check out the vendor booths, get a photo in front of our beautiful backdrops, listen to some great music, give a hand to the rest of the runners coming in, and attend the awards ceremonies to congratulate the winners.

Generous Transfer & Withdrawal Policy

We understand that things come up, which is why we try to be as flexible and accommodating as possible. We allow runners to transfer between distances (half to full or full to half), transfer their entry to another individual, and even withdraw from the race if their plans change. Please see our withdraw/transfer page for more details.

Course-Specific Tips

Because this course is unique, we do have a few general tips to offer up to help ensure that you are prepared and ready to take advantage of this incredibly fast course.

Incorporate downhill training. Whatever training plan you use, remember that this course is unique and adjust your training accordingly. Read up on this Runner's World article for information on how to prepare for a downhill course. Our advice is to pick one workout roughly every two to three weeks to replace with a downhill training session. We also recommend making this your long run whenever possible. If you live somewhere with minimal or no hills, you can incorporate downhill running by setting a decline on a treadmill. If you are not yet accustomed to downhill running your legs may be extremely sore after these early sessions, but you should feel more and more accustomed to the downhill each time you return for your next downhill session.

Don't sweat the altitude. Because the canyon portion of the race is significantly downhill, the cardiovascular requirements during this portion are largely minimized. Additionally, atmospheric oxygen levels will increase as runners descend the canyon, allowing them to benefit from increased oxygen intake as they progress in the race. Based on the experiences of runners coming from lower elevation in previous years, altitude has not been a factor and many have been able to achieve personal records by significant amounts.

Go out easy. Anyone who has "bonked" in a half marathon or marathon before will likely tell you that they went out too hard in the beginning. The beauty of this course is that you do not need to risk going out too hard to run a PR. Your mile splits will likely be faster than you are accustomed to while in the canyon, but make sure that you do not push it too hard too early. Let the canyon do the work, check out the leaves, listen to the creek, and find someone fun to run with. We will also have pacers at various paces to keep you in check and on the right pace for your PR.

Take advantage of the downhill opportunity. The Big Cottonwood Marathon & Half offers an amazing opportunity to run a significant PR on a beautiful course. We are confident that you can set a personal record (PR) on this course regardless of where you are coming from, where you have raced before, or how many races you've run.

Consult Our Medical Lectures & Medical Team

Our medical team will be available to provide additional information regarding marathon training and specific training for this downhill course in the coming months. Please continue to check back on the website for updated information, lecture dates, and opportunities to consult directly with our medical team.

In the meantime, please refer to this presentation on downhill running given by Dr. Leslie Rassner, our 2013 Medical Director.

Ask Our Management Team

Our management team consists of long-time runners who are also uniquely qualified to comment on training with regards to this specific course. Between us we have countless races under our belts, avid downhill runners, and former elite collegiate and professional runners. Please feel free to contact us with any training-related questions you may have.

Online Training Plans

There are a number of online resources available to help you determine a training plan that is right for you. Most of these are customizable based on your previous experience and goals. A list of our favorite resources are included here:

Why Run?

We are obsessed with putting on great running events. This is fastest and most scenic course in UT. All runners receive a gender-specific technical running shirt and an awesome finisher medal.

More about the race

Cottonwood Tree

Big Cottonwood Canyon is named after the mammoth sized cottonwood trees that grew near the creek bottoms before heavy logging took place. In fact, by 1910 most of the forest had disappeared. The newly organized Forest Service then stepped in and planted over 250,000 seedlings throughout the canyon, adding to the beauty and rich biodiversity found in the canyon today.

Skiing

Big Cottonwood is home to two of the best ski resorts in the world, Brighton and Solitude. Located just under 30 miles from downtown Salt Lake City, these resorts are among the most accessible ski resorts in the world. Founded in 1936, Brighton Ski Resort was the first ski resort in Utah and one of the first in the United States. Solitude was first developed in 1956 by a mining tycoon after being denied access to the restrooms at Alta, which were reserved for invited guests only.