Nothing beats life in the city, but even the most devout city lovers get sick of Salt Lake City’s slushy sidewalks and grimy gutters after a few months of winter—especially if they’re runners. If you’re feeling pent-up frustration due to being mostly indoor-bound, it’s the perfect season for a challenge—whether that’s moving up in the rankings, beating your own personal best or taking the first step toward a longer competitive event. With a relatively short drive, you can be out of the city and in (slightly) warmer climes for the weekend. And spring is just a few months away, bringing with it ice-free sidewalks and more urban races.
Wild Goose Chase 5K/10K
Delta: Feb. 23
It’ll still be a little chilly in Delta, with a high of 46 degrees, but no other race in the state lets you combine your runner’s high with the sight of thousands of snow geese in the middle of their annual migration. It’s an event for the whole family flock, with walking 5Ks and 12-and-under races for the kids, as well as men’s and women’s 5K and 10K groups. The runs take place on both paved and unpaved surfaces along Gunnison Bend Reservoir, where the Lesser Snow Geese congregate. Registration is $25 for adults and $10 for kids.
Red Rock Relay
Dixie: March 9
Moab: May 11
A one-day relay in southern Utah is the perfect way to jump-start the active season, especially when it’s a group effort. Six-person teams will race through a 70-mile course, with each member running two legs of the race. St. George’s elevation of 2,860 feet is low compared to the rest of the state, and the terrain is mild, cutting along the Virgin River trail, Veyo, Snow Canyon and Gunlock—and the average temperature is a just-right 70 degrees. Two months later in Moab, the temps will be about the same, but the course is a bit more challenging, with much of the race taking place in the La Sal mountains. Registration is $500 per team.
Moab: March 16
After picking up your race packet and swag bag, you can silently intimidate fellow runners as you chow down on a pasta fundraiser dinner the night before the race. The race itself starts 11 miles outside of Moab, winds along the Colorado River and the Arches National Park boundary and finishes in Swanny Park in downtown Moab, which—along with the standard water, Gatorade, fruit and all that—will feature a post-race beer tent. A five-mile race will be held in addition to the half marathon (13.1 miles), sharing the final, slightly uphill, five miles of the course. This is a popular race, thanks to its red-rock scenery, but slots were still available as of press time. Registration is $70 for either race.
Mud Run 5K
Hurricane: April 20
Not “just” a 5K, the Mud Run features more than 10 military-style obstacles and, of course, plenty of mud. A small number of runners will run in different heats throughout the day, so you don’t have to worry about lines forming before each obstacle—though you’ll still want to scurry to be the first one over.
Salt Lake City Marathon
If you haven’t been able to make it to a southern Utah race before now, it’s time to dust the cobwebs off your running shoes for the Salt Lake City Marathon. Its mostly flat and, in some areas, downhill course makes it a great warm-up for spring. The race starts at the Olympic Legacy Bridge at the University of Utah and winds through SLC neighborhoods and the city center, finishing at The Gateway. A half marathon, 5K, kids marathon and bike tour will also be held. Registration varies by event and time of registration, $40-$110.
Ironman 70.3 Triathlon
St. George: May 4
Formerly a full-distance Ironman triathlon of 140.6 miles of running, biking and swimming, this year marks the beginning of the St. George Ironman’s new incarnation as a 70.3 triathlon. It’s still a serious tri—there’s a prize purse of $15,000 at stake, as well as 75 qualifying slots for the 2013 Ironman World Championship 70.3 in September. And, of course, there’s the same stunning southern Utah scenery to be enjoyed during your 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run.