Over the past several years the lure of long distance running has intensified across the U.S. and in Utah Valley. In 2008, the first year of the Utah Valley Marathon, there were 240 participants. In 2010 the number soared to nearly 4,000 and in 2011 the number jumped again to almost 6,000.
Friends and family members positioned themselves at different points along the 26 miles of road running through Provo Canyon to downtown Provo.
Chelsea Higgins, of Herriman, was thrilled when she crossed the finish line after running the half marathon portion of the race. Higgins finished the race arm in arm with two new friends, Bliss Straw, of Salt Lake City, and Wendy Evans, of Bountiful, whom she met during the last mile of the race.
"We got together and said to each other, 'We've got to get through this and finish together.' "
Higgins's favorite part was running down Provo Canyon. "You can't pick a better run than this," Higgins said. "The whole first half you forget you are running the canyon is so beautiful. It's like taking a Sunday drive basically."
For others the race wasn't quite like a pleasant scenic drive. Kassi Harmon, a BYU steeple chase All-American, said that it was the hardest thing she had ever done. "Running downhill was nice," Harmon said, "but there were still some ups ... and those ups killed me." With a time of just under two hours and 50 minutes Harmon was the 2011 female winner of the Utah Valley Marathon.