Are you looking for reviews of the best Utah running events? Maybe you’re searching for a local running group to keep you motivated.
We had the honor of interviewing Allen, a wise Utah marathoner and self-proclaimed “75-year-old geezer who has been running for 38 years”. You can grab all of Allen's running tips at his training blogs Running Injury Free and Old Man Running.
Once you've discovered his favorite races, running tips, and personal experiences, be sure to leave a personal review of your favorite race in Utah!
What makes Utah a great place to run?
Running is popular in Utah. In general, Utahans are health-conscious, and running and walking are ways of helping people have greater aerobic health.
Because it is a desert state, Utah has low humidity, no mosquitoes or black flies, and in general reasonable temperatures. Except for southern Utah where it is significantly hotter, most areas of Utah have summer temperatures of 90s and low 100s (F), and winter temperatures down to about 0. This means that most runners in Utah experience the four seasons without extremes at either end.
The one big drawback to running in Utah is the altitude. Most areas are at 4000-5000 feet. Those who live in the mountains will be at 6000-7000 feet, and those who live in the southern part, known as Utah's Dixie, will be at 2000 feet. Visitors to Utah who aren't used to high altitudes may need to be here long enough to become acclimated to the altitude.
Of course, natives of Utah who travel to lower altitudes for races will think they have a turbocharged body. Because much of the state is mountainous, skiing, hiking, and rock climbing are also popular.
What inspired you to get into running?
When I was attending public schools, all of the attention from parents and my friends was on football and basketball and to a lesser degree baseball. I don't remember if my high school had a track program, and the fact that I don't remember it implies that if a track program did exist, it was a minor sport.
During college I didn't have time for anything except to eat, sleep, and study. However, I did have one good thing going for me. I was raised in a small Utah town where we could walk from one end of town to the other end in an hour. My friends and I walked or rode bikes everywhere. It was common for us to walk a couple of miles to the mountains and then spend the day climbing and playing all over the mountains. All of this activity meant we had strong legs and feet.
After I graduated from college, I bought my first car and my days of walking everywhere came to an end. After a few years, I started having pain in my feet, especially if I spent several hours doing yard work. I thought the pain might be related to my having a very stiff and deformed skeleton (I had to wear work boots until I was nearly finished with Jr. High School because I needed the support of the shoe-top on my ankles).
I was living in Phoenix at the time, and I went to a bone specialist to have him find the cause of my pain. He said I did have a stiff skeleton (he described it as the opposite of double joints) but the problem was that the muscles in my feet were weak. He advised me to do whatever I wanted to strengthen the muscles. I had played around with running, thanks to the influence of a friend at National Guard summer camp, but I hadn't kept up with it due to the pressure of my college classes. For reasons I don't remember, I decided to run.
I jogged in place for a couple of weeks and worked up to 30 minutes of jogging. When that became boring, I ventured outside and began jogging around the block where I lived. I had no friends who ran and no mentors to advise me, and I winged it. In fact I ran in my old Army boots. They were very comfortable boots and had served me well when I did double-time jogs in the Army.
About two or three years later, I moved from Phoenix to Massachusetts for a new job as a computer software engineer, and I found friends who ran and who helped me learn the ropes, so to speak. I subscribed to Runner's World and learned a lot from that. I was introduced to the writings of Doc George Sheehan, and his philosophy became and still is my guide in running. At last, I had found my sport, my thing. I ran because I enjoyed it. I ran because I wanted to. I had found my "heaven" so to speak.
During my 17 years in Massachusetts, I ran four marathons, a couple of 5Ks and 10Ks, and quite a few 5-milers. The runs that I enjoyed the most were 2-milers in my home town. No badges. No certificates. Just people running for the enjoyment of it.
I also enjoyed my 15-mile long runs. I could go in any direction from my house and run for 15 miles. One day I was in the middle of a 15-miler, and a friend saw me and stopped his car and talked with me. After I told him how far I was going, he was surprised I wasn't huffing and puffing. I don't think he believed me when I told him running was pure pleasure.
What’s your favorite pre-race meal? Do you have the same regimen every race?
I don't have a pre-race meal. I don't do a lot of racing and mostly race (and do training runs) on an empty stomach, although I may eat a couple of handfuls of dry Cheerios and a banana before I run.
During my marathons, I carried bananas and ate one each hour. During my working years, in some years I ran in the early mornings before work. In other years I ran at noon while at work. I did some evening runs, but they weren't common. Now that I'm retired, I have the freedom to choose when I want to run, preferring early mornings during the summer and mid-afternoons during the winter.
What are your favorite songs to pump you up for a run?
I don't listen to music while I run. My favorite music is classical, and that isn't the type of music to pump a person up for running. Sousa marches would be nice, but they are too slow in tempo. So, I listen to my body, watch and listen to birds and animals, think and solve problems, and daydream of being the fastest man alive or running million mile ultras.
Which are the most famous or popular local races?
Utah is a large state, and I'm sure each city has its local races. Concerning marathons, there is Top of Mountain in Logan, one in Ogden, the Salt Lake City marathon, the Deseret News marathon (also in Salt Lake City), one in Provo, and the world-famous St. George marathon. Each of those races has half-marathons and 5Ks too.
Like everywhere else, each city in Utah probably has its local 5Ks. My favorite 5K is in June and is held in South Jordan City. It only has about 30 or 40 runners and has retained the atmosphere of a small town. Runners come from all over the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley.
How does running in Utah compare to your previous running experiences in New England?
New England has more back roads with a minimum of traffic. It has more trees. It has colder winters. It has mosquitoes and black flies. It has high humidity. Utah has low humidity, cold and snow but not to the extreme of New England. Utah has no mosquitoes. Both are great places to live and to run.
What is your favorite race day memory?
I think my favorite race-day experience is my first marathon, in Vermont. We began and ended in an Apple orchard. The race (Green Mountain Marathon) was on Grand Isle in Lake Champlain, and there were beautiful views of the lake during the race. I had no pain during or after the race. It was just a fun and great experience.
Two days later I was back on the roads. It was thrilling to finally be a marathoner. I have good memories of all my races. When I race, I'm competing with myself. I'm not bothered by not being the fastest person in the race. I'm just demonstrating to myself that my months of running have paid off.
One 5-miler I ran in Lunenberg, Massachusetts was on New Years Day, and I thought that was a nice way to begin a new year.
What is the typical weather in your state and how does it vary with the seasons? Any precautions runners should be aware of?
Except for the southern part, Utah weather is similar to Massachusetts. Utah is about the same latitude as Washington, DC, but because of its high elevations, the weather here is colder than that in Washington, DC.
The last frost in the spring is about the same as it is in Massachusetts, but the first frost in the fall is a couple of weeks later. The big difference, of course, is the lack of humidity in Utah. My PB for cold weather running is -18 (F) in Massachusetts. I wore up to 5 layers in the winters in New England. In Utah I've only had to wear 3 layers for the same temperature range -- the difference is lack of humidity in Utah.
I would advise runners who visit Utah to realize they are running at high altitudes and they should listen to their bodies and not push themselves. Let their visits to Utah be visits of pleasure not of fatigue.
What is your “must-have” running gear? What gear do you recommend for each race?
Technical t-shirts for summer, a hat that will shade their face, ears, and neck, and a wind breaker for the last layer in winter running (I use an old nylon shell).
What are your favorite running shoes?
I've used LOCO shoes for the past decade. They are a good, basic shoe at a relatively low cost. I'm currently testing a Pearl Izumi shoe and a Saucony shoe. They both are good shoes, too, although at a significantly higher cost than the LOCO.
The most important thing is to get the right shoe for your feet. I'm a supinator and use neutral shoes. Be sure the toe box is big enough so you don't get black toes but not so big that you get blisters.
What are your favorite parks or trails to run? Which locations are best? Which should you avoid?
I do most of my running on the Jordan River Parkway. There is a large fresh water lake in Utah County called Utah Lake. It drains into the Great Salt Lake via the Jordan River.
Utah Lake is about 40 miles from the GSL. Three counties (Davis, Salt Lake, and Utah) have joined together to build a non-vehicular parkway that is adjacent to the Jordan River. When the parkway is finished, people will be able to walk, skate, cycle, and run the 40 miles. Because the Parkway is protected, it is full of wildlife.
I don't live in Salt Lake City and am not familiar with all of the running trails, but two places come to mind that have a lot of walkers and runners: Memorial Park and Sugarhouse Park.
If you could run a race with any person, who would it be?
I would have liked to have run with Doc Sheehan, because he has been such a big influence on me, but he is dead. I'll have to wait until I die, and then maybe I can join him for a run around the universe.
What are your favorite running tips for fellow RunPals?
Run because you enjoy it. Listen to your body to know when you need to rest and when you can push yourself.
Got a favorite running event in your state?
Share your experience in a recent 5k, 10k, half or full marathon!
26.2 Running Club - American Fork, Utah
South Davis Road Runners - Bountiful, Utah
Get Fit Running Club - Highland, Utah
Sojourners Running Club - Orem, Utah
Utah Running Club - Provo, Utah
SLC Track Club - Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake Running Group - Salt Lake City, Utah
If you would like your Utah running group added, just send us an email.