Grand Canyon Trail Half Marathon
Saturday, November 6, 2021
Run or walk a half-marathon, 5km or 1-mile in the beautiful Kaibab National Forest, just south of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Souvenir race medal, colorful long sleeve shirt, race goodies, and more to commemorate your iconic journey through the trails near the South Rim.While you’re vacationing at the Grand Canyon National Park, take advantage of all the discounts offered by our friends at the Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce and enjoy your visit to America’s most awe-inspiring destination.
The (about) 13.1 mile trail loops through the beautiful forest and high desert of the Kaibab National Forest, while the 5k is an out-and-back, partially on a paved portion of the Arizona Trail and partially on a forest service road. The courses do not descend into the Grand Canyon, but all race participants can purchase a National Park Service pass to visit the Grand Canyon National Park.
The Grand Canyon Trail Half Marathon is a joint partnership between the Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce and Run Tucson, the premier local running company in Arizona.
What Else To Do:
After the race, you can relax on a sightseeing tour by vehicle, air, bicycle, or mule. Check out this link for possible tours: https://grandcanyoncvb.org/activities/.
Our family (including grandma from Durango and the two kids up from Tucson) and some members of our workout group in Tucson will probably hike and/or run one of the trails at the South Rim on Sunday morning.
For an easy recovery run, you may enjoy the flatter Rim Trail alongside the edge of the South Rim. The Bright Angel Trail is well-regarded as a tourist-friendly trail, while the Kaibab Trail is more rugged and steep, with no water available. Please remember that all trails into the Canyon are arduous and potentially dangerous, so we recommend that you take all precaution when running in and near the Grand Canyon. You can find more information on nearby Grand Canyon National Park options here https://grandcanyoncvb.org/national-park-area-info and here https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/hiking-for-fitness.htm.
Where To Stay – Six Hotels/Motels in Tusayan:
Red Feather Lodge – This remodeled family friendly option can offer all the comforts of home – enjoy a beautiful grand entrance, fully remodeled rooms, a workout room, and laundry. Our race crew is staying at the Red Feather Lodge, and it’s our family’s go-to spot in town.
Grand Canyon Holiday Inn Express and Suites: with 30 beautiful suites.
The Grand Hotel: the only 3-diamond hotel in the region and one of the few area hotels with an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub. Check for safety protocols.
Grand Canyon Plaza Hotel: beautiful rooms recently remodeled with a gorgeous atrium and an incredible mural as you enter the lobby. They also host a local favorite, The Wagon Wheel Saloon.
Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn: this resort-style property boasts a newly renovated indoor / outdoor pool and hot tub, indoor arcade and a bowling alley. A little side note – all the photo’s in the hotel are different – each hallway and every room – all tell a story about the Grand Canyon.
7-Mile Lodge: If you decide to stay at the last minute 7-Mile Lodge is perfect – they accept same day bookings only. This cute Lodge will provide you a welcoming local feel.
Half-Marathon Course Overview: The Half-Marathon course is a clockwise loop, designed to put the demanding sections of the race early, when you’re more chipper. The race will will start at the IMAX parking lot, and head south on the sidewalk on the west side of Highway 64 before crossing onto the bike path of Long Jim Loop for another couple of hundred yards, before you head south onto the dirt roads of the Kaibab National Forest. Racing Advice: there is plenty of room on the dirt portions of the course, so no need to go like crazy in the first half mile. In 2019, the course was dry and dusty — if there is any rain, it may get muddy in places.
The next 3-4 miles are on Forest Service Road #2607, which will be pretty rugged, with a bunch of “rolling uphill” and some challenging footing (see the photo from near Mile 3), so it’ll be a bit slow. Racing Advice: Be mindful of your footing, recognize that a bunch of this stretch goes uphill, and be patient.
From approximately Mile 4-8 the trail smooths out and drops in a “rolling downhill” manner — the footing is easier and you can probably get in a nice little rhythm, especially once you get onto Forest Service Road 2604. Near Mile 7.5 you’ll go under the historic railroad tracks, then go under them again near Mile 8– it’s a fun little figure-S of a section. Mile 9-11 winds through what is called the Coconino Wash, with pretty smooth footing and some especially nice forested views. Racing Advice: take advantage of the smoother footing and the gentle downhill portions on this stretch.
Mile 11-12 is mostly on the well-travelled dirt road #328. The road is open to the public, so please stay to the side. Racing Advice: there may be some “washboard” sections on this portion of the course, so be mindful of footing. But there is some significant downhill — you should be able to make good time at this portion of the course.
From approximately Mile 12 to the finish you will be on a paved multi-use path, part of which is the famed Arizona Trail. You can run on the pavement, but there is also dirt alongside if you favor the softer surface.
Racing Advice: This largely downhill section should give you a pretty quick finish to the finish line with nice shade and the chance to push pace a bit.
The Half-Marathon course is almost exactly 13.1 miles (but may be long by as much as .1 or .2 — hard to tell with the different measuring devices). The maps we’ve included come from MayMyRun, which says this: This is a 13.19 mi route. The route has a total ascent of 555.58 ft and has a maximum elevation of 6,729.3 ft.
The 5k Route: The 5k will be an out and back, starting at the Finish Line and heading north on the multi-use path. At approximately 8/10 of a mile the 5k course will turn left (west) and head onto the dirt road. At 1.55 miles you will see the turnaround marker and the Water Station. The “out” portion rolls gently uphill, the “back” portion is a swift and smooth drop to the finish line. Racing Advice: Enjoy the rolling uphill and gentle turns for the first mile, manage your footing on the dirt-road out-and-back, and let ‘er rip on the downhill last mile to the finish!
- NOTE: The Kaibab Forest will be open to others on race day. We will have signage explaining that a special event is occurring, but please note that others may be using the trails and roads.
- Half-Marathon Water Stations: at approximately Mile 3 with water, Mile 6 with water and GU , 9 (with water, GU, and Gatorade), and 11.5 (with water and Gatorade)
- 5k Water Stations: at the turn-around, 1.55 miles from the starting line
- Water and Aid Stations: We want you to be self-sufficient on the race course, so please be sure to pack what you think you will need. Having said that, we will have volunteers on the course to support you. We’ll have plenty of food and water at the finish line, with support from the Tusayan Fire Department, Coconino County Sheriff, and others as needed.
What to Pack
Many of you are coming from low altitude locations, so it may be better to overpack for a weekend at high altitude. At this writing, we can’t anticipate the specific weather, but we recommend that you pack enough clothes to have layers available for any type of weather. When in doubt, please choose safety over performance.
If it is hot: If race day dawns warm and sunny, please be sure to have a hat with a brim. You may wish to wear sunscreen, but much of the course is shaded by the various pine, fir, spruce, and juniper trees. On a hot day, be sure to stay hydrated with water and drinks that contain salt and electrolytes.
If it is cold: If race day is chilly (or worse), you should probably wear layers. Many runners like a synthetic undergarment that wicks away moisture. Be sure to have headwear of some sort, either a beanie-type hat that covers your ears, a headband that covers your ears, or at least a brimmed cap to keep your skull warm and keep sunshine at bay. You may want to consider running tights and a wind jacket that guards against a cold breeze. The race shirt is a heather-blend long-sleeve, but we recommend that you bring clothes you have worn in the past.
If it is wet: If it is raining, sleeting, or snowing, you would be well-served wearing layers and a performance jacket that keeps moisture from leaking onto your skin and fends off the wind.
Recommended Footwear: As you can see in the photos way below, much of the course is on pretty rugged terrain, with rocks, roots, and hard-packed and soft dirt. Personally, we like knobby-soled trail shoes for such terrain, but you know your feet better than we do so perhaps pack a couple of pairs and decide on race day which is best for you.
What to Eat and Drink
We are grateful to Gatorade for donating product to this RRCA Championship event and to GU Energy labs for donating packets of their wonderful GU energy gel.
We will have aid stations at approximately Miles 3, 6, 9, and 11.5, with water at every stop, and Gatorade at Mile 6 and Mile 11.5, and GU packets at Miles 6 and 9. (Please do not litter on the course!)
Having said that, please bring your own fuel as you need. We recommend water or sports drinks that have electrolytes and sodium, with whatever snacks you will find helpful.
This race takes place at high altitude, so please be sure to hydrate in the days before traveling to Northern Arizona – and be sure to hydrate in the 24 hours before the race. We recommend drinking not just water but sports drinks and/or fruit drinks to ensure that you have sodium, sugars, and electrolytes in your system. (As you can tell, we want to guard against hyponatremia on race day, which can be caused by taking in too much water for the system to handle.)
Common advice is to ensure that you nourish yourself with complex carbohydrates, healthy proteins, and healthy fats (while some suggest that you ensure bringing in additional iron when running at altitude). You know your GI tract better than we do, so we will leave it to you to ensure that you have the fuels that you need. For example, one of our athletes brings sushi with him on long runs, but that may not work for all of you . . .
Click here for the Endurance Sportswire release about prize money for the 2021 race.
Prize money will be awarded to the top three male and female finishers, with additional course record awards. The first male and female will each receive $300. Second place will receive $200, and third place will receive $100. “It’s not a ton of prize money,” admits race director Accetta, “but we want to celebrate the effort of running fast on trails.”
Special course record bonuses of $200 will go to the man and woman who break the male and female course records. The women’s course record was set in 2020, when Janet Bawcom, a former US Olympian who is a nurse at the South Rim, won the overall race in a time of 1:27:13. The men’s course record of 1:26:07 was set in 2021 by Stephen Eles of Houghton, Michigan.
The Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce is putting together a package of souvenir goodies for age-group awards in the half marathon.