When deciding where to run a half marathon in Wyoming during my quest to run in all 50 states, I just knew it needed to be in the Jackson Hole area so I could make a vacation of it and visit the two nearby National Parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone while in the area.
I came across the Grand Teton Half Marathon which was part of the Vacation Races race series. Vacation Races started in 2012 and holds races ranging from 5Ks to ultra marathons on both road and trails in or near National Parks across the country. I had heard nothing but great things about thier races and knew I needed to try one. I’m not one for trail races and think running in all 50 states is enough of a challenge, so I don’t necessarily need a difficult race, so the fact the Grand Teton Half Marathon was rated as easy, made it the perfect choice for my Wyoming half marathon.
Even though I wasn’t looking for a challenging course, I definitely was not completely opposed to a challenge, so I decided to take on the Moose Double Challenge. This involved running the 5K on the Friday night and then the Half Marathon on the Saturday morning.
When I signed up for the races, I was imagining the perfect cool running weather, but after snow in the area just a couple of weeks earlier, it ended up being a warm 80 degrees for the start of the 5K. Add in over 6,000 feet of elevation for someone that is used to running at sea level and it might as well have been 100 degrees and humid. It was a tough 5K even though it was a completely flat course that mostly went along a bike path. The one advantage to being a slow runner during covid though is that they start you in waves based on your anticipated finish time, so I was in one of the last groups to start, so the temperature was going down a bit towards the end of the 5K. And I was also able to see the first group start, which was fun.
It was a great race though and a good warmup to get used to the elevation for the Half Marathon the next morning. Or so I thought….
The morning of the half marathon started early, I had to be on a shuttle from downtown Jackson Hole to the start at 4:30am. I won’t lie, walking from the hotel thru downtown to the shuttle in the dark early morning hours had me slightly worried about running into wildlife, especially bears. Things that go thru a city girl’s mind when in bear country! Luckily I walked out of the hotel with two other girls also running, safety in numbers!
The race did not start until 6am and due to the staggered start, my wave wasn’t set to start until 7am. Unlike the 5K where the slower runner’s late start had a slight advantage, for the half marathon it did not. It meant sitting around for 2 hours and then having to run more in the hot sun. Luckily they did start us a little earlier than 7am since a week earlier covid restrictions had been lifted because we thought it was over and we could go back to normal (ahh, remember the good old days of the beginning of summer when we thought we could safely be back to normal).
The race started out ok, but it didn’t take more than a couple of miles before the altitude started to bother me, the 5K definitely didn’t help get me used to the altitude nor did the run I did a week earlier in Idaho at over 4,000 feet. I’m pretty sure that I would definitely have an easier time running in 95 degrees and humidity than at the over 6000 feet altitude! Don’t be fooled by my forced smile in the photo below. Many, many rundisney races have taught me to be on the lookout for photographers and put on my ultra happy face, no matter how awful I feel!
As hard as the altitude was to run in, the views along the way more than made up for it. I must say the views in this race were as beautiful as my favorite race in terms of views, Maui Half Marathon. Every mile of the race was more beautiful than the next! I managed to run/walk up until mile 9 then I did nothing but walk the final four miles until the finish line where I forced myself to run. I luckily started talking with another girl at mile 9 and we walked together for two miles, that definitely helped to pass the time.
I probably have never been so happy to see a finish line as I was to see this one. And the finish line views were incredible! Definitely the most beautiful and scenic finish line I’ve ever run thru! They had some great signs leading up to the finish line ad a great photo op after the race with the Grand Teton Half Marathon sign.
After talking with other runners after the race, I definitely learned that even though the altitude was difficult in this race, it is definitely one of their easier races. Some of the trail races sound beyond challenging. There are quite a few people that run all of the races put on by vacation races. I talked to one man who was traveling thru the country running quite a few of the them this year. They even had another challenge called the Grand Quad where you run the 5K and Half Marathon at Grand Teton and the 5K and Half Marathon at Yellowstone the following week. Very impressive how many were in this challenge.
Even with the altitude, I highly recommend this race for your Wyoming race if you are working to run all 50 states. It was incredibly organized and well run, great course support and just a beautiful course! I’d love to get in a little better shape and run another race in the vacation race series, we’ll see, I’m definitely not getting any younger so races just seem to be getting more difficult on my body, but hey, there is always the 5K’s at some of the locations that I can certainly conquer!
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