Yellowstone Half Marathon

In mid-June I ran Vacation Races’ Yellowstone Half Marathon with a couple of girlfriends. I use the term “ran” very loosely. It was more of a run, jog, hike, walk through the piney woods of the town of West Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Half Marathon, staging area

Clear blue skies at the start of the race lasted throughout the day. L-R: Erica Norland, Tracy Watt, Cynthia Helland.

Regardless, our race day was glorious from start to finish with mild temps and blue-bird skies. We arrived at the starting area around 7 a.m. My friend Cynthia, her sister Erica and I got a few photos with Smokey the Bear – by the way, this was the first race ever that I carried bear spray. The organizers mentioned in their literature that bringing some might not be a bad idea. This was also the first time at a race where complimentary bug spray was offered in the staging area. Luckily, neither of these ended up being needed!

Yellowstone Half Marathon

The race started out on a dusty dirt road at an elevation of about 6,670 feet.

When the gun went off for the start, twenty-something Cynthia, thirty-something Erica and, uh, fifty-something me, went stride for stride – for at least 50 feet. I then allowed them to sprint ahead and graciously took up the rear of our little threesome.

The 13.1 mile course started out on a dusty dirt road and eventually wound through the pine trees on a single track trail. There were a couple of kick-ass hills and sometimes the going was super rocky and technical. I witnessed one gal fall, and I stubbed my toes and almost went down a couple of times. For a few miles we ran along a dirt road that had clearly been blasted out of the Rocky Mountains. I had to walk a portion of this, not only so I would not trip and fall on the rocks, but because I was admiring the sparkling of the sun off of a pretty little creek below.

Yellowstone Half Marathon

The sun sparkled off a meandering creek flowing through the back woods of West Yellowstone.

A few miles from the finish, the road leveled out and the dust kicked up again. I began to see a spackling of spectators with signs and bells and shouts of encouragement. I was able to finish strong with arms raised through the finish line.

Yellowstone Half Marathon, finisher medals

The Yellowstone Half Marathon finisher medals were big and beautiful. L-R: Erica Norland, Tracy Watt, Cynthia Helland.

Yellowstone Park, Uncle Tom's Trail to Lower Falls

Uncle Tom’s Trail includes 328 stairs down to Yellowstone’s Lower Falls.

Erica and Cynthia had been hydrating and re-carbing for 20 and 30 minutes respectively. I got my medal – the largest and most beautiful one in my collection – we took a few more photos, and back to the hotel we went to shower and change out of our dirty, salty clothes.

Now, at this point, I figured I would be toast. The twenty-something wanted to go do some hiking in Yellowstone. I must have been on a runner’s high, because I got in the car with those two gals and off to the Park we drove. Cynthia, ever the planner, took us to traipse around the Hot Pots, the Cliffs of the Yellowstone River, Tower Falls, and the Lower Falls at Uncle Tom’s Trail – some 328 stairs down, and 328 stairs out! Along our drive, we saw elk, deer, bison, bear and a multitude of thrill-seeking, foolhardy tourists – folks, these are wild animals!

Yellowstone Park, elk and tourists

Tourists taking selfies with a bull elk in Yellowstone.

This wild animal was spent. We headed back to the town of West Yellowstone, and I cannot even remember what we had for dinner. It was a beautiful day with beautiful people in beautiful Yellowstone.

Next year I might try Vacation Races’ Grand Teton Half Marathon.