Foothill Flyers Race Reviews
Last update February 14, 2018         Return to Race Reviews

Death Valley Marathon, Half & 10K

1st Saturday in February, Death Valley, CA, 7-9 AM Start.

App and info: call 415-868-1829 or email:

Catherine Gallagher's 2011 experience:
As the rest of the nation battles snowstorms, blizzards, power outages, and sub-zero weather, what do we in California do? We don our running shoes and participate in one of many races that happened this weekend. We have classic images struck by names like Surf City or Rose Bowl, and local commemorations for people like Shar Anderson, or the quiet stark beauty of Death Valley. How to choose? I think, for me, Death Valley has the allure of a town so remote that cell phones lose service, and vast vistas of hills and valleys rich with every earth tone imaginable. Where else can one run an entire marathon below sea level? The race is small. About 285 runners evenly split between a 1/2 marathon and a full. Another 55 or so running a 10K. The course is an out-and-back, and there are no formal lane markers. The slower runners get to cheer on the winners and even high five a few friends as they pass. In fact, many people along the way - fast or slow - use the opportunity to encourage fellow runners. This is a special experience in a special place.

The course is deceptively tough. A little downhill, until mile 2 where there's a pretty steep climb, and then downhill again until about mile 9. Mind you, this is an out and back. So that lovely downhill is all UP from mile 18 to 24; just when the legs are rebelling. And in between? Rolling hills. You can distract yourself with the views, and there are many breathtaking ones along the way. No music here; the park forbids iPods. At times, especially once the 1/2-marathoners have made their turn and the participants drop by 1/2, or again when all have turned and each is on his own trek to the finish, one has long moments of solitude that are almost unnerving in this wilderness. But, then again, isn't that how many of us train?

For me, the last eight miles or so were the toughest. I'll be glad when I'm strong enough and paced properly to say that isn't so. Here, I had to play head games and force myself to run for a count of 100, allow a walk, then run again. Near the end the count lessened. I kept watching my Garmin. Goal of 4:30 missed...arg... but could I still get a PR? I thought my best time was 4:35 and change. (In fact, a quick check on Athlinks tonight noted it was 4:38:26.) 10 steps, run 20. At the very end two friends were there to run me in and with their encouragement I found enough energy to sprint the last few feet; thank you friends! Did I make it? Yes! I came in at 4:34:58. And, (the beauty of a small race), I took 3rd place in my age group too.

This race takes a bit of driving to get to, but personally, the drive, the run, and the whole experience is very rewarding.

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