The Arches Half Marathon, or The Other Half as it has more recently come to be known, is a point-to-point half marathon run that takes place every October in the community of Moab, Utah. Starting from the historic landmark of the Dewey Bridge on Highway 128, it takes runners through 13 miles of gorgeous rocky terrain, surrounded by imposing red canyons on a challenging downhill run. The event was started as a companion for the spring Canyonlands Half Marathon (hence why it’s called The “Other” Half), but has become increasingly popular year on year.
The half marathon has grown over recent years to draw more than 900 runners, with numbers continuously on the rise. There’s also a 10K race on the same day, starting from the Hittle Bottom Campground and ending at the Sorrel River Ranch, following the river along the way. Like many of Utah’s runs, the half marathon features lots of slopes, with runners starting at an elevation of 4100 feet and climb up to a peak of 4,300 feet before taking a descent from there.
From Dewey Bridge, the race continues to follow to the Colorado River on one side and the highway on the other, with well paved roads carrying you throughout the entire 13 mile stretch. The first half of the race is relatively even, with a slight incline and some hills thrown in along the way but, immediately after that, the race reaches its peak with a steep upward climb.
At hitting the highest elevation of the race, it’s a quick half-mile descent, with the elevation continuing to drop steadily, and some hills dotting the way down, before the last mile takes you on another fast downhill run towards the end point at the Sorrel River Ranch Resort. Along the way, the red canyons, beautiful views of the river, and landmarks of Fisher Towers and Castle Rock pass you by, making for one of the more picturesque runs in Utah, without a doubt.
Although still largely seen as a companion race to contrast the much beloved Canyonlands Half Marathon in the Spring, The Other Half/the Arches Half Marathon has been going since 2004, making 2019 the fifteenth annual race along the Colorado River. Given the sharp inclines and declines, it’s certainly one of the more challenging terrains in Utah, so perhaps not the most accessible for first tim95e runners. The race starts at 8:30am, and race entry is available from $95, but prices will rise as the race day comes closer.
The expo takes place from 3pm to 7pm the day before, at the Moab Aquatic and Recreation Center. The race day packet pickup is at the starting line, with shuttles picking up from Moab Valley Inn, Red Cliffs lodge and the Gravel Park Lot. There are, of course, aid stations along the way, providing porta potties, water, first aid and more. Reach the end and you’ll be welcomed at the finish line festival at Sorrel River Ranch. Besides your results for the race, there’s a beer garden with some local craft beer on tap, live music, and plenty of food to kick off the celebrations.
Though not one of the most widely known or best organized half marathons in Utah, The Other Half is quickly becoming known as one of the most scenic, not to mention, most challenging events for serious runners. The expo at Moab shows a lot of the community spirit involved in the event, but the race takes place outside of Moab, so the race is relatively quiet and serene but for the runners and supports at the aid stations along the way.
For a lot of runners, the main attraction of the Arches Half Marathon is going to be in the sheer challenge of the run. While the paved trail is gorgeous, offering some excellent views of red rocky canyons and the accompanying Colorado river, the climb, downhill sections, and the bouncing hills continuously dotted throughout the entirety of the course are likely to drain your energy more than you might expect. As such, it might not be the best run for newcomers or those hoping to take their half marathon a little easy, but those looking for a challenge are certainly going to find it here.
The scenery is a major highlight along the way, as well. The trail takes you throughout the Arches National Park (which is well worth exploring by car after you finish at Sorrel River Ranch Resort). Sandstone arches, red rock formations, and the local landmarks along the way, including the snow-capped La Sal mountains, all make it easily one of the most picturesque runs you’re likely to find in all of Utah, if you can take the time to appreciate it during the rather grueling race.
Overall, the Arches Half Marathon is a great run and well on its way to becoming a terrific event. Its popularity is steadily growing, so the organization, production, and surrounding expo are still a little on the lacking side, but the actual trail itself has everything it needs to grow it into an event as beloved and as popular as the springtime Canyonlands Half Marathon. The celebration festival at the end of the race does have a nice, fun vibe that’s rather distinct from other Utah marathons, as well. The trail alone is worth the half marathon, and we look forward to seeing how the event surrounding it grows over the coming years.