The Thankful 13 half marathon is Utah’s one and only marathon taking place on Thanksgiving (or the fourth Thursday of every November). The 13-mile stretch takes runners along the Jordan River Parkway Trail, along the river, past ponds, and through plenty of verdant wooded areas. Starting from 2919 Executive Parkway in Lehi, the race is held in support of the Harrington Center for the Arts, as well as Run for Mental Health, a local nonprofit that sees a portion of the proceeds from the race.
The half marathon sees around 2100 runners each year and features a 5k race as well as a kid’s run on the same day, all starting from the same place at a different time. The start elevation of the race is at 1388 meters, and it never differs too much from that, with a net gain of 25 meters throughout. The terrain of the Jordan River Parkway Trail is relatively even and easy-going, with a serenity to the park and plenty of cheerers along the way to really bring in the festive feel.
The majority of the race takes place through the Jordan River Parkway Trail, along the paved tracks that lay out the trail for over 40 miles between Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake. The run offers only a snippet of these gorgeous urban park surrounded trails. Starting from Executive Parkway, in the aptly named Thanksgiving Point, runners head north towards the Thanksgiving Point Golf Course, passing it on Garden Drive. Here, they switch from the roads to the Jordan River Parkway trails at Cottonwood Drive, and head back south through Olympic Park and Willow Park. From there, the last mile turns north through the residential streets of Main Street and back up to Olympic Park. After 8 miles of running along the river, runners double back through adjacent roads back to the starting point of the race.
This relatively recent race has been going since 2014, making 2019 the fifth thanksgiving celebrated by runners in the Jordan River Parkway Trail. Besides the gorgeous public parks and the peaceful Jordan River, runners also see the town of Lehi, Utah, in full festive glow on a race that’s mostly flat, making it just as welcoming to first time runners and walkers. The half marathon starts from 8:00 am, with race entry available from around $40-80, including fees, with prices increasing as the race gets closer.
The expo takes place at the Karl Malone Training Center the night beforehand, where runners receive their bib number, timing chip (attached to the bib) and shirt. There are aid stations throughout with porta potties, water, first aid, and hot chocolate. The half marathon brings an especially festive finish, as well. Not only do you get all the music, festivities, medals and swag expected from a half marathon, but there’s going to be plenty of pumpkin pie, hot chocolate, cider, dinner rolls, and more at the end. As the slogan of the run goes, it’s all about “run more, eat more” at the Thankful 13.
A festive treat for the Lehi, Utah community, a run showcasing some of the gorgeous local urban parks, as well as the beauty of the Jordan River Parkway Trail (not to mention the river itself), the Thankful 13 is one of the easier going, most friendly, and overall fun half marathons you could hope to find in Utah. The festive air of Thanksgiving takes hold, with plenty of turkey and pilgrim costumes to be found along the way, and some scrumptious eats awaiting you at the race’s end for good measure.
The sights and scenery may not be as dramatic as some of the half marathons exploring nearby mountain ranges and canyons, but the Jordan River Parkway Trail offers a serene and cozy environment to enjoy your thanksgiving morning in, with scenic urban parks dotting the course with greenery under the tint of the changing autumn winter. Warm clothes are recommended, especially if you’re taking it easy, at the average high temperatures tends to be in the mid-to-high forties, while the average lows can dip down into the twenties. Maybe those turkeys on the track have the right idea.
In terms of ease and accessibility, this is one of the most welcoming half marathons you’re likely to find in Utah. There are so many downhill races in Utah that experienced runners may like the “break” provided by this much flatter, easier going race. It’s also well suited to families, younger race-goers, first-time runners and those who would simply prefer to lightly jog or walk for majority of it.
The Thanksgiving theme to the race also gives it a rather heartwarming effect. Not only are we talking about festive costumes, but also the sheer supply of delicious treats awaiting you at the end, including Thanksgiving dinner rolls, pumpkin pie and hot chocolate. Just make sure to save some room for dinner later. Even better, every year there are lots of signs dotted along the course, listing things that people running the race and in the community are thankful for, a design that’s also carried over to the medals in their thanksgiving inscriptions.
If you’re looking for a super challenging, serious half marathon for top-tier competition only, the Thankful 13 is still competitive, but most of the other attendees are simply going to be taking an easier time with it. The thankful energy is really what stands out the most about the run, alongside excellent efforts from the race director, crew, and volunteers that really bring the event to life.
If you don’t mind the cold, this is definitely a curiosity amongst Utah’s half marathons that is worth taking the time for. The scenery is nice and relaxing, the energy is incredibly positive and uplifting (even for a running event), and the award ceremony and celebration at the start is bound to feel uplifting and heartwarming, making an excellent start to just about anyone’s Thanksgiving day.