Shiprock Marathon back on course this weekend

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

SHIPROCK — The 39th edition of the Shiprock Marathon is set to take place on Saturday, and with the exception of a few changes to the race course and protocols for participants, the sense of anticipation for the event is high.

The race was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and was held virtually in 2021, making this weekend's renewal of the event a welcome return to the scenic course.

"It's so important to have the event back, people are just so happy to have the live event where they can be around their friends and families," said Shiprock Marathon race director Tom Riggenbach. "For so many of our local runners and for those from other states and countries, it's a really big deal."

The marathon will feature runners from nearly 45 different states as well as from other countries, according to a statement released by the Shiprock Marathon.

There are a few changes to this year's renewal, most notably to the course itself.

The 26.2 mile marathon will have a common start and finish line, at the Shiprock Youth Center parking lot, while the course will loop around at the midway point, which is located on Navajo Route 13.

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In addition, the half-marathon, at a bit more than 13 miles, will also start at the Shiprock Youth Center parking lot and will loop around with the midway point located just south of the turnoff between Navajo Route 13 and Highway 491.

In years past, the race started near the border of Arizona and New Mexico near Red Valley with the finish line in the town of Shiprock.

A group of runners are seen here taking part in the 2019 Shiprock Marathon.

With health and safety protocols still in place on the Navajo Nation, both the marathon and half-marathon will feature staggered starts, with groups of runners set to leave the finish line every two minutes. The first waves of the Marathon will begin at 7 a.m. at the start/finish area. Runners who expect to complete the course in under three hours and 20 minutes should start in the first wave. 

After that, marathon runners will be released every two minutes according to bib number. Waves of 15 runners will be released every two minutes until all marathon runners have begun.  

According to a press release, runners will wear a chip which will electronically send their times to race officials.

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As a result of the staggered start times, there are also limitations on the number of participants for this year's event with only 150 runners set to take part in the marathon and 500 in the half-marathon.

There are still a handful of spots still open for both events, with registration available at RunSignup.com.

The first waves of the Half Marathon will start at 7:30 a.m. and continue every two minutes until all runners have left the start/finish line.

Because of the course adjustments, this year's renewal of the Shiprock Marathon is not among the qualifying races for the annual Boston Marathon, as it has been in years past. After one running of the marathon on the new course, the Shiprock Marathon will be restored to its status as a qualifying event for the Boston Marathon, held annually in the spring.

Among other changes to this weekend's events will in the way participants pick up their bibs. 

Drive-thru packet pick-ups will be staged at the Shiprock Youth Center parking lot on Friday beginning at 4 p.m. and again beginning at 6 a.m. on the morning of the race.  

For those wishing to take part on other races, a 5K virtual road race will also be held. Runners will choose a flat, paved route of 3.1 miles and submit their time upon completion. Participants should complete their run during race week, which runs through Sunday.

For those runners who will be on the road for the Marathon and half marathon, aid stations will be available every one or two miles along the Marathon and Half Marathon courses.  Aid stations will include beverages, snacks as well as medical support.  

For more information on the Shiprock Marathon and events occurring in regards to the race, check out the official marathon page at Navajoyes.org.

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.