2013 Pocatello Marathon Preview by RJ

I ran the Pocatello Marathon in 2010, 2011, 2012 and will run it again in 2013. It’s a great 
small-town race with a great atmosphere and offers everything you could want in a 
marathon.

First things first: The race organizers, staff and volunteers are absolutely top notch. All the 
trains run on time, the aid stations are where they are supposed to be, stocked with what 
they said they would be stocked with, volunteers at each station are enthusiastic and 
supportive and the finish line area is well organized and easy to navigate. And  although I’
ve heard a few people gripe about non-runners, including family, friends and kids, not 
being allowed in the recovery area (where all of the food/drinks are), I contend this makes a huge difference in being able to move (gingerly) through the area smoothly. Top to bottom, this is one of the most well organized races I’ve participated in of any distance.

The marathon participants board charter buses at around 5am and are taken up to the starting line. It’s dark and we’re in the middle of nowhere when the driver pulls over to the side of the road, opens the door and declares, “We’re here, don’t leave anything on the bus.” The people immediately around me hadn’t run this race before and their general consensus was, “We’re where?” 

In 2010 it was partly cloudy and the moon was covered. We were in the middle of the Idaho wilderness at 5:15am. It was dark. The driver told us there was road about 50 yards from us. Turn right, he said, and then take the first right until you see the UPS truck (which took our drop bags to the finish line) at the starting line. 

The “starting line” was a farmer’s driveway. The line of portable toilets lined a sheep-pen and many (including me) sat down against the barn until it was time to go. Not exactly what 
I had imagined, but interesting, nonetheless. Lines form around the toilets, but nothing too 
bad. There’s music playing, bottles of water available and frequent updates about when 
the race will begin. 

It was still dark when the race started at 6:15am. As a pack we made our way down the 
driveway and onto the road. The first 13 miles are downhill. All downhill. I wasn’t prepared 
for that the first time. After a while I started to look forward to something flat, or even uphill. 
Just something different. That would come, but not for a while.

The sun eventually came up and darkness gave way to a perfect morning. Not a whisper of 
wind could be felt and the temperature was perfect. Around mile 7 I turned my music off 
noticed a strange sound: silence. Miles from anything, on a closed road in a canyon. 
Except for the sound of shoes hitting the ground, it was pure silence. I kept my music off for 
a while and just enjoyed the sound of nothing. 

Just before the halfway mark (and the start of the Half Marathon, which goes off at 8:00am) 
there’s an aid station, a left hand turn and then a slight rise, maybe a quarter to a half mile 
long. It’s not much. The second half of the race consists of some light rolling hills. Nothing 
too extreme except for a pretty good hill from mile 20 to 21, but the rolling hills seemed to 
roll “up” as we came back into Pocatello. The aid stations ware almost a mile apart during 
this stage, but the effect of running downhill for two hours starts to catch up with you through 
these rollers if you haven’t trained for it. The hill to mile 21 finished me off in 2010 (though I 
made it a point to sprint the hill in 2012, no matter what that would mean over the last 5 
miles).

The final 5 miles into town are as flat as can be. The Idaho State University basketball 
team always runs one of the aid stations during this stretch as does the local high school 
cheerleading squad. There’s also spray misting machine set up and a few other blessed 
locals who set up their own sprinklers on their front lawns.

The final turn always comes before I think it should, which is a welcome sight after 25.5 
miles and the final stretch to the finish line is tree-lined and shady as you run. The spectator 
support is great, the finish line volunteers are excited to see you and the shady grass park 
is a great place to collapse and relax for however long you need.

Pocatello is a race I ran for the first time in 2010 because it was on my way back from 
dropping my brother off at school, but I’ll go back for a 4th consecutive year in 2013 
because it’s a great event. In addition to the marathon, there’s a half, 10k, 5k and a short 
run for kids, all on the same course. It’s a great family atmosphere with plenty of food, face 
painting and other activities and it’s always held the Saturday before Labor Day, so you 
have an extra travel day built in after as well.

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