From youngest to elite: St. George Marathon runners look ahead to race day, share inspirational stories

The 45th annual St. George Marathon is expected to host some 7,000 runners, St. George, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of the city of St. George, St. George News

ST. GEORGE —A year after the race was canceled because of COVID-19 restrictions, the St. George Marathon returns Saturday with an expected 7,000 entrants.

Runners from all 50 states and from 14 different countries will run the 26.2-mile course, rated by Runner’s World Magazine as one of the top four “Marathons to build a vacation around.”

From the pros on down to the recreational and local participants, every runner has a story and a reason for running the race. Here are just three of the story lines that will play out on Saturday.

The youngest runner

Elizabeth Rose, a 10-year-old at Bloomington Elementary, has been preparing to run in the marathon for the past couple of years.

At age 8, Elizabeth ran the St. George Half Marathon, and then ran in 17 other half-marathons since then.

Dennis Rose and daughter Elizabeth Rose will run the St. George Marathon together, St. George, Utah, Oct. 2, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

She is from a running family – one brother and one sister are runners, and her father Dennis Rose is in the St. George running community and will be running the marathon with Elizabeth on Saturday.

“I’ve always been a runner, and that’s how she kind of got into it. She just goes with me and keeps wanting to do it,” he said. “We don’t take it too seriously. The goal is for us to spend time together and to learn about each other, and be father and daughter. That’s the greatest part about it.”

Elizabeth is not overwhelmed by the idea of breaking barriers. When asked how she feels about maybe being the youngest runner to finish the marathon, she thought a bit, then said, “Cool.”

Her favorite part of running, she said, is the time it provides to talk with her dad. She said she runs every other day to train and takes longer runs on weekends.

“But there are times when I get to just be a kid and get breaks,” she added.

Elizabeth said she hopes to continue running as she gets older and maybe run track or cross country when she gets to high school.

But for now she’s focused on Saturday’s run with her dad.

“For everybody in the running community, this is kind of their A-event, the sum that’s all they train for and do in the community,” her dad said, adding that runners from across the country and the world want to come to St. George.

“It’s the volunteers. It’s the community. It’s the awesome people. It’s our morals here,” he added. “Everybody wants to come and try it, and see what’s special about St. George. It is a special place, for sure.”

The baseball coach

Kevin Cave is the second-year head coach of the baseball team at Desert Hills High School. He’s also an athlete who went to Gonzaga and is a quality marathon runner.

Desert Hills baseball coach Kevin Cave, shown here in a previous marathon, will run in the St. George Marathon on Saturday, St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2021 | Image courtesy of city of St. George, St. George News

“He’s an elite runner, a spectacular runner and he’s hoping for a top-20 finish on Saturday,” said Bryan Wilson, assistant baseball coach at Desert Hills. Wilson has also run the marathon in the past but will not be participating on Saturday.

Instead, he and some of the Thunder baseball players will volunteer at the mile 18 aid station.

“We’ve got a good group of Desert Hills baseball players together so as a team we can be there and support all the runners, and watch and cheer as our head coach flies past,” Wilson said.

Wilson described Cave as a really good guy who got a law degree and was a lawyer before deciding to pursue his real passion, which led him to move from Oregon to St. George to coach baseball and be a high school teacher.

“He really is a special guy who came to our community,” Wilson said. “Coaching baseball is his passion, and he coaches the right way, hard-nosed but humble.”

Wilson said Cave is a mentor and positive role model for the baseball players.

“He gives the boys an alternative perspective on lives and people,” Wilson said. “He’s just an awesome guy, and the boys have taken it onto themselves and they want to support their coach.”

Running blind

Terri Rupp of Las Vegas, Nevada, will not only be running the marathon, but she’ll be doing it two days after completing a 365-mile bike ride from Salt Lake City to St. George. And she’ll be doing it blind.

Visually impaired athlete Terri Rupp (right) will run the St. George Marathon with her husband and guide Aaron (left), St. George, Utah, Oct. 2, 2021 | Photo by Becky Cecil, St. George News

Rupp competes in athletic events with her husband Aaron Rupp, who is her guide. Together they rode a tandem bike on an Achilles International bike ride that started on Sunday and rolled into Vernon Park on Thursday evening.

Terri Rupp said she’s run a marathon in St. George before and is looking forward to doing it again.

“When we heard about this bike ride, they told me I could do the marathon right after as well, and before even thinking about it, I said ‘Let’s do it,’” Rupp said Thursday after completing the bike ride.

Rupp has run in 100-mile events before and seemed totally unfazed by the adversity of completing two very difficult athletic events back-to-back.

“I just love the challenge of it,” she said. “I love facing challenges and pushing through. I’m thrilled to be back in St. George to run the marathon!”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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