As you sprint across the finish line with all your might and strength, volunteers welcome you with water, spray you with mist, and place a metal around your neck rewarding you for the long, demanding journey you finally finished.
This was the scene at the St. George Marathon Saturday, and people from all around the world gathered to compete against nothing but their own record times.
As the gun exploded to start the race, the elite runners took off to finish their 26.2 mile journey ahead.
The trail was full of volunteers to help the runners, said Randy Zamora, a City of St. George Recreation Center employee and member of the St. George Marathon organization committee. The volunteers set up aid stations every 2 miles, and they lent a helping hand when they crossed the finish line.
Mike Bruner, a community member with a 2:49 time, said the marathon was organized, and the supporters helped along the trail.
“We’re treated special,” Bruner said. “People cheer you on all along the way, which, when you’re running 26 miles, really helps.”
Some racers train and compete together, and community members Jessica Brazzeal and Crystal Shockley, with 2:58 and 2:56 times, respectively, competed in a group with 10 other women.
“Seeing them all get done is seriously the most fun part,” Brazzeal said. “It’s our favorite [course] because we get to train this course all year, and it’s beautiful. (We get) great support along the way, and there’s great cheering in town.”
Shockley said finishing the race gave her a feeling of accomplishment, and the warm weather, the time of year, and the downhill course made it easier for her to cross the finish line.
Many runners qualified for the 2014 Boston Marathon by meeting the qualifications in the St. George Marathon.
According to the Boston Athletic Association website, between the ages 18-34, men need a 3:05 race time, and women need a 3:35 race time to qualify. Each age group has specific times each runner must meet, and they only have a short window to qualify until the Boston Marathon race is full.
“There’s no experience like the Boston Marathon,” said Bruner, who competed in the 2013 Boston Marathon. “It’s Boston, and that’s what everyone strives for. It’s the best event we can do as marathon runners, and to qualify and run in it is pretty unreal.”
The St. George Marathon opens opportunities for many runners, but it is also a stepping stone for others to reach their goals.
Jeff Mescal, a runner from Indiana with a 2:37 race time, competed in the St. George Marathon because he has a goal of running marathons in every state under three hours. He has six more marathons in the next six weeks, and he said the St. George Marathon is one of the best he’s competed in.
“(This race) is definitely neat,” Mescal said. “This in No. 49 for me, and it was unique to any other marathons I’ve ever ran. It was the most organized race I’ve seen.”
Mescal said he competed in the Boston, Chicago and New York marathons, and the St. George course was tough on his body. He said there are a lot of hills that he couldn’t completely train for, and there were sections in the race where the runners were traveling uphill for 2 straight miles. He said although the course was tough, there couldn’t have been better weather.
“It was beautiful and a perfect day,” Mescal said.