BYU MBA student creates the first in a series of vacation races


[Graphic courtesy of Salem Stanley]
The Zion Half Marathon will have its debut this March.
BYU student Salem Stanley has a dream coming true—creating a series of national park half marathons.

Stanley, an MBA student from St. George, combined his business background and passion for running to design the Zion Half, which will take place next March. And he is hoping this first step will eventually get his business, Vacation Races, up and running.

Anna Parsons, a sophomore from Fort Worth, Texas, was thrilled when she heard about the race.

“I love to run races that are interesting or unique,” said Parsons, a Boston Marathon participant.

Half marathons have experienced substantial growth over the past 10 years. According to, there was a 16 percent increase in the number of half marathon participants from 2010 to 2011. That meant in 2011 alone there were 1.6 million finishers.

That also meant opportunity for Stanley.

Of course, knowing some statistics wasn’t the half of it. Organizing the Zion Half required researching other races, speaking with racers, conducting surveys, going to races, figuring out funding, and looking at more statistics.

“With my finance classes I am able to build up a bunch of models and budgets so I can actually make money… It has made all the difference,” Stanley said.

Making the race happen also meant communication and planning with national park committees.

Because The National Park Service does not allow such events as a half marathon to take place in the park, Stanley is doing the next best thing—getting racers as close as he can.

The mapped-out course of the race takes place on the outskirts of the park, allowing local communities to get involved. Stanley hopes that eventually the park service will allow races to be held inside.

“As long as the race is close to the national park, it’s good enough,” Stanley said.

Location isn’t the only thing setting this race apart from others. Stanley is seeking to make the race more eco friendly.

That is why runners will be carrying their own hydration systems when the Zion Half takes place. Being a cup-free race saves volunteers hours that would normally be spent picking up thousands of discarded cups

Stanley’s overall vision is to get national park races started in at least five parks while doubling the number of participants each year. He is currently planning a race in the Grand Canyon for October 2013.

And he would like to eventually start a beach run series where vacationers can get in a workout before relaxing in the sand.

Making Stanley’s dream happen all goes back to the rigorous training he’s put forth here at BYU.

“Every class that I’ve taken has really culminated into helping me understand the opportunity that I have to go after and to be able to take advantage of it.”


Registration for the race is now open. For more information, visit


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