Runners fill Provo streets to participate in the Utah Valley Marathon

Participants of the Utah County Marathon take pictures after crossing the finish line near the Utah County Courthouse in downtown Provo. Thousands participated in the marathon on June 4, which ran from Wallsburg, Utah, through Provo Canyon and ended in downtown Provo. (McKell Park)

Thousands of runners gathered in Provo Canyon early Saturday morning to participate in the 15th annual Utah Valley Marathon.

The athletes began in Wallsburg, Utah, and made their way down the scenic Provo Canyon to end near the Utah County Courthouse in downtown Provo.

The race offered a full marathon, half-marathon, 10K, 5K and a children’s 1K. For runners who met the required finishing time, this marathon was a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon.

The winner of the full marathon, Tegene Fikadu, crossed the finish line at 2 hours and 24 minutes.

Tegene Fikadu crosses the finish line, awarding him first place with a finishing time of 2 hours and 24 minutes. The 24-year-old is from Ethiopia. (McKell Park)

Cheney Habtamu was awarded first place for the half-marathon with a finishing time of 1 hour and 5 minutes.

Habtamu, who runs track for Utah Valley University, ran the Utah Valley Marathon with hopes of ending his season on a high note.

“I came into the track season with the goal of qualifying for NCAA West Regionals this season. Fell shy of that goal finishing 91st in the West in the 10K. Didn’t want to end my season there so hopped in a local half-marathon,” Habtamu said on Twitter.

Cheney Habtamu leads the pack running down Provo Canyon. The 23-year-old, who runs for Utah Valley University’s track team, received first place in the half-marathon with a time of 1 hour and 5 minutes. (McKell Park)

The Utah Valley Marathon was first created by runners who wanted to establish a great running experience while incorporating a charitable cause. The Utah Valley Marathon’s benefits will be directed toward both Mac’s Gift: Children’s Cancer Foundation and Charity Vision.

The Utah Grand Slam competition made the Utah Valley Marathon one of its required marathons in 2009, which led to participation increasing from 240 to 1,200 runners. Three years later, there were 3,800 runners, and more than 7,200 in 2012.

Fifteen years after the first Utah Valley Marathon in 2008 with only 240 athletes, now the race hosts thousands of participants each year.

For Brooke Jameson of Syracuse, Utah, running is an outlet for her mental health. The Utah Valley Marathon was her fourth half marathon, a hobby she picked up after returning from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Running has helped me to deal with a lot of mental health things,” Jamison said. “It’s a good healthy outlet and it’s kind of a good metaphor for life, start and finish what you do.”

Abigail Zielke and Corey Schmitzer , a couple from New York, completed the race during their first visit to Utah. Zielke ran her first 10K as “moral support” for her husband who completed the full 26.2 miles and enjoyed watching him cross the finish line.

“It’s the prettiest place to run a race especially coming from New York which is not as picturesque,” Zielke said. “My favorite part was cheering Corey on.”

Schmitzer, who ran his fourth marathon on Saturday, said the race was tough, but he enjoys the challenge that a marathon brings.

“I love pushing myself mentally and psychically,” Schmitzer said. “It really makes you dig deep.”

As runners completed the race, they were awarded medals, given free food and drinks and were provided with necessary medical attention.

Ben Larsen from Ogden, Utah, said the Utah Valley Marathon were a great challenge both mentally and psychically. The race marked Larsen’s fourth full marathon.

“It was a difficult race but there was perfect weather and beautiful scenery the first 10 miles coming down the canyon,” Larsen said. “Running helps you feel free and clear your mind.”

For more information about the race, visit the Utah Valley Marathon’s website.

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