This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. South Dakota was my 34th state.
When researching half marathons for my race in South Dakota, I’ll admit I wasn’t really looking forward to running a race in the state after finding North Dakota so plain and unexciting; see Bismarck Marathon, North Dakota-16th state. Fairly quickly into my research, I found out just how different two adjacent states can be. South Dakota is home to the Black Hills, Badlands National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, the Missouri River, Historic Deadwood, and Mount Rushmore (all of which my family and I visited and recommend). Travel South Dakota link
South Dakota is an outdoors lover’s paradise and my family and I loved every minute of our vacation here before and after the race. I also loved this race and highly recommend it. As far as getting to Spearfish Canyon, the easiest way to get here if you’re flying is to fly into Rapid City and pick up a rental car. It’s about an hour’s drive from Rapid City to Spearfish Canyon. We stayed the night before the race at the Spearfish Canyon Lodge in the Berry Patch Cabin and it was awesome. Rapid City is also a great place to stay if you’re exploring the area, since it’s less than an hour by car to the majority of places I listed in the previous paragraph.
The Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon is an annual fundraiser which benefits the abused and neglected children through the Northern Hills Area Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program. Pre-packet pickup was about the most sparse I’ve ever seen in all of my races. It is at the CASA office in Spearfish and there was only one person there handing out shirts (technical, unisex short-sleeve) and bibs. That’s it. Nothing else. No expo. No bag filled with junk you didn’t really want anyway. I like it. Don’t come here for the bling, though, or you will be disappointed.
At 7 am on race day, the course begins at the top of the beautiful Spearfish Canyon in Savoy in the northernmost section of South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest and finishes at the bottom in Spearfish City Park. When I was running the race I remember constantly telling myself how lucky I was to be able to run through this gorgeous canyon. Although the course is net downhill starting around 5,000 feet above seal level and dropping about 1,300 feet by the finish, it doesn’t feel too steep on your quads. The race is held in July every year and while you can expect it to be hot, because the race goes through a canyon surrounded by mountains, it is a bit cooler and there is abundant shade.
I actually set a PR (personal record) for myself on this course. I was a bit concerned about running at 5,000 feet above sea level but I didn’t feel any more out of breath than I normally would at a race or have any other elevation-related side effects. In fact, I remember checking my watch throughout the race and being surprised that I was able to sustain the pace I was and yet I felt great!
From my post-race notes: “Started at the top of a canyon and went downhill into the town of Spearfish. It was a high elevation course and was very hot (70’s at the start, mid 80’s at finish) but was one of the most scenic races I’ve ever ran. Virtually no spectators and just a few aid stations, but that wasn’t an issue. Shirt was plain as was the medal. Usual food at finish. Passed a lot of people especially last few miles. Finished in 1:55:28, which is my fastest finish time to date!”