Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state

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 2015 Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon was a fundraiser to benefit the abused and neglected children through the Northern Hills Area Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program. Packet pickup was about the most sparse I’ve ever seen in all of my races. It was 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 liked it. Don’t come here for the bling, though, or you will be disappointed.



At 7 am on race day, the course began at the top of the beautiful Spearfish Canyon in Savoy in the northernmost section of South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest and finished 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 was net downhill starting around 5,000 feet above seal level and dropping about 1,300 feet by the finish, it didn’t feel too steep on my 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. It was 70’s at the start and mid-80’s at the finish, so don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. It was still hot, it just didn’t feel as hot as it was because of the shade. There were virtually no spectators, not surprisingly, but just a few aid stations.



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! I passed a lot of people, especially during the last few miles. My finish time was 1:55:28, which was my fastest finish time to date!


Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon & 5K

Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

19 thoughts on “Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state”

    1. Thank you! It’s definitely brought me and my family to places we probably wouldn’t have ever gone to otherwise, and with just a couple of exceptions, we’ve always been pleasantly surprised by the places.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Just a comment on North Dakota: The barren red clay oil fields where there were once grain fields in northwest North Dakota are pretty discouraging. But on the other hand, we really enjoyed the Theodore Roosevelt National Parks, so I wouldn’t give up on the state yet.

    Liked by 1 person

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