ST. GEORGE — The running community in St. George is growing rapidly and its roots recently extended into California.

St. George runners at the finish line of the Big Bear Revel Marathon in California, Nov. 18, 2023 | Photo courtesy Mary Jane Rogers, St. George News

An informal club of 17 local runners attacked the Big Bear Revel Marathon in Southern California Nov. 18 and came away with some of the best posted times at the event.

“It was just a gorgeous race,” Ricky Symington told St. George News. Symington’s time of 2 hours, 36 minutes, 51 seconds was the top time posted by the St. George team and was good for seventh place overall.

“I wouldn’t have expected it to be so gorgeous,” he added, saying racers are taken up into the mountains outside of Los Angeles to the start line at around 6,000 feet elevation.

Over the first nine miles or so, runners experience rolling hills, and then the course descends 300 feet in elevation per mile to the finish line.

“When they dropped us off, it was just starting to get light,” Symington said. “As we ran, the sun came up over the mountains. It was a really cool course, downhill all the way.”

Professionals who run the Boston Marathon run the Big Bear and many of them post their personal fastest times at the event. Symington said the key is to train for the downhill grind long before you run it.

“If you train for a flat marathon, you’re likely to be in trouble,” Symington said. “Downhill is a different motion. A lot more pounding. There’s a little bit of breaking as you go downhill even though you try not to.”

Symington said his quads and hamstrings were screaming during the fast flight downhill.

“Afterwards I was in agony just trying to get off the bus,” he said. “It’s a different animal. But if you’re ready for it, you can set yourself up for the best race of your life. It’s difficult, but if you’re ready for it, it pays dividends.”

Symington posted his personal best time despite being in only the second marathon of his career.

“It’s the fastest I’ve ever run,” he said, adding that several members of the St. George team had run the race last year and prepared this year’s group ahead of time. “They were giving us tips and helping us train on the downhill. We had a lot of inside information that was super helpful.”

The full contingent of 17 runners from St. George who went to run the Big Bear Revel Marathon in California, Nov. 18, 2023 | Photo courtesy Travis Sheffield, St. George News

Symington moved to St. George about a year ago and was delighted to find a group of runners who like pounding the pavement around town just for fun.

It started with the St. George Running Center, which holds runs throughout the week. Through them, he met another group of informal runners who ended up forming the core of the group that went to Big Bear.

“We started gaining more and more steam and more people kept adding to the group,” Symington said. “People are so kind and supporting, it makes the running so much better and easier. Everybody kind of jumps in and runs when they can for the fun of it.”

Steve Hooper of the St. George Running Center said the group came together organically over time and turned into a bona fide running club.

“Some of the best guys I’ve ever run with,” Hooper said. “They’re hardworking, really supportive of one another, strong camaraderie. It’s such an experience to run with a group of people who are supportive and positive. It’s been amazing.”

Brad Thompson, the so-called ringleader of the running group, posted a time of 2:50:14 at Big Bear, good for first place in his age group.

“I’m the old man,” Thompson said. “I kind of started running and met a couple of guys, said hey, why don’t we join in a run. From then on we would see someone and invite them and it blossomed into a group of 30 guys or so.”

Thompson said that without a doubt every runner in the group has improved.

“Everyone has gotten faster. All of us have improved considerably the past year or two just by running together,” he added. “There’s some awesome runners out here in St. George. We’re competitive enough to push each other along but we’re always happy for each other’s success.”

Big Bear Revel Marathon results for St. George runners

Ricky Symington (2:36:51); Aaron Rogers (2:40:36); Andrew Nelson (2:44:58); Timothy Wood (2:48:54); Matt Polifka (2:49:32); Zach Holt (2:49:49); Brad Thompson (2:50:14); Micah Wilson (2:55:01); Bailey Barker (2:55:43); Brent Rowe (2:57:04); Todd Yerkes (2:57:23); Jake Green (2:59:09); Steve Hooper (2:59:16); Travis Sheffield (3:01:53); Haven Jessop (3:08:47); Chase Thompson (3:50:03) and Ron Bird (4:14:31).

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