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Salt Lake City’s whale statue now home to an endurance challenge: ‘The Whaleathon’

By Eliza Pace and Shelby Lofton, KSL-TV

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    SALT LAKE CITY (KSL) — Call it fanaticism, endurance training or maybe just crazy, but these Utah runners have found a new way to challenge their endurance.

Local runners have run actual 26.2-mile marathons around the iconic whale art installation at 900 South and 900 East in Salt Lake City.

A group of runners were training for the Salt Lake City Marathon when they got an idea.

“We jokingly ran 20 laps around the whale. During that, we thought it was funny to say, ‘oh, it would be cool to run a marathon around this,'” Evan Service said.

Well, Wyn Barnett turned that joke into a reality and became the official whaleathon founder. He said it takes “630 laps to (equal) a marathon.”

“Your ankles and hips and knees start to take a beating which is why we switch directions every 30 minutes,” Barnett said.

Running in a small roundabout wasn’t as simple as it sounds. Instead of a long straightaway, you’re going in circles at an angle. Barnett explained that legs don’t really get a break, because you’re either on the angle, running uphill or running downhill.

“When we were at 400 laps, knowing that we still had another 200 plus to go, I was like, ‘oh, we’re in it. We hit the slump,'” Barnett said.

He pushed through — on Oct. 21, he finished the first-ever whaleathon.

“Just shy of four hours,” he said. “The whale slowed me down a little bit.”

The short racetrack around the whale has gained the attention of other runners and locals. Barnett’s friends Jackson Bradshaw and Service also ran the whaleathon. It is “a true test of physical and mental stamina, where runners tackle a relentless 0.04-mile loop around the “Out of the Blue” traffic roundabout,” according to

Now, they hope to use the whaleathon to bring attention to the water needs of the Great Salt Lake.

“The whale needs water and so does the Great Salt Lake,” Barnett said.

“The Great Salt Lake is something we need to protect and be mindful of. We live in the desert,” Bradshaw said. “It wasn’t really the goal coming into it, we wanted to just do something absurd, but we knew that we might capture some attention, so trying to get some people aware of how important the Great Salt Lake is is really important.”

Eight others have also run the race — anyone can run the whaleathon. Just run 26.2 miles along the sidewalk surrounding the sculpture in whatever way you want and send a picture of your tracking app to prove it.

“I’ll definitely do another marathon but none will be quite as memorable as this one,” Bradshaw said.

“It’s forever changed how I think about this intersection,” Barnett said. “I’ll never come through here and not think about the whaleathon.”

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