To hear race organizers tell it, the greatest challenge in Saturday’s Arizona Distance Classic Half Marathon may be to keep running rather than stand still and appreciate the beauty of the course.
“Those who live around here take it for granted because they see it every day,” said John Corbett, owner of All About Running & Walking, 12162 N. Rancho Vistoso Blvd., who helped create the race in 2005. “But the people who travel here are just awestruck. It’s a beautiful setting and a gorgeous course.”
Organizers are touting a record field of more than 2,500 participants. The 10th annual race includes runners, walkers and wheelchair racers from 47 states. The main, 13.1-mile event starts and finishes at Ventana Medical Systems, 1910 E. Innovation Park Drive.
Proceeds from the race benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Race director David Babner, whose company M3S Sports runs the event, as well as 12 others around the country, said he sees it as a destination for runners around the country.
“It’s a world-class community,” he said. “There are a lot of nice areas to run, from the campus of Ventana Medical Systems, out down Rancho Vistoso and through the foothills of the Santa Catalinas. Just being able to see all the mountain ranges is amazing. This is sort of a boutique destination.”
Corbett coordinates a cadre of between 75 and 100 volunteers who help make the race run smoothly, lining the course with seven aid stations, as well as cheer groups.
“The people who have run the race every year tell us it’s among the best-organized and best-supported races among the many that they run,” Corbett said.
“An awful lot goes into the race planning, which is done months and months in advance every year.”
In addition to the half marathon, there is also a quarter marathon, a 5K run/walk, a mile walk for seniors and a kids’ run. Participants receive a finisher’s medal .
Start times are staggered, with the half marathon starting at 7 a.m. and the senior walk at 10:30 a.m. Everyone is invited to the post-race party with music and refreshments.
Babner said 80 percent of participants come from Arizona, but plenty of the field is traveling to the area just for the event. Babner said most of the event’s out-of-state runners come from New Mexico, Illinois and Ohio.
The travelers will have high expectations, and Babner aims to meet them.
“What folks will expect,” he said, “is a really first-class, fine-touch event that they’ll remember for a long time.”