Thursday, January 28, 2010

running in the Wild West



If you are looking for a destination that will hold you accountable to staying in shape over the holiday season and give you the opportunity to sun tan in January a trip down to Phoenix is the answer. The IF crew took the 3 hour journey at 36,000 feet down to Arizona for the annual Rock n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and ½ Marathon. Both courses are as flat and upbeat as they come – perfect for competitive runners and casual joggers of all levels. Whether you’re determined to qualify for Boston or simply hoping to cross the finish line the route through the beautiful desert scenery will keep you inspired the entire way.
The run was on the morning of Sunday, January 17 and the Valley of the Sun, named for its 325+ days of sunshine each year, lived up to its name with temperatures near 20 degrees Celsius in the afternoon. Our group of six forgot to bring ‘throw away’ layers for the early morning before the run but this didn’t pose a problem at all as we were warm within minutes of walking. It was immediately apparent that the run was very well organized with signs clearly marking race information and event organizers at hand to answer any questions. Two of us arrived later Saturday evening and consequently missed the expo where race packages were to be picked up. I was worried that complications would arise but we simply showed our ID at the solutions booth before the race, obtained our race package and we were good to go. More than 32,000 participants competed in the event but there were absolutely no bottlenecks throughout the run. Attribute this again to the excellent organization as a wave start split participants into more than 20 ‘corrals’, gradually turning them loose at the start line. To be honest I’ve never had so much room in the first 5 km of a run before. While I personally didn’t enter the ½ marathon race in tip-top form this is certainly a run that one could train hard for and easily set a personal best. The event is noted for the half-marathon world record set by Haile Gebrselassie on January 15, 2006, who ran the second half of the marathon course in 58 minutes and 55 seconds.
The run was on the morning of Sunday, January 17 and the Valley of the Sun, named for its 325+ days of sunshine each year, lived up to its name with temperatures near 20 degrees Celsius in the afternoon. Our group of six forgot to bring ‘throw away’ layers for the early morning before the run but this didn’t pose a problem at all as we were warm within minutes of walking. It was immediately apparent that the run was very well organized with signs clearly marking race information and event organizers at hand to answer any questions. Two of us arrived later Saturday evening and consequently missed the expo where race packages were to be picked up. I was worried that complications would arise but we simply showed our ID at the solutions booth before the race, obtained our race package and we were good to go. More than 32,000 participants competed in the event but there were absolutely no bottlenecks throughout the run. Attribute this again to the excellent organization as a wave start split participants into more than 20 ‘corrals’, gradually turning them loose at the start line. To be honest I’ve never had so much room in the first 5 km of a run before. While I personally didn’t enter the ½ marathon race in tip-top form this is certainly a run that one could train hard for and easily set a personal best. The event is noted for the half-marathon world record set by Haile Gebrselassie on January 15, 2006, who ran the second half of the marathon course in 58 minutes and 55 seconds.

You know you’re in for the quintessential American Southwest experience when none other than John McCain, US Senator and presidential candidate, is hoisted above the start line and waving as you run by. If this surprise cameo wasn’t enough there were dozens of bands and high school cheerleading teams performing for the runners. This was the first time I have completed an organized event without my Ipod and I didn’t miss it at all with all of the entertainment along the route. The course through Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe made for a very scenic run with plenty of interesting sights including towering cacti, golf courses, mountains in the distance and sports venues including MLB spring training facilities and the Arizona State University athletic facilities. There was an impressive spectator presence throughout the run and the finish at the ASU campus was climactic with a massive crowd cheering you through the finish line. As per usual, there were some pretty funny costumes to be seen throughout the run as well. Highlights included Elvis, two guys in colourful Dumb and Dumber suits and a man wearing a hat with a can of beer attached to a tube dangling in front of his face.

While the ½ Marathon was one of the most enjoyable runs that I have completed to date an Innovative Fitness destination is about so much more than just the event. Phoenix may be known as a snow-bird and retiree destination but you would have been fooled during the run. It is clearly a very active population who enjoys the idyllic locale because there was a very young demographic out for the event. Although many come to the city for the weather and golf, Phoenix has much to offer by way of shopping, outdoor activities, trendy restaurants, sports venues and nightlife. Travel is all about immersing yourself in the culture and we did just that by checking out the golf resorts, eating at some amazing restaurants and even making a stop by the Scottsdale Gun Club to fire off a few rounds! The city’s Wild West history may still remain right under the surface but Phoenix seems to be becoming less of a city born of the Old West and more of a modern metropolis with endless options to keep you relaxed or entertained. Great people – a warm and cosmopolitan city – a fun and well-organized event… this is a get-away that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a destination next January!


Kevin Hendry

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