Wednesday, December 15, 1999

Tucson Marathon (Arizona)

December 5, 1999
Marathon 10, State #5 (Age 31)
Tucson, Arizona

The Tucson Marathon is fast.  Wait.  Let us repeat that in case you didn't hear.  The Tucson Marathon is fast.  Avalanche fast.  The course drops a just-right 1,900 feet from start to finish.  The gentle slope makes the route fast without being over jarring on your knees and body.  (You should still do some downhill training, however, to accustom your quadriceps to prolonged descents.)  Since the course runs along a state highway, you are relegated to the shoulder of the road, which can be a detraction for runners who are sensitive to camber.  And don't expect to run through downtown Tucson, either.  In fact, the course doesn't even come close to the city.  But the vast majority of the race's runners don't care, because they come for speed and this race was built for speed.  [Craythorn & Hanna] 

The Tucson Marathon starts in the little town of Oracle (elevation 4,514 feet) adjacent to the Circle K on Rock Cliff Road.  Runners turn right on two-lane State Route 77, and, in defiance of all expectations and pre-race hype, run uphill.  its a good uphill too.  But don't worry.  It's early still, and you should lose only a few precious seconds over the first 1.5 miles that are uphill.  Surrounded by the high desert scenery, the course heads down, becoming fast and furious near mile 2.5 leading to the right turn on American Avenue (mile 2.8).  Runners face a tough upgrade on American Avenue until about mile 3.6 where it rolls through the small town.  From mile 5.5, the route becomes consistently downhill, passing the starting point near 10,k and merging back onto State Route 77 (mile 6.6).  The next 5.5 miles scream downhill through the shrubs, and brushes, and cacti of the high desert along the Santa Catalina Mountains, until a little bump at mile 12.1 briefly breaks your rhythm.  You pass the road to the Biosphere-2 complex near mile 10.3.  The course turns left at Oracle Junction (mile 15.7), where it flattens until mille 16.8 and then proceeds downhill on a gentle grade.  Runners pass the town of Catalina at mile 19, where the road widens considerably.  Directly after Mile Post 86 (about 20.8), the route rises slightly until 21.5 miles, By mile 22, the race resumes its downward path (with another little bump near mile 25), until the turn into the finish area at the AlliedSignal plant (elevation 2,600 feet). [Craythorn & Hanna] 

Runners must take the free shuttle buses to the race start, Buses for the marathon leave every 20 minutes from Allied Signal (the finish line) from 5:45 a.m. until 6:30 a.m.  [Craythorn & Hanna]

There aren't a lot of crowds pushing you down the highway, so the nice slope will have to suffice.  Runners come across aid stations every 2 miles or so where they can snag sport drink and water.  The aid station at mile 18 usually carries some gel as well.  [Craythorn & Hanna] 

All entrants receive a T-shirt, while finishers also get a medal.  The top 3 runners in each age group receive an award, and #100 goes to every runner who runs under 2:20 for men and 2:40 for women.

The Westward Look Resort, 245 E. Ina Road (800)772-2500 serves as the unofficial host hotel.  An 80-acre retreat, the Westward has several pools, spas, a running trail, and fitness center for a little over $100 per room.  Another nearby possibility is the Triangle L Ranch, with its double rooms in private cottages set in 80 acres of the oak-shaded foothills of  Mount Lemmon (520) 623-6732.  If you want to stay cheaply in downtown Tucson, try the bohemian Hotel Congress (where the Dilleinger gang was once arrested), 311 E. Congress Street (800)722-8848.  You can also call the marathon's official travel agency, Travel Headquarters (800)359-6979, for accommodation information.   [Craythorn & Hanna] 

Race day also includes a super-fast half marathon that completes the final 13.1 miles of the full marathon course.  Half marathoners also must take a race shuttle to the start.   A band of five runners can enter the marathon relay, with legs of 6.1, 4.3, 4.6, 5, and 6.2 miles.  There are categories for male, female, and coed teams (with at least 3 women) [Craythorn & Hanna]

The historic core of Tucson along the (usually bonedry) Santa Cruz River, bisected by Congress Street, contains many good restaurants and nightspots.  You and you kids will probably enjoy the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson Mountain Park.  The museum contains all sorts of desert animals, birds, and snakes, most of which were injured and had to be rescued from the desert.  The Saguaro National Monument, part of which stretches north from the Desert Museum, gives you the chance to wander through weird forests of forty-foot, multi-limbed Saguaro cacti.  You can also tour the Biosphere-2 complex, where a small group of folks lived for two years sealed inside the plexi-glass bubble.  [Craythorn & Hanna]

With the bus transport, be there early to get a good seat.  When you unload you are dropped off in the middle of no where with limited port-to-johns, so I recommend preparing!  Also at elevation the start of the race was cold, so bring some extra clothes that the race will transport back for you if you throw in a big barrel at the start line.

The Desert Museum is fantastic!