Latest reviews by Jeremy Heath
The Sedona Marathon is without a doubt one of the most scenic road races I've ever done. Last year (2016) I participated in the half-marathon. The hills were challenging but nothing too unbearable. The weather-perfect. So this year (2017) I took on the full marathon. Whole different ballgame!
Overall, it was was both one of my favorite, and one of the toughest, marathons I've ever done. Here are some of my favorite things about this race:
--Quick and efficient expo. While small, lots of volunteers that were quick and efficient and I was able to get in and out for packet pickup rather quickly. Some cool race-branded running gear available for purchase.
--Parking. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott, which was walking distance from the Start Line. However, there were plenty of shuttles and tons of parking available so it made getting to the race fairly easy. The crowds were large (record number of participants!), so I recommend getting there a little early.
--Start Line Area. Not only is this race scenic, but everyone took photos at the start line b/c it too was an amazing scenic shot! Mountains in the background, all the people bustling around. Insta-worthy. Plus, there were donuts/coffee for purchase if you wanted, and other booths to stop by if you wanted. You could also utilize the bag drop so you didn't have to walk to and from your car.
--Start Time. That's right, most marathons I've done start super early. This one started right at 9am! Means I could sleep in and not have to start out running in the chilly weather.
--Weather. It was chilly (mid 40s) as we stood around getting ready to start, but as with most races in AZ, it warmed up rather quickly. By the time I started it was in the 50s (perfect marathon weather!) and low 60s by the finish.
--THE SCENERY. In case you haven't picked up on this, the scenery at this race is spectacular. From the start to finish, it's absolutely fantastic. Red rock formations, trees, some of the mountains in the distance had snow... really amazing.
--The Course. It's out and back, so you get to doll out some high-fives to friends running the same distance as you. And also, you can see the half-marathon winners not only fly passed you, but also give them a fist-bump at their turn around spot.
--Trails! Another great part of this course is right after the turnaround for the half-marathon, the full marathon runners hit the jeep trails. It's packed dirt, so no need for trail shoes. But It's softer than pavement and so much easier on the legs! Plus, I love trail running and this made me feel right at home (although not technical at all so no worries if you're a trail-running newbie.)
--Volunteers. There were tons of great volunteers out there, many dressed in costume or just hollering at the top of their lungs.
--Aide Stations. These stations were pretty stocked for a full marathon. Tons of water and Gatorade, but also shock blocks, bananas, gels.. I took advantage of them and felt my nutrition was really on point.
--Finish Line. A wide finish line allowed friends to cheer me in before I hit the finish coral. Was a great final push to be able to high-five friends on that last .2 stretch.
--The Medal. The medals are always a corner "piece' of a pie. So if you do four years in a row, you have one solid circle. And you don't have to start back like many other races. Just make your races consecutive and you'll collect all you need!
--Awards. If you're an elite with swift feet (no matter what the challenge), Male and Female winners of each distance received a large stone plaque. As well as a bag of local coffee! I thought this was really unique and fun.
Now, all that being said. I still have some words of advice for YOU. **This race is not for the first-time marathoner**. ***This is not a PR course***.
It's a fantastic race. I love this race. But if you're looking for your first marathon or a race to finish 26.2 in record time, I'm sorry but this one's not for you. Here's why:
--The HILLS! While just enough for a "challenge" for a half-marathon. The hills were killer for a full marathon. You get *some* downhill, but for the most part it's a LOT of up on the way back. If you train on hills they may not bother you, but even then I wouldn't recommend it for your first marathon or for a PR. The finish is even uphill.
--Elevation. This race takes place at about 4500ft. While I did not have any issues with the elevation during the half-marathon, I did feel *some* of its affects during the full. It wasn't a "lung-buster" situation, but rather just enough to make climbing the hills that much harder.
That being said, that's how I felt about the full marathon. The half-marathon I would still recommend for anyone. I DO, however, suggest running the full marathon if you're looking for a new marathon challenge, or maybe training for an ultra-marathon. Or maybe you just want the bragging rights!
Only two downsides to this race that I wish to point out to Race Management (and in turn to runners).
1.) The Medals. I love them. I really do. But everyone gets the same medal with the same ribbon. There is a VAST difference between running the 5k vs running the full marathon. Even if it's just a different ribbon it would mean the world to us marathoners and we'd wear that thing proudly!
2.) Traffic. This race is open to traffic and many times runners would start running on the right, then move to the left, then back to the right again, all depending on where the traffic was coming from. I'm not sure whether it was the runners not staying where they should, or traffic going where they weren't supposed to. But either way, slightly scary when you're "out of it" and just focusing on one foot in front of the other. I'm not sure if the roads can be sectioned-off with cones, but I feel that would help keep runners on one side, and traffic on the other.
I enjoyed my time at the Sedona Marathon tremendously and will definitely be back. Will probably focus on the half-marathon next year. But I feel I might tackle that full again down the road. My friends and I had an absolute blast and it will most likely become a yearly tradition. I strongly recommend making it one of yours!
I've done the Rock n Roll Arizona half marathon almost every year now for the last 5-6 years. Always a blast, always a good time, and never disappoints. It's a fairly easy course with a hill or two here or there, but plenty of friends (including myself) have achieved a half-marathon PR on this course. There are always tons of volunteers, crowds, vendors, and swag. I really loved the medal this year, always enjoy the Arizona races that include kokopelli (The Southwest Indians’ Humpbacked Flute Player) in their swag/medal. Makes it feel more local.
The weather is always fantastic, although this year I was a little concerned about rain, but it ended up staying dry the entire time. Usually we're treated to some sunshine and low 60s at the finish, but this year it was mid-low 50s so was chillier this time. However, I always throw in a change of dry clothes and a light sweater in my drop bag and am fine to hang out at the finish line festival with friends without a worry about being cold.
This year the even had food trucks and vendors with coffee, etc at the finish line festival so that was pretty sweet! I may not have PR'ed this year, but still had a great time.
Two suggestions that I would offer to race management on areas of concern that I saw this year:
--I did come to one aid station that either the volunteers were lacking or hadn't made it there yet. They were still filling up cups and runners were grabbing cups off of the table and many were still empty. Fortunately, this was an aid station early in the race so for the most part wasn't a real issue.
--The burnt orange shirt color, while different, defiantly wasn't my favorite. I'd probably still wear it, but it's they typical "boxy shape" for men and isn't very flattering for the the average runner build.
This race always takes place on Martin Luther King weekend, so a great race-cation. And it's the perfect race to kick-off your racing season at the beginning of the year. I highly recommending joining me next year for the RnR AZ!
The Scottsdale Half Marathon is really an all around amazing race. It's managed by a local race management company housed in a local running store. So those putting on this event really know the area and the community well. Let me break down all the great things I love about this race:
One of the flattest half-marathons I've ever done. I even surprised myself how fast I could push it on this course. Along the way there were plenty of aide stations and porta potties. Plus dozens of cheering volunteers.
This was also my first race where the mile markers were exact. When my GPS beeped with a new mile, I would look up and could see the matching mile marker on the road. Was surprised this was the case for EVERY mile.
This race is also an out and back, so it makes race-day logistics and parking a breeze. So if you're looking for a stress-free race at which to PR, this is your race!
It's early winter in Phoenix. So you can almost always expect a chilly start but a sunny, warm finish! I just wore a long-sleeve 1/4 zip, shorts, and compression socks and was perfect. How many races offer that in December? Not many. ;-)
All participants receive a soft cotton-blend shirt and a beanie with the race logo. I know that may not be as many as some races hand out, but they're pretty premium items that I will wear throughout the year.
The pre-race weekend expo is located at the local running store, Runner's Den. Awesome store, highly recommend it! Getting my bib and swag was super easy and quick. On race day, you could pick up your bib and swag as well before the event began. After the race, the expo was small but fantastic. Muscle Milk, Dunkin Donuts, etc had booths for you to stop by. Really well managed.
The medal is pretty hefty for a local half marathon. And if you placed in your division, they gave additional large medals that we either bronze, silver, or gold, depending on your placement. Very cool.
Above all else, one of the things that really stood out about this race were the bottomless mimosas at the finish! How awesome is that? It was really the icing on the cake for a really great event.
I highly recommend the Scottsdale Half Marathon and 5k for a PR-goal race at the end of the year, or even just an easy recovery race for the whole family. I'm definitely working this one into my early "must run" events!
This is my second time running the Marathon Relay at a NFECS event. For those that don't know, a Marathon Relay can be split between as many as 4 runners, or as few as 2. This year at the ECSCA event, I ran with a team of 4 runners from my local November Project Phx crew. This event has become a small "mini-summit" for the November Project tribes on the west coast (although it's such a great event that many come from the east coast to just to run).
You don't have to be a part of November Project to have fun at this event (though if you do attend, I recommend visiting the San Fran November Project tribe for a pre-race or post-race workout and to make new friends). But having all of my NP friends with me and meeting hundreds of runners from other tribes really made this event special for me.
But let's break down why the event itself is amazing:
--Easy Access. There are a few shuttles from different parts of San Fran that will take you to the event start/finish area (Marin Headlands).
--Out and Back. Whether you're running the 50 miler, 50k, Marathon, or Marathon Relay... all distances start and finish in the same spot. So race-day logistics are fairly easy and you can cheer other runners in as you wait or after you finish.
--The Scenery. Just the start/finish area was beautiful. Amazing trees and all the greenery. A really awesome spot. But the REAL views were during the run! Views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
--The Energy. I think the crowd of energized runners and the beautiful city and course really brought out a positive attitude in everyone. High-Fives were everywhere. Thumbs up, cheers, laughs. Really made any race nerves, concerns, or struggles disappear.
--Course Volunteers. I know the NFEC races are always well marked but I was surprised to see the number of volunteers and course marshals out there. I never had to worry about taking a wrong turn or not knowing where to go.
--The Food. I know the aide stations were all well stocked, but in the Marathon Relay I didn't need to really stop at any. However, at the finish, there were those amazing nut butter-filled Clif Bars, Electrolyte drinks, and a variety of natural meat jerkies from bison, chicken, and pork. For those that ran the 50k or 50 miler, there was actually a full meal available. And of course, a Beer Tent for everyone!
--The Stars. The ultra distances sell out b/c there is some big money on the line for winners of this race. So to be running the same course as so many amazing elites out to break records, was so much fun. And seeing people like Dean Karnazes out there... I basically just walk around star struck.
--Weather. I was expecting it to be freezing, especially coming from the desert, but the weather wasn't that bad at all! It was perfect when you started running, but chilly when you were done. Just enough for an additional layer and you'd be fine. Plus, there were small fires throughout the start/finish area to keep you toasty.
I do want to warn you, the hills are killer. The one hill never seemed to end, and the downhill was brutally steep. But don't let that scare you or deter you from running this race. It's merely a warning you might should hit a few hills in your training runs. ;)
There was only one thing that I would suggest to the race managers: the return shuttle lines/organization was a little chaotic. I understand you've got hundreds of runners trying to leave at once, but the two volunteers there leading the area seemed a little confused themselves. Instead of lines for shuttles it was more of a mass "shoving to make it to the proper bus" crowd. I feel there could have been a little more guidance there. Word of advice for runners: leave as early as you are able to beat the crowds and the traffic to get back into the city.
Overall, this race was amazing and I really want to do it again next year. I'm thinking maybe even the marathon or 50k? Aaaahh! Lord help me but after running this event, I totally can't wait to return and up the challenge even more!
This is one of those runs where you go with the family or friends to just have fun. There's an option to go without chip timing, or to pay an extra $5 for the chip. Those who do decide to go for the timing, there are small medals for age division and overall winners.
So many people come dressed up in cowboy hats, skirts, costumes, and more. I ran the entire thing in a cowboy hat and with a toy horse. The horse was hit on the run. :) Since it is such a "fun run" and many chose to go without the timing chip, there were a lot of walkers and slower runners mixed in the crowd. So if you ARE running with a chip, I suggest making sure you are up towards the front so you don't get stuck behind slower runners.
The out and back run takes place at Rawhide Western Town and you literally feel like you're in the old west! We run through some dirt at first, and through a horse corral, then back on pavement. It was all very flat and not a single hill in sight. The last mile is the most scenic, running along the canal before back to the start/finish line.
There were 2 aid stations with plenty of water, but it was 8:30am in phoenix and getting pretty warm (especially if you're running in costume) so I would recommend drinking plenty of fluids before the race start.
All finishers received a medal made out of ribbon, much like you get a country fair. But the REAL attraction for this event was the post-race fair. You go inside the Rawhide Western Town area where booths are lined up back to back with freebies. And we're not talking free-stuff like you get at most expos nowadays. We started with a drawstring back at the entrance and it was so heavy by the end it was nearly exploding. They even were handing out homemade whoopie pies (I had two!!).
There were homemade pretzels and corndogs, coconut water, energy drinks, sodas, iced teas, orange juice, all bottled so you could take with you for later. And of course plenty of snacks. There was also a beer garden at the end where all participants received one free beer ticket. You could purchase more if you'd like as well.
All in all, a very fun event and I would highly recommend it. The only suggestion I have for the race management is to give the chip-timed participants a head start (like a 2 minute wave start) so they can get ahead of the non-timed participants.