Winter Marathon Spotlight: The Phoenix Marathon

The winter months can be a rough time for us marathon runners. Training in the rain, snow and/or ice (depending on where you live) along with shortened daylight hours can be difficult. If you’re anything like me, having a race on the calendar keeps me motivated and gets me out the doors on days I would rather stay in my warm bed a bit longer. But Spring 2015 is so far away. Too far to keep me motivated through the darkness and cold of December, January and February. But therein lies the problem: finding a quality winter road marathon. Luckily, there are a handful of races that are worthy of your attention, your dollars and your sweat. We’ll be spotlighting a handful of them here in the coming weeks.

Our first winter marathon preview is The Phoenix Marathon, our Select Series race for Arizona, which will be held on February 28th, 2015.

If you need five reasons why you should run, not walk, to their website to sign up (before it sells out), here you go:

1. The Race Director is an active marathon runner herself

I’ve run more than 50 races of varying distances in the past five years (17 of them marathons). Almost without exception, those that have Race Directors who are also runners are great races.

Jamie, the Phoenix Marathon director, travels to expos all over the country on behalf of the Phoenix Marathon and runs many of the races she attends. She even qualified for Boston this past June at the Utah Valley Marathon (congrats, Jamie!). Everything good about this race stems from this. She’s a runner. She knows what runners want and need and when they want and need them.

2. The course is begging you to run a PR

Due to a friend’s pre-race injury, I ran the course last year on zero training. None. I took November, December and January off, completed exactly three runs of about six miles and one 13-mile Saturday run in February — and I STILL ran my average marathon time on this course. It made me excited to think about what I could do if I actually trained for it. It’s a gentle downhill for 24 of the 26+ miles. Just enough to propel you to a PR, but not so dramatic to cause your quads to curse your name for days afterwards. It’s scenic, you’re not out in the middle of nowhere for hours, there’s crowd support nearly the entire way after about mile seven or eight and you’re never worried about being mowed down by some idiot driver.

If you want a more detailed mile-by-mile course preview, this is the best one I have ever read HERE. Below is the elevation chart.

3. Attention to detail

How annoying is it when you’re planning on (read: desperately looking for) an aid station to appear at mile 20.7, because that’s where the race website said it would be, only to find that it’s actually closer to 21.1? None of that here. Starting at mile 3, there are stations at each odd numbered mile marker up to mile 21, where they appear at each mile marker to the finish. Bananas and oranges are provided at four of the stations and Clif Shots are provided at an additional three. First aid station volunteers get you in and out on your way like an Indy 500 pit crew. There are so many other little things that I noticed were done right (like ample port-o-potties all over the place, starting line gear-drop, a party at the finish line, music, happy and enthusiastic spectators, etc). Too many to mention here. Just know that from the time I arrived at the bus pickup to the time I got in my car and left afterwards I felt like the race had been put on exclusively for me. The shirt is one you can wear proudly on a run or to the grocery store, the medal is unique, heavy and high quality and the arm sleeves in last year’s swag bag are my go-to accessory item when it’s a little chilly outside.

4. Arizona in late February? Yes, please

Remember that rain/snow/ice/darkness thing earlier? Welcome to Arizona. Enjoy it. I will say that it did rain on us as we awaited the start of the race last year. No matter, it wasn’t cold. The on again/off again light mist throughout the morning was actually great to keep my body temperature down. But race days was beautiful. Slightly overcast, temperatures that warmed up to the 60’s and sunshine in the afternoon after finishing.
5. This race sells out. And it’s no surprise why

I should mention at this point that this is only Year 3 of this race. It’s sold out all 3,000 marathon spots each of the first two years. They’ve been able to increase that number to 4,000 this year, but don’t wait. When the spots are gone, they’re gone. I can’t recall another race that has grown so quickly in its first two years (there’s also a half marathon with a 6,000 cap and a 10k with a 2,000 cap as well as a kids 1k race). That only happens because of the reasons detailed above. Hurry up and get over to their registration page now!

With just under 90 days left until race day, there’s still time to train for this race. So give yourself (or someone else) a gift, secure your spot now and book your reservations to Arizona. It’s not a race you’ll regret running.

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