Just a quick reminder that another round of early registration pricing for the TMC Get Moving Tucson Half-Marathon and 5k ends on October 1st. You can register online here or complete a mail-in registration form. Online registration ends on October 6th, but the deadline for mail-in registration is October 1st.
How to Run the Half: Sure, the A-Mountain Half is a challenging course, but here are some ideas on how to run it, mile by mile.
Miles 1-2 From the starting line on Church at the Court House/Jacome Plaza north to Sixth and along Sixth to I-10 is all a gentle downhill. Be careful of starting this first mile too fast. From Sixth/St. Mary’s you’ll turn south on Bonita and have the whole street to yourselves until you hit Congress. Heading west on Congress to the A-Mountain road at Cuesta is a gradual rise - not very noticeable, but still, a bit uphill. You’ll be on the north side of Congress all the way to Cuesta. Again, be patient on this stretch.
Miles 3-4 Once you turn south on Cuesta, you will begin to notice a bit of an uphill. OK, a bit more than a bit. Almost the same distance as the famed Saguaro hill, the climb up to the “A” on A-Mountain can be broken into a few sections. Stay to the right side of the road on this whole stretch. The first piece through the neighborhoods is gradual, so try to get in a steady rhythm without working too hard.
As you hit the parking lot on the right about a half-mile up the hill, you’ll notice a flattening for a couple of hundreds of yards. This is a good time to re-assess your pace and shake out your arms a bit. Then you have a quarter mile of steepness to the split at the top of the mountain where we’re planning a water/cytomax stop. The race route will take you to the right, counter-clockwise, with a gorgeous view of the Starr Pass area to the west and the Santa Rita Mountains to the south. You can see the sparkling observatories of Kitt Peak and the mountains surrounding Baboquivari Peak.
The hill softens a bit as you make the half-mile push for the red-white-and-blue “A.” There are a couple of false summits as you approach the top, so maintain a steady pace and a smile on the way up. Once you hit the low brick wall marking the parking areas on the east side, you’re almost to the top. Another hundred yards or so, and you level out for a few steps before plunging downhill.
Miles 4-5 Once you’re off the hill, it will be tempting to pick up the pace and try to make back some of the time.
But remember that the downhill is probably the hardest part of the course. Enjoy the pull of gravity, but you’ll want to be careful of running too fast - don’t brake yourself, but don’t overstride too much, either. Like with the Tucson Marathon, too much too fast will blow out your quads, so be smart on the downhill section.
Miles 6-7 The half-mile stretch heading east on Congress is pretty easy. Please stay inside the cones on the south lane of Congress. You’ll turn south on Grande and stay on the right side of the road all the way down to the bike path entrance just north of 22nd/Starr Pass Blvd. You may be tempted to pick up the pace on this stretch, but it’s probably better to be patient here. We’ll have a water station, a medical tent, and an ambulance at the dirt lot when you enter the bike path on Grande. At this point you should be in a nice rhythm.
Mile 7-9 Once on the bike path, you will stay on the right hand side of the bike path and head south for exactly 660 yards then do a U-turn and head back north still staying on the right side of the lane as you pass runners for another 660 yards until the path opens up. (As you can probably tell, we needed this turn-around on the bike path to ensure that the course is exactly 13.1 miles.) You’ll head north on the bike path all the way until St. Mary’s again. Please note, though, that you will run through a construction zone on this strip. The Ashton Company will clear the area for you, but it will be dirt here. You should be feeling good, so this is a nice place to step up the pace a bit. There are some shady stretches and you’re getting closer to home on this primarily flat stretch.
Mile 9-10 Exiting the bike path onto St. Mary’s is a bit tricky. As you come up the hill off the bike path approaching St. Mary’s, you can either hug the pathway to the right and stay on the narrow sidewalk heading east across the Santa Cruz or you can jump down from the curb to the main roadway. If I were racing it, I would probably hop the curb, but it’s a bit high, perhaps as many as 10”, so be careful here.
As you head under the I-10, you’re about 2/3 of mile from the start/finish line, but you still have almost 4 miles to run. If you feel good, it’s a nice time to start racing, but also a good place to be patient and conserve some energy if you’re feeling tired.
Miles 10-11 This is a tough mental part of the course: you will head south on Church straight past the finish line as the 5k finishers are either finishing to your left or hanging out cheering for you. But you still have 3.1 miles to go. The first part of the 3.1 miles is east on Congress - most of the 5k runners should be done by the time you hit this stretch, but we’ll have the lane coned into two parts, one for the east-bound trip and one for the west-bound trip. At the east end of Downtown, you cross to the Fourth Avenue underpass so you’ll want to watch out for the rail tracks. You’ll be tired, so be careful here. Still, this is a good place to run hard - you’re almost done, so look ahead and see who you can pick off.
Coming out of the Fourth Avenue tunnel, you’ll turn right onto 9th Street, and head about two blocks east before turning left on Bean Street, then left again on 8th Street and heading back to Fourth Avenue. I happen to like turns like this: it shakes out my legs and the corners give me something to think about—indeed, you can sneak a peak at competitors.
Miles 11-12 Heading north on Fourth Avenue is a bit annoying: there will be good crowds and a water station for you, but you’ll be climbing a deceptive uphill for about a half-mile to University Avenue. Be patient, but be tough. You’ll turn right at University and head towards the UA, then do one final U-turn just before you hit Euclid - then it’s back down University and rocket-ship down Fourth Avenue all the way back to Congress. Use the downhill on Fourth and the crowds to your advantage. You’re almost done so let ‘er rip if you can.
Mile 13 The last mile of the course is downhill on Fourth then up the Fourth Avenue underpass hill, with a finish along Congress and Church. Rock star it here: push the pace, enjoy the shade, and run to the finish line. You’ll be done in no time—then it’s on to the food, drink, music, relaxation, and free massages!