The Beautiful Beast: My Sedona Marathon Race Recap

Disclaimer: I received a free entry into the Sedona Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

The Sedona Full Marathon. One of the most scenic road races I've ever done. Also one of the toughest road races I've ever done. Read on for the full Sedona Marathon 26.2 Race Review and why I call it the "Beautiful Beast"!
Last year (2016) I participated in the half-marathon in Sedona. You can read that race review HERE. The hills were challenging but nothing too unbearable. The weather-perfect. So this year (2017) I took on the full marathon. Whole different ballgame!

The Sedona Marathon has easily become a yearly favorite. Last year I had a friend or two, along with a few BibRave Pros join me for the fun. THIS year, I had a massive support group! I had dozens of friends joining from Phoenix and several BibRave Pro buddies. I knew with all these friends at my side, no matter what the outcome, I was going to have a fantastic time. 

First off, why the FULL Marathon? Everyone knows those hills are going to be tough.. so why choose 26.2 and not the half again? Well, this is my "comeback" year. So I wanted to start off the year fully trained for a marathon, rather than under trained and scrambling to re-gain fitness after the holidays. Plus I have some big ambitions for the rest of the year. This was the first big challenge of the year so I could be prepared to take on many more down the line.

Homemade trucker hats, courtesy of Chris. Maybe a new Marathon Tradition?!
My BibRave Pro pal, Chris, came all the way from Hawaii to run this race with me! We drove up to Sedona on Friday, picked up our packets, then went for a quick hike/photoshoot around the area. The Sedona Airport Overlook is quick to get to and has fast access to some really great Instagram-worthy areas! 

Yoga on the cliffs anyone?

Finally it was off to a quick fancy dinner at Mariposa with amazing views..then bed. 

Overall, the Sedona Marathon is one of my favorites, no matter what distance you decide to run. The city is so much fun. And it's a quick drive from Phoenix. 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. 

--Easy Parking. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott, which was walking distance from the Start Line. However, there were plenty of FREE 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. 

This is right after the start, not even .1 mile in!
--Late 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. 

--Amazing 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. 

I wasn't the only one snapping photos right and left!

This is the 3:55 pace group (wish I could've stayed with them the ENTIRE time...).
They called me "paparazzi" b/c I took so many photos. :-P
--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. **The Sedona Marathon Full 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 the two things you need to take into consideration:
Elevation Chart. Legs burning yet?
--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, I would still recommend the half-marathon to anyone. However, I DO recommend 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!

Coming in to the finish with friends giving me high-fives and cheering me in.
My experience, while a huge struggle, was still a fantastic one. I loved having my friends out on the course with me. My November Project-Phx buddy, Rick, helped drag me along for the first half at a very nice clip. But once we hit the turnaround point, I started to really struggle. Both the hills and elevation got to me around mile 14/15. From there it was a mental game to keep pushing. 

Rick crushing those hills!
My friend Missy started the race with me and at the very end, the last mile (that's uphill mind you!) we pushed each other and finished together. I have done quite a few marathons. Each time I have felt happy to be done, but never very emotional. This time was different.

Me and Missy right after we had finished the brutal full.
It wasn't my fastest marathon time, but I definitely felt like I had accomplished more than just 26.2 by the end! I felt like I had tackled a major challenge, and although my body ached, I was filled with pride and a whole lot of emotion. Missy shed a few tears and she and I had a good laugh-cry and a hug.  We saw other runners we had talked to out on the course and same thing. Lots of hugs and teary-eyed laughs. All that raw emotion really makes for a memorable adventure! 

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.

After the race, I had a big celebratory brunch at Creekside Restaurant with all my running buddies. Some who just came up to cheer us on! My only regret was not staying a little longer. Maybe just one extra night would have been great. 

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 definitely become a yearly tradition. I strongly recommend making the Sedona Marathon events one of yours!

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Now, a question for YOU. What's the toughest race YOU have ever ran? How did you feel after the race and did you shake it off and tackle it again?


  1. LOVE the trucker hats! They should definitely become a marathon tradition. :-) Unless it was annoying to run in. Then, maybe not.

    This looks like such a great race. It's not too far from Vegas, but definitely in need of some travel. Maybe 2018 I'll be able to do a racecation for this baby.


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