A Hidden Gem in Arizona: My Arizona Distance Classic Half Marathon Review

The Arizona Distance Classic Half Marathon, Quarter Marathon, and 5k is a true hidden gem in Oro Valley, Arizona! This was my first time running the event, and I had an absolute blast. Read on to find out why as I share the details about my awesome race weekend.

credit: Oro Valley Photography
The 2017 AZ Distance Classic Half was the last weekend in March and was the perfect mid-spring race to add to my schedule. I'm working on some larger, longer distance races this summer and fall, and I was able to use the Arizona Distance Classic Half as a tune-up run. I wanted to go and have fun, while seeing where my training needed to improve in order to reach this year's running goals.

I currently live in Phoenix, so I drove down to Oro Valley, AZ (just north of Tucson) on Saturday morning. It's a quick 1.5 hour drive, so this race is a great mini-vacation for us Phoenix residents. If you're from out of state looking for a fun getaway, the drive from the Tucson airport to Oro Valley isn't far there are lots of great places to visit while you're there.

We picked up our packets at Fleet Feet Sports. There were sales for race participants on clothes, gear, even New Balance shoes! It's a small store but packed a lot of cool stuff inside. Packet pickup was quick and easy, and we were in and out with plenty of time to spare for lunch.

Jason and I were invited as VIPs for this event. VIPs received a special New Balance quarter-zip with the race logo, as well as *two* wrist bands for access into the VIP area on race day. This VIP area provided special restrooms, tables, breakfast, and lunch to it's members. I loved the VIP treatment and think it was well worth the extra $75. (Side note: if you stayed at the host hotel, The Hilton El Conquistador, you would be automatically upgraded to VIP for FREE *and* your packets would be waiting for you at check in. How awesome is that?!)

Seriously, these quarter zips are SWEET! We even wore them for the race.
The race shirts for all participants were also great! Gender-specific sizing and a fantastic dark blue that I loved. The Arizona Distance Classic really blew it out of the water on the swag items!

I used to live in Tucson, so I had to go visit some of my favorite places. First off, was Beyond Bread-lots of delicious carbs to be had there! Then, we went for a hike/warm-up run at Sabino Canyon. Finally, we wrapped up the evening with some BrushFire BBQ. Seriously some of the best BBQ I've ever had and always crave it up in Phoenix.

The race started at 7am on Sunday, but we wanted to take advantage of the VIP breakfast and get to the race a little early. We did not stay at the host hotel, unfortunately. Instead, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express-Oro Valley and it was actually very nice and only a 7 minute drive to the race start.

One of the great things about this race course was it was out and back. Where you start is where you finish, making race-day logistics of figuring out where you'll park, spectators, etc all a breeze. There was plenty of parking when we arrived and it was short walk to where the race would start.

We arrived around 6am, and it was about 51 degrees. For us Arizonans, it was a little chilly. Haha! But we went to the VIP area for some hot coffee and a bagel. That coffee was a life saver! Plus, there were private restrooms for the VIPs and a very small wait if any. For those who were not VIPs, I saw plenty of ports-potties and not very long lines there either.

VIP Area!

It warmed up quickly and was eventually time to get started. We wore the New Balance quarter zips we received, and I have to say really quick--I've never worn New Balance gear before and I really like this long sleeve! It was perfect for the chilly start, with thumb holes and everything. As it got warmer, I just rolled up the sleeves and didn't have a problem with chafing or anything. Really a great piece of gear that I'll continue to use for sure.

The Arizona Distance Classic course was really scenic--lots of desert vegetation and mountain views. Jason and I wanted to see what kind of pace we could keep and were attempting an 8min/mile pace to  push ourselves a bit. So we were focused more on time and not as much on the scenery. But when we did take a break from watching our Garmins, we loved the views and took a few precious minutes at a time to take it all in.

The Arizona Distance Classic definitely has some hills, but it's more of a rolling course and the largest incline is only about 500ft. So while you do have some climbing, it's just enough to make it a challenge for yourself and not enough to make you swear at your running buddy.

There were plenty of aid stations spread throughout the course, lots of porta potties and electrolytes and water at each station. At the half-way mark for the half-marathoners, they had Boom Nutrition (energy gels that are dairy, soy, and gluten free and vegan friendly). I haven't tried these before and was wary of doing so when pushing the pace like we were. But they did look good!

We lost a little a few seconds from our pace on the climbs (best do some more hill training) but managed to gain some of our time back. All the while feeling good and enjoying this great race.

 Jason and I finished the Arizona Distance Classic Half in 1:45! A PR for him, and a great comeback finish for me! The medals were fantastic and I really like them. The VIP area was also a great welcoming site, with wraps, chips, and that oh-so-precious coffee that I couldn't get enough of.

After a quick nap and shower back at the hotel, we hit up Nimbus Brewery in Tucson where we met up with a fellow Team Nuun member for lunch. We treated ourselves to some local brews and burgers. Amazing food and drinks. Seriously recommend checking out Nimbus! 

The race management was fantastic and they did an incredible job. The only thing I would note to them was the race distance was a little short. I know we stuck to the inside curves and that will cause Garmins to be a little short, but we were off by about 0.2 Miles. Not a problem at all, but a suggestion to look at for next year.
Lots of photographers on the course, and so I bought a few of the race photos.
They came out literally 48 hours after the race! Kudos to Oro Valley Photography for a great job on these!

All in all, my Arizona Distance Classic Half Marathon weekend was a fantastic race experience. I highly recommend working it into your race schedule. There are also two smaller distances available if you're not up for the half yet or just want a nice "recovery" run. I also recommend adding in the VIP experience into your registration--It's worth it!

For more info on this race, be sure to follow the Arizona Distance Classic on social!

I am already making plans to leave a slot open in my race schedule for the 2018 Arizona Distance Classic Half Marathon! I hope you enjoyed my race review. If you have any questions at all about this race, anytime, please don't hesitate to comment below! Happy Running my friends!

Disclaimer: I was invited as a special guest to this race and received a free entry into the Arizona Distance Classic Half. All opinions I've shared above are my own. 


  1. Jeremy,

    Thank you for the great review of the Arizona Distance Classic. I am glad that you are impressed with the fast upload and tagging of the race images. As a runner myself, I understand the importance of having fast access to the images. The race director and timing company for the AZ Distance Classic are extremely helpful in getting me the information quickly so I can get the photos to you. Thank you again for the excellent article.

    Erik Wilkinson
    Oro Valley Photography

    1. Thank YOU for the great photos at this event. Loved them! Hope to see you out there again next year.


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