Arizona Distance Classic


At Ventana Medical Systems

Going the Distance

Secret’s Out on Arizona Distance Classic in Oro Valley

By Steve Rivera Peter Snell has participated in the Arizona Distance Classic Half Marathon every year since its inception in 2005. He says there’s no better race in the Tucson area. “In addition to thinking it’s done on a beautiful venue, we like how the race is run,” said Snell, who along with wife, Jeanne, owns Fleet Feet Tucson. “It’s got a big-time race feel to it without the huge numbers. It still has that feel, and the runners are treated very well.” It started with about 1,000 runners and walkers in 2005, and now the Arizona Distance Classic Half Marathon is expected to grow to about 3,000 participants. The numbers come as great news to the event organizers M3S Sports. “The focus of the event is the celebration of an active, healthy lifestyle,” said David Babner, the event’s organizer. “We celebrate runners and walkers of all shapes, sizes and abilities.” On March 20, 2016, the event will be in its 12th year in picturesque Oro Valley with the Classic beginning at Ventana Medical Systems, on East Innovation Park Drive, heading away from the mountain and down through Rancho Vistoso. There, the runners turn around and head back toward the Catalina Mountains. “Oro Valley is just a beautiful area,” Snell said. “It’s one of the prettier race courses in Southern Arizona. I like it because of the hills. None of them are that long and that deep so it keeps the race more interesting, in my opinion, than a flat course.” The event will have a variety of distances – the Arizona Distance Classic Half Marathon, Half Marathon Wheelchair, Arizona Distance Classic Quarter Marathon, 5K Run/Walk, Kids Fun Run and Super Mile (Senior Walk). The event is limited to the first 3,000 participants. Register online. Prices vary. The Snells, like many of the participants, have done many of the events. They also have trained more than 1,000 participants for the event. The event was started on an invitation from entrepreneur John Corbett, who founded All About Running and Walking, an athletic footwear store in Oro Valley, and has been helped by the Town of Oro Valley and Northwest Healthcare (the presenting sponsor). Marathon planners recently partnered with Visit Tucson and the Hilton El Conquistador to help promote the event. Babner said in 2015 about 20 percent of the participants were from out of state, coming from 43 different states and three countries. He added that Runner’s World Magazine listed the event as one of the best kept secrets in the Southwest. “We are working on changing the ‘secret’ part of that,” Babner said. To the Town of Oro Valley, the event is somewhat of a golden goose. Amanda Jacobs, the economic development manager for the Town of Oro Valley, said nearly 600 out-of-town participants got “to experience what Oro Valley has to offer – whether it’s outdoor recreation, our beautiful resorts, dining opportunities or our arts and culture.” After the last event in 2015, Jacobs said the event’s economic impact was $269,349 based on 578 room nights at nearby hotels. She also knows the event’s value in as much as she’s been a volunteer. “I’m truly inspired each year by the participants,” she said. Babner said: “The Town of Oro Valley has been an amazing partner since its inception and as the town has grown, we have grown right along with it.”

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