To Arizona Distance Classic Race Director David Babner, who has seen and organized his fair share of races around the country, there is just something special about Oro Valley.
It’s the 75-degree March weather, the breathtaking views, and the supportive, enthusiastic community.
For officials in Oro Valley, there is something equally special about the Arizona Distance Classic (ADC). After being pitched to town staff more than a decade ago, the race has continued to serve as an eye-opener.
“I would go so far as to say this is one of the first events that got us thinking about athletic tourism for Oro Valley because it has become so successful,” said Town Mayor Satish Hiremath. “This inspired our investment into the Aquatic Center, into the archery range – and it all goes back to the initial thinking that tourism is a $2 billion industry, and we have to continually ask ourselves: ‘What do we have in Oro Valley?’”
Town officials can happily say they have one of the largest races in Southern Arizona in the ADC, a race that continues to grow year after year.
According to Amanda Jacobs, economic development manager, last year the event attracted participants from all 50 states and four countries.
The numbers are only improving this year.
“We are about 15 percent ahead of last year at this time,” said Babner. “We have between 1,600 and 1,650 registered, and we anticipate between 2,300 and 2,500 total.”
In addition to the beautiful scenery, Babner said much of the growing popularity has to do with successful collaborations with the town officials and volunteers.
“The Town of Oro Valley has made it very easy for us to recruit people to join this event,” he said. “We’ve always looked for a community that is interested in a healthy lifestyle, and we receive a lot of support and participation here from the residents, mayor and council, youth groups, and volunteers.”
Hiremath said he feels residents understand the importance such an event has on the community.
“This is bigger and better every year because the town and residents understand the economic impact this can have,” he said. “It’s important for us to showcase this. Before, we were a bit more territorial, but now we have opened up and invite people from across the nation into our town.”
The Arizona Distance Classic offers four races, to include the Valley of Gold Half Marathon (13.1 miles), the Quarter Marathon (6.55 miles), Northwest Medical Center 5k, One Mile Champions Walk, and the Town of Oro Valley Kids Fun Run.
“We don’t care how people participate, we would just like to see them participate, whether it’s running, walking, spectating, or volunteering,” said Babner.
The Arizona Distance Classic takes place on March 24.
Registration is still open for the event at www.arizonadistanceclassic.com.