March 9, 2005 - The Arizona Distance Classic, a half-marathon designed to promote healthy lifestyles, will make its debut in Oro Valley on March 13.
More than 2,000 runners are expected to take part in the road race presented by John Bingham Racing. The day's events will feature the Valley of the Gold Arizona Distance Classic Half Marathon, the 5K Northwest Medical Center Run/Walk for Health and the One-Mile Senior Stroll sponsored by Splendido.
"We're real excited about how well the community has taken to this," said David Babner, co-founder of John Bingham Racing.
Oro Valley was a natural choice, said Babner, who cited the area's spectacular views and challenging hilly terrain. The Arizona Distance Classic is the third in a series of road races presented by Bingham Racing. The Chicago Distance Classic and the Columbus Marathon, both held later in the year, annually draw between 4,000 and 7,000 runners. Officials at Bingham Racing believe the Arizona Distance Classic can be just as big, and are promoting the race as the first of its "destination races," events that attracts runners from throughout the United States.
This year's race will feature runners from 28 states and three countries, and could contribute up to $3 million to the local economy, race organizers said.
The race will begin at Ventana Medical Systems, 1910 Innovation Park Drive, with the Half-Marathon Wheel Chair Race at 6:55 a.m. The Valley of Gold Half-Marathon will follow at 7 a.m. with the 5K getting its starting gun 15 minutes later at 7:15 a.m. After a turnaround at Woodbourne Avenue, the race will conclude where it started at Ventana Medical Systems.
A party with food and entertainment at the course's finish line will be held after the race. Also at the finish line will be a corporate village featuring businesses from Oro Valley and Tucson.
"Runners are not going to run their personal bests on this course," said Babner, noting the rolling hills of Oro Valley. "We want them to just enjoy the course and the views it offers."
While the runners enjoy the views, about 500 to 800 volunteers will assist with the race. Volunteers will work at the start and finish lines and run the 11 spirit stations set up along the course. These stations will be equipped with 20 volunteers supplying water and Gatorade and acting as cheerleaders for the runners.
"There is no limit to what you can do there," said Kimberley Schmitz, volunteer organizer for Ventana Medical Systems, of the different ways volunteers at spirit stations can cheer on the runners. Schmitz said the volunteers from Splendido will be dressing up in retro fatigues to support their runners.
Proceeds from the Splendido Senior Stroll will be donated to the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life program.
Runners can still sign up to participate in any of the three races. Registration will be held from noon to 8 p.m. March 11 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 12 at the Northwest Medical Center, 6200 N. La Cholla Blvd. The cost for the Valley of Gold half-marathon is $45. The 5K run is $30 and the senior stroll is $5 to enter. For more information, visit Arizonadistanceclassic.com.