More than a marathon
Running is tough enough, but how about running uphill at an elevation gain of 6,000 feet? It’s the bragging right for the Mount Lemmon Marathon in Tucson: 26.2 miles of paved road that winds through the Santa Catalina Mountains, starting in a desert landscape of saguaro stands and ending up in the midst of a pine forest.
Personally? No me antoja, even if the views of – and from – the Santa Catalina Mountains are spectacular (another bragging right). I’d rather drive up the General Hitchcock Scenic Byway, gracias.
Besides, even if I did want to run the Mount Lemmon Marathon, I’d have bastante training to do before I started, that’s for sure. But for avid runners in Arizona and beyond, the Mount Lemmon Marathon is a welcome challenge. Touted as “the most difficult road marathon in the world,” it’s the only strictly uphill marathon in the United States.
Last year’s inaugural run attracted hundreds of runners from across the country, with over 700 finishers in both the full and half marathons, including James Miles, who finished first in less than three hours and 15 minutes. It was his third marathon. Emily McGregor was the first woman to cross the finish line in less than four hours. It was her first marathon. Not bad for 25-year-olds.
So, now are you inspired? You still have time to train for the second annual marathon coming up in October. Hey, no qualifying necessary. There’s also a half marathon, if that’s more your speed. But how to train for an uphill marathon?
On the Mount Lemmon Marathon website, you can get a list of common-sense basics and a workout schedule, plus information on a few organized training and racing trips scheduled in August and September – keep in mind they’re limited to 24 and 12 runners respectively. You can train for Mount Lemmon with a run from Wickenburg to Prescott, or Sedona to Flagstaff, and when you’re ready, run Jerome Hill Climb in Jerome.
Another way to train is to follow ultra runner Matt Carpenter’s Pikes Peak Marathon plan, the “other” toughest marathon in the states. Carpenter has won ten Pikes Peak marathons and six ascents (the Pikes Peak half marathon). It’s a different kind of tough from the Mount Lemmon Marathon in that Mount Lemmon is strictly uphill, whereas the Pikes Peak marathon is flat in some areas, isn’t paved and includes the descent – but it also has an elevation gain of more than 7,700 feet at an 11-percent grade.
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