50th Annual Saguaro National Park Labor Day 8-Miler & 5k Walk/Run

Monday, September 2, 2019
Race Info
Course Info
Race Info

Registration for the 50th Annual Saguaro National Park Labor Day Run is now open.  The race is capped at 750 people, so sign up now for the 8-miler or 5k at the 50th Anniversary -- we'll unveil the commemorative medallion sometime in late 2018!


49 Years Old, but faster than ever -- here's the race report from the 2018 edition!

Race Report by Race Director Randy Accetta September 4, 2018

What an honor to be involved with the 49th running of the Saguaro Labor Day Run, SAR's oldest race.  Thanks to the folks who braved the threat of rain to make their way along the hot rolling hills of Saguaro.  Click here for the race report for the 49th Annual Saguaro National Park Labor Day 8-Miler, including the listing of the RRCA Arizona State 8-MIle Championship.  

We are fortunate to have good friends who take their private time to catalogue these races -- we are grateful for their volunteer hours in service of creating memories for our runners.  Please thank our friends Kerry Whelan (aka The Goatographer) and Damion Alexander.

See the photos from Goatographer here

See mion Alexander's photos here.

The Saguaro Labor Day Run turned 49 yesterday -- but the true number of the day was 41:33.  Nicholas Hilton completed the filly 8-mile circuit through the cactus forest of Saguaro National Park at a clip of 5:12 per mile to set a course record at Arizona's oldest race. 

Chased by Harry Mulenga, whose runner-up time of 43:27 was one of the top 15 times in the history of the course, Hilton took the lead from the get-go and never looked back.  Now living in Flagstaff, Hilton spent a few years living in Oro Valley but had never raced Saguaro before.  In post-race conversation, he remarked how this race will set him up for his upcoming New York Marathon.  To paraphrase, the 59th Street Bridge and the Central Park hills got nothin' on Saguaro!  

For his efforts, Hilton was rewarded with a gift certificate from The Running Shop, a Running Shop-inspired saguaro key chain momento, and a check of $424.80 for crushing the race director's time 25 years ago.

The top five in the men's race included HIlton's 41:33, Mulenga's 43:27, and Japhet Kipkoech in 43:55.  Fourth place went to the Running Shop's Randy Arriola in 44:45, while fifth place was former course record holder Craig Curley in 45:36.  Curley has been taking a break from training and looks to round into shape throughout the fall season.

The women's race had its own drama, as Heather Jackson and Aleta Jokish waged a back-and-forth duel.  Jokish, a cross country coach at SalPointe High School and UofA graduate student, took the early lead.  Jackson, a triathlete who dabbles in running, caught her on the big hill, only to have Jokish respond.  However, it was Jackson who prevailed over the final rolling hills to take home the women's crown for the second year in a row. Jackson's 51:26 was 13 seconds better than Jokisch's 51:39, while TRP's Lauren Reasoner rounded out the top three in 53:35.

The 5k saw some serious speed, too, as the women's 8-mile course record holder, Katie James, dashed the hilly 3.1 mile course in 17:36 to win the race outright.  Katie is tuning up for a half-marathon later this month, as she prepares for a go at a fast marathon in Sacramento in December.

Age-Group and Awards

Thanks to Sharon Bart and The Running Shop for providing the gift cards and commemorative key chains.  As you check the results page, please be sure to visit the Running Shop before the end of September to get your awards.  If you have any questions about your overall time or place, please contact the race timer (himself a 10-time champion of Saguaro) Greg Wenneborg at greg@roadrunnerracetiming.com or contact the race director here.

The 8-Miler served as the Road Runners Club of America Arizona State 8-Mile Championship race.  RRCA State Champions include:

Men's Open: Nicholas Hilton

Women's Open: Heather Jackson

Men's Masters: Ken Tuck (the Master's State Champ is awarded to the first 40+ finisher -- Kevin Tuck is 62!)

Women's Masters: Janet Holland

Men's Grand Masters: Joel Stamp

Women's Grand Masters: Merry Dearmon

Men's Super-Grand Masters: John Mclean

Women's Super-Grand Masters: Sue Ahrens

Staging and Volunteers
Overall it was a beautiful day at Saguaro National Park, with an overcast and humid dawn turning hot by mid-morning.  Ranger Steve Bolyard, Chief Ranger Ray O'Neil, and the rest of the Park Service employees and volunteers deserve our special thanks for ensuring a safe and happy day at the Park. AMR was on hand for any medical emergencies, but, fortunately, were not called into action.

The volunteer crew from the Southern Arizona Roadrunners deserves special mention for creating a gracious and welcoming race experience.  The four Water Stations were handled by, respectively, the high school cross country team and coach Pam North from Sahuaro High School at Mile 2 and Mile 4; the youth soccer team FC Sonora United led by Caryn Fraser at Mile 6; and the Tucson Tri-Girls at Mile 7 and the 5k Water Stops.  The finish line water station and food stations were handled by the gang from Southwest Endurance, one of Tucson's happiest beginning running groups.

Special thanks to the crew from The Workout Group for all the set-up, breakdown, and course management.  I am sure I will miss some folks, but here is the list compiled by SAR Volunteer Coordinator Sheryl Felde:

Steve and Sheryl Felde
Marti Ackermann
Cindy Schnell
Bob Howard
Catherine Langham and family
Craig and Noemi Mills
Denise Gizinski 
Joe Faulk
Connie Lopez
Austin Grover
Dave Dixon
Steve Sheldon
Linda and Kerry Whelan
Amye Chaparro
Michelle Hawk
Jeff Fulks
Abby Nastase
Janet Holland
Don Branaman
Steve Outridge
Merry Dearmon and Steve Moore
Tucson Tri Girls
Saguaro High School
Soccer team
David, didn't get a last name

Lucas Tyler and Diane Manzini

Jennifer Garcia

These are all from Southwest Endurance:
Autumn Ball

Soo Chia
Eddie Gloyne
Sean Smith
Brandon Ball
Lyn Green
Luis Rivera

Concluding Appreciation

This race could not be produced without the help of Linda Whelan, who has spent countless hours helping ensure that our details are detailed!  And it almost goes without saying that the family of Tia Accetta and children Aric and Anabelle are crucial parts of this.  I get to write the race report, but Tia does way more than anybody realizes in support of this and other races.  

This scenic course and the post-race festivities truly embrace the spirit of the old Southwest, making the 49th Saguaro National Park Labor Day Run a regional favorite. This event has been featured as a Runner’s World Race of the Month and is currently featured in Runner's World online as one of the few races to take place on National Park Land.


Questions?  Email or call Randy Accetta, SAR race director at 520-991-0733

Date and Time

Race Start: 8 mile at 6:25 am, while the 5k starts at 6:30.

Race Awards

Race Director Prize Money Challenge: The first man who breaks race director Randy's course PR of 42:48 will receive $424.80 in cash on the barrelhead.  The first woman who breaks an age-graded equivalent of 47:48 will receive $474.80 in cash on the barrelhead.

Nicholas Hilton 41:33, 2018

Katie James 46:39, 2016

The 8 Miler is part of the Running Shop SAR Desert Grand Prix and is the RRCA Arizona State 8-Mile Championship, with special commemorative medallions to the first male and female in the Open Division, Master's Division (40+), Grand-Master's Division 50+) and Super Grand Master's 60+.

Special thanks to The Running Shop, long-time sponsor of SAR and the Saguaro Labor Day Run, for the awesome awards for the 49th Annual race!

8 Miler. Overall top three and Age groups: 0-19, 20-24, etc to 75 & over 
Overall 1: $40 Running Shop gift cert + keychain
Overall 2: $30 Running Shop gc + keychain
Overall 3: $20 gc + keychain
Masters 1: $20 gc + keychain
Age group 1: $15 gc + keychain
Age group 2: $10 gc + keychain
Age group 3: keychain

5K: Top three men and women, plus first place in age groups in 10-year categories: 0-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70 + 
Overall 1: $25 Running Shop gc + kc
Overall 2: $20 + kc
Overall 3: $15 + kc
Masters 1: $15 + kc
Age group 1: keychain

In these races, there is no double-dipping.  Overall winner will be taken out of all Age Group awards.

Additional Details

Parking: Park safely along Old Spanish Trail, Freeman Road, and Escalante. Please don’t block driveways or bike paths. Carpooling is strongly recommended. The earlier you arrive, the shorter your warm-up jog!

Park Fee: The National Park Service has been gracious about allowing us access to the beautiful park. The Park Service asks that all participants pay the standard $5 entry fee to the park. This amount will go directly to the National Parks Service. If you buy an annual pass to the national parks (or are under 16 years of age), this fee will be waived if you provide your permit number on your entry form. For information on an annual park pass, see visit this page, or visit any national park and inquire at entry. Race entry fees also include labor cost of additional park rangers required for the event.



The National Park Service: The National Park Service has been gracious about allowing us access to the beautiful park. The Park Service asks that all participants pay the standard $5 entry fee to the park. This amount will go directly to the National Parks Service. If you buy an annual pass to the national parks (or are under 16 years of age), this fee will be waived if you provide your permit number on your hard-copy entry form or your online registration. 

Friends of Saguaro: Thanks to Cox Charities, this year's event will donate funds to the Friends of Saguaro.  Friends of Saguaro National Park: Our mission is to help the public discover Saguaro, protect Saguaro, and support Saguaro.    

Southern Arizona Roadrunners: This event raises operating funds for SAR and income for the Children's Fitness Fund, an award-based program supporting youth fitness in and around Tucson.


Call Race Director Randy Accetta 520-991-0733 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Race Fees

Cap at  750 participants

8-Mile Run - registration opens November 12, 2018

$45 until January 1, 2018

$50 after January 1, 2019

5k Run/Walk - registration opens November 12, 2018

$35 until January 1, 2018

$40 after January 1, 2019

National Park Service members receive a $5 discount.  Using online registration, please enter "PARKMEMBER" and your Park Service membership number.

SAR Members: please check your emails for the SAR-member 10% discount!

Only one discount is allowed.

Please remember that all registrations are final, with no refunds or transfers to other races.  The race will take place rain or shine.


  • Register online with a credit card at active.com.
  • Saturday, August 31 at The Running Shop 10:00 am - 1:00 pm Visit The Running Shop at 3055 North Campbell Avenue and pick up your number and your shirt. Please note that there is no race weekend registration.
  • Race day packet pick-up will be available at the park entrance 5:30 am - 6:15am. Please arrive early enough to get your shirt and your race number on time! NEW LOCATION: We will hold packet pickup in the front parking lot of the Saguaro National Park, across from the Visitor Center.
News Course Info

Race Distances and Courses

8 miler and 5k family walk and run at Saguaro National Park East at 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail Rd.  The course is a challenging 8 mile loop with lots of rolling hills (see course profile in photo to right). Aid stations at approximately 2, 4, 6, and 7 miles provide plenty of relief with Culligan water.  Thanks to the Tri-Girls, Santa Rita High School, and Rincon High School for helping with the aid stations!

A family-friendly 5k, on an out-and-back rolling course is also available.  Strollers are allowed in the Fun Run/Walk only, but please, no bicycles, wheelchairs, skateboards, strollers, roller-skates, or pets allowed in the 8-miler. The 8M course closes at 9:00 a.m.

IMPORTANT: Saguaro is known for its hilly course and hot temperatures—please prepare accordingly: practice hills, acclimate to the heat, bring water, wear cool clothing, and adjust your pace to account for the demands of the race.

Women's Course Record: Katie James 46:39 (2016)

Men's Course Record: Craig Curley 41:39 (2008) 


Saguaro National Park East at 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail Rd.  Please note: The race is at Saguaro National Park EAST!

Race Weather

Race conditions at start are typically 75 degrees or higher, humid, clear skies, and no wind.It gets hotter later in the day . . . check out Tucson’s current conditions and forecast so you’ll be prepared!


The Southern Arizona Roadrunners is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting health and fitness in Tucson and Southern Arizona through running and walking.

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