Race Distances and Courses
The Traditional Course
Special thanks to the Arizona Department of Transportation for allowing us access to the the St. Mary’s Underpass at I-10, and to the City of Tucson, Pima County, and the Tucson Police Department for all their help with the route planning.
Miles 1-3 The 5k and Half-Marathon runners both start in front of the historic Pioneer Building on Stone Avenue. To ensure an accurate and certified course for each race, the course will include a lap of the Downtown library at the very beginning, followed by a straight shot east along Pennington Avenue to Sixth Avenue.
Runners will head to the east side of Sixth Avenue and drop under the rail tracks via the Sixth Avenue Underpass, before heading north on Sixth Avenue all the way up to Second Street. Turn right on Second Street and head towards the University of Arizona for a half-mile or so, then turn left on First Avenue and left again on First Street. This section should be fun – plenty of folks to run with, an easy uphill through the first mile, then mostly flat for a mile, then a very nice downhill all the way through the Sixth Avenue Underpass. There is a water stop just before Mile 2, on Second Street and Fourth Avenue by the park.
Miles 3-4 The 5k will finish on Church at the cross walk of the Old Court House, while the Half-Marathoners will go past the finish line on Church at the Old Court House. From Court House/Jacome Plaza, go north on Church to Sixth Street, then turn left on Sixth. This stretch to I-10 is all a gentle downhill down towards the Santa Cruz. Take advantage of this slight drop. From Sixth/St. Mary’s you’ll turn south on Bonita and have the whole street to yourselves until you hit Congress. Heading west on Congress to the A-Mountain road at Cuesta is a gradual rise - not very noticeable, but still, a bit uphill. You’ll be on the north side of Congress all the way to Cuesta. Again, be patient on this stretch.
Miles 5-7 Once you turn south on Cuesta and hit Sentinel Peak Road you will begin to notice a bit of an uphill. OK, it's a bit more than a bit uphill. Almost the same distance as the famed Saguaro hill, the climb up to the “A” on A-Mountain can be broken into a few sections. Stay to the right side of the road on this whole stretch. The first piece through the neighborhoods is gradual, so try to get in a steady rhythm without working too hard. As you hit the parking lot on the right about a half-mile up the hill, you’ll notice a flattening for a couple of hundreds of yards. This is a good time to re-assess your pace and shake out your arms a bit. Then you have a quarter mile of steepness to the split at the top of the mountain, where the Cross Country team from Sahuaro High School will be cheering and handing out water. In 2015, we'll have Chuckwalla rock n' roll band, plus friends from Muscle Milk. Go through the Muscle Milk arch!
The race route will take you to the right, counter-clockwise, with a gorgeous view of the Starr Pass area to the west and the Santa Rita Mountains to the south. You can see the sparkling observatories of Kitt Peak and the mountains surrounding Baboquivari Peak. The hill softens a bit as you make the half-mile push for the sparkling white “A.” There are a couple of false summits as you approach the top, so maintain a steady pace.
According to mapmyrun.com, the whole climb is about 1.5 miles with a 509 foot elevation gain. Not that bad, right? Once you hit the low brick wall marking the parking areas on the east side, you’re almost to the top. Another hundred yards or so, and you level out for a few steps before plunging downhill.
Miles 7-8 The downhill is probably the hardest part of the course. Enjoy the pull of gravity, but you’ll want to be careful of running too fast - don’t brake yourself, but don’t overstride too much, either. Like with the Tucson Marathon, too much too fast will blow out your quads, so be smart on the downhill section.
Miles 9-10 Once you’re off the hill, the half-mile stretch heading east on Congress is pretty easy. Please stay inside the cones on the south lane of Congress. You’ll turn south on Grande and stay on the right side of the road all the way down to the bike path entrance just north of 22nd/Starr Pass Blvd. You may be tempted to pick up the pace on this stretch, but it’s probably better to be patient here as you run in the morning sunshine below Sentinel Peak. When you enter the Santa Cruz River Path at Grande (just north of Starr Pass Blvd), you'll have a water station, live music, and an ambulance at the dirt lot. At this point you should be in a nice rhythm.
Mile 10-12 Once on the bike path, you will stay on the right hand side of the bike path and head south for exactly 660 yards then do a U-turn and head back north, still staying on the right side of the lane as you pass runners for another 660 yards until the path opens up. (As you can probably tell, we needed this turn-around on the bike path to ensure that the course is exactly 13.1 miles.) You’ll head north on the bike path all the way until St. Mary’s again. Again, stay on the bike path the whole way -- you'll have a water station crewed by the cross country runners of Catalina High School offering water just before Mile 12. We'll also have live music here. You should be feeling good along the River Path, so this is a nice place to step up the pace a bit. There are some shady stretches and you’re getting closer to home on this primarily flat stretch.
Mile 12-13.1 Exiting the bike path onto St. Mary’s is a bit tricky. As you come up the hill off the bike path approaching St. Mary’s, you can either hug the pathway to the right and stay on the narrow sidewalk heading east across the Santa Cruz or you can jump down from the curb to the main roadway. If I were racing it, I would probably hop the curb, but it’s a bit high, perhaps as many as 10”, so be careful here. As you head under the I-10, you’re about 2/3 of mile from the finish line, so it’s time to put the pedal to the metal!! You finish with a long straight-away up Church Street. Save some for the final kick!
Tucson Lifestyle 5k Route Description
On normal race years, we stage the race here: 115 North Church Street in Downtown Tucson, at the Jacome Plaza by the library and the Old Court House.
There is plenty of nearby street parking. Please see ParkTucson for maps and locations or visit our friends at the Downtown Tucson Partnership for a great map of Downtown parking.
Race conditions are typically 63 degrees at race start, and clear skies. We’re a bit worried about the heat, so check out Tucson’s current conditions and forecast so you’ll be prepared!