Yep, you read that correctly … a summer series … in Arizona.
I’ve participated in the Arizona Road Racers Summer Series for the last 4 summers and really look forward to it each year. It’s a great way to keep me accountable through the hot months, it’s very affordable, the races are well run and there’s a competitive field that comes out to participate. I also greatly appreciate their friendliness to families/young runners – anyone under 18 gets to run free if they purchase the $10 annual membership (or $5 per event). Because of this I keep my school running club going through the summer and the kids love being able to race every couple weeks!
The series always starts with a 5k the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend in May. I have enjoyed this 5k in the past because the weather is still a little cooler so they are able to start it a little later. This year, sadly, I had to miss this race since we were in California for Mountains 2 Beach Marathon. I was bummed because they took it to a new venue this year – the Gilbert Riparian Preserve – which is a beautiful area close to our house. Hopefully they will keep it there next year and I can run it! (previously it was held at Papago Park – which was also a great venue)
The 2nd 5k is held at Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix. This is a fun course, with the entire route in the dirt … but, don’t let that scare you – they are easy, packed trails!
Since I missed the first event, I didn’t know how the field in my age group was looking so I was pleasantly surprised when I walked home with a 2nd place finish out of the 26 women in my AG.
The 3rd event is a 4 mile run on the 4th of July. This is always held at Rio Vista Park in Peoria. This course is a long rectangle, utilizing sidewalks on both sides of a water retention area … basically 2 miles out, cross over and 2 miles back. It doesn’t show up the the elevation chart, but there are good rolling hills along both sides of this course to keep you honest!
With this being a 4th of July celebration, the race is always followed by a BBQ with hamburgers and hotdogs … and, as odd as it sounds, they surprisingly taste fantastic at 6am! This event is a big draw and always has a large crowd – this year nearly 700 runners! I ended up with 4th out of 44 in my AG.
The 4th event is a 5k at Kiwanis Park in Tempe. This is a nice course that starts and finishes along the canal and the middle miles loops you around the park and lake. It’s sidewalk the whole way and is always one of my favorite venues. However, this is generally when it starts to get a little more humid in Arizona which makes it feel a lot tougher!
Feeling good about my run, I was happy to walk away with 2nd place out of the 29 women in my age group. One of my young runners ran to a 3rd place finish in hers … her first podium!
And the final 5k, the toughest, is run at South Mountain. They changed the course this year which did make it a little easier – but, it’s still 1.5 miles up and 1.5 miles down. This one is run on the road with the entire course being paved.
South Mountain is a pretty course, but it does get hot out there! It’s nice knowing I just need to push hard for the first half and then get the benefit of the downhill at the end.
These ladies have been fantastic competition through the summer! It was fun racing them and really pushed me to run hard. In this final event, they do handicap start so everyone starts with their age group (and they send the fastest groups last). It was nice being able to start together and early on we knew it was the 3 of us racing for the top 3 (unless someone started with the wrong age group). I ended up with another 2nd place finish out of 30 women.
Summer Series Standings:
After each event you are awarded points based on your finishing place in your age group. At the end of all 5 events, they throw out your worst score and add up the other 4. Series awards are then based on those points. With that, you must do at least 4 of the events in order to place top in your age group. This year my 2nd place finishes earned me enough points to place 1st in my age group for the overall series award (The girl who beat me those 3 times only ran 3 of the events so she didn’t have enough to take a series award). The age group awards were handed out at their I-Did-A-Run event mid-September, which meant we got to do one last race to finish up the summer!
Must haves when running the summer series:
Handheld water bottle – yes, there are aid stations on course so you don’t need to bring your own water. I actually use this mostly to cool me off – I fill the bottle with water and freeze it the night before – even just holding that giant ice cube in my hand helps a lot. Throughout the event, as I start to overheat, I will dump the ice cold water on my head. When I get thirsty, it’s nice to have something with me so I don’t have to wait for the aid station – I do drink a little of it, but not much.
HeadSweats Visor – this is a must! Not only to keep the sun and sweat out of my eyes, but to help keep the cold water on my head.
Sparkle Athletic Skirt – gotta have fun with it!
Things to consider before signing up:
The races are EARLY – with the heat, they have to be!
The races take place across the valley and could very well take you longer to get there than they do to run – the two farthest events for me are over an hour away.
If you want a series award, you need to show up to at least 4 of the 5 events.
In the first 4 events, runners are responsible for lining up at the start based on their projected race pace … most people do a good job with this. In the final event the slower runners start first. So, if you are in a fast group, be prepared for a lot of weaving around people at South Mountain.
Even if you sign up for the whole series, you need to pick up a new bib before each race – plan that time into your morning routine.
The events are well run, there is great support on course and refreshments after … with watermelon always being the highlight for me!
I would recommend this series to anyone in the valley looking for a way to stay active through the summer! All ages, paces and abilities are welcome!