The Inaugural Saguaro Half Marathon with Vacation Races

Wow, it’s been a big Spring Break! From getting a new electric car, to taking a road trip to Tucson AZ, to bringing home 4 foster kittens, the last week and a half have been non-stop for our family. With how busy we’ve been, it’s easy to quickly forget I just tackled the biggest distance of my little running career, I finished a half marathon! To make the occasion even more exciting, this was the very first Saguaro Half Marathon that Vacation Races has ever put on. With COVID-19 raging on, many of us were left wondering if we’d be allowed to race at all. Thanks to the great team at Vacation Races, here’s how I was able to run my very first half marathon during a pandemic.

Because we only live about 6 hours away, my husband and I opted to drive all the way to Tucson, Arizona for this race. Las Vegas lacks some of the greenery and any of the saguaro cacti that Arizona boasts, so the drive was rather scenic. Without fully knowing the range on my new electric car, we definitely took the traditional gas-powered vehicle for this trip. The biggest bonus of driving to our destination is that our dachshund Dart was included in the trip too! This was one of the biggest car trips he’s been on with us, aside from driving all the way from Indiana to Nevada for our big move a few years ago. The little stinkerface sometimes had a rough time navigating seatbelts, but otherwise did awesome on our trip!

When I first signed up for this race, I knew there was a moderate chance that it wouldn’t happen at all due to the pandemic. Little did I know that the team at Vacation Races was scrambling to keep the event going while the local health department tried to pump the brakes on any and all large gatherings. Soon after I signed up, registration closed as Vacation Races struggled to stay inside the health department’s participant cap. Thanks to all the AMAZING runners and walkers and race coordinators involved, we were actually able to split up the race into a two-day event and self-select which day we could run on. I’m so grateful for all the awesome participants that were able to move their race to Sunday so I could still race on Saturday without drastic changes to my travel plans! I have nothing bad to say about all the other runners and walkers as they were literally all kind and supportive and willing to do anything to make this race go off without a hitch. We all had to sacrifice having any spectators there to support us on race day, but I still managed to get some good pictures in even when my husband couldn’t be there to play photographer.

As far as the actual race goes, this course was about 40% trail and 60% road. The trail portion was so beautiful that I regret only seeing it at the beginning of the race. It was so cute though to see other non-desert runners warning each other about the dangers of cactus spines, lol. To help maintain social distancing, each wave of racers only included about 50 people in each corral at the start line. Once we got going, there were times that it looked like I had the trail all to myself! I’m not very fast so I definitely wasn’t in an early wave of starters, but I still got to see the last portions of sunrise around the mountains. The sunshine at Saguaro is no joke though, it wasn’t that hot out in the morning but the UV index was predicted to be 8/10 that day! *Cue my awkwardly pale sunscreened face and lips in all my photos.

The hills on this course were SO HARD. I’m insanely lucky that I accidentally trained on even steeper mountain trails in and around Las Vegas, or I would have been extremely close to giving up at Saguaro. Full disclosure, I ran up approximately zero hills during the race but I managed to maintain a heart-pounding power walk on the steepest terrain. My longest training distance was 10.85 miles, so I was super proud when I passed the 11-mile mark on this course. Those last two miles were where I needed most willpower to keep up my pace and finish strong. When I signed up for the race, I knew there was no way I could run the whole thing and I just wanted to go fast enough to finish inside the 4-hour time limit. As I trained and race day got closer, I knew a 3:15 time would be ideal for me but 3:30 might be more realistic based on conditions and how many photos I wanted to stop and take 😊 Guys, I passed the 3:30 pacer, was blown away when I passed the 3:00 pacer, and I beat my goal and finished in 3:14! As I crossed the finish line, the announcer personally called out each and every one of our names, recognized us first-time finishers, and I even got to ring a bell so signify my first half marathon finish!

So there you have it, my first half marathon is complete! My husband was a real trooper for accompanying me on this vacation that pretty much only included him sitting around in the car or sitting around at our Airbnb. We’re lucky he loves all his handheld video games for the massive amounts of downtime he had during this trip. Who knows, maybe I’ll get him to train and run with me for the next race? Ok, so he did get to do a tad bit of sightseeing with me. The views in this park were gorgeous! Oh, and Dart loved being allowed on the cozy couch and blankets at our rental.

I’m so proud of myself for finishing this! Exactly one year prior I was supposed to accomplish this huge goal of finishing my fieldwork for graduate school on March 27, 2020. Stupid COVID-19 took that milestone away from me, as I was dismissed from fieldwork a week early and my entire graduation was up in the air for a few weeks there. March 27 redeemed itself in 2021 by letting me accomplish my first half marathon instead 🙂 Who knows what unanticipated adventures I can take on by next year?

Happy adventuring everyone!

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