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Tucson Marathon Course Strategy

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

The Downhill Tucson Marathon Course is Brutal.

Tucson Marathon: Pretty but BRUTAL

Let’s go back to Algebra 1 and discuss slope.  Expressed as a percentage, slope is used in lay terms to describe a hill’s steepness.  It is calculated as “rise over run”, then you move the decimal point to the right two spaces to get a %.  To understand what that number means, think about the incline button on a treadmill.  Most treadmills will go up to 15%, some will offer negative slope but rarely more than -3%.

Why am I telling you this?  Because you need this information to train for this race.  In the first mile alone, you lose 500 ft.  That’s a slope of -9.5%.  Miles 2-8, you will lose 1000ft, that’s a slope of -3.2%.  That is steep, yo.  This section alone can trash your quads, and we still have 16.2 downhill miles to go.  You lose a total of 2200 ft in elevation over the course of 26.2 miles, with 3 incline sections that will feel like mountains. 

Make no mistake, this is a downhill marathon and you MUST prepare accordingly.  Lots of uphill and downhill running, stability work on a bosu ball for your quads, uphill sprints, uphill and downhill tempos, etc.  If you do not have access to at least 1 hill with 1000 ft elevation loss over 1 or 2 miles, you probably need to give this one a miss. 

This point-to-point course is beautiful, well-organized and supported, and should be on every runner’s list.  I highly recommend it.  I also highly recommend preparing specifically for it.  The casual runner who shows up expecting a fast race because ‘downhills, yo!’ is cruisin’ for a bruisin’. 

Section 1 (Miles 1-8): -9% slope, then -3.2% slope

May God have mercy on your soul.  This is really steep.  You will need Glutes of Glory for months to prep.  Keep that cage LOCKED, form is paramount.  

Section 2 (Miles 9-13): negligible; 100ft rise over roughly 5miles.

This is going to hurt.  100 ft rise isn’t very steep, but that’s not your problem.  You fatigued one muscular system with those steep downhills, and your quads will quake like a baby giraffe learning to walk as they attempt to stabilize you going uphill again.  This is going to feel like the biggest hill in the world.

Section 3 (Miles 13-20): -2% slope

You’re going downhill again.  It’s not as steep as the first section.  Yay!  And you don’t have to do burpees anywhere.  Double yay!  I honestly don’t know what to tell you other than focus on the views, they are spectacular.  Don’t stop too long for photos though, each time you stop it will be harder to get started again.

Section 4 (Miles 21-finish): -1% slope to mile 24, then an uphill bump that is going to make you cry, then -2.3% slope to the finish

MK Fleming is the founder of Fitness Protection, LLC where she trains runners for $29 per month and gives marathon plans away for free. Click here to download her most popular Marathon plan, Tenacious AF, free!

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