Sedona Half Marathon Race Recap

February 8, 2016

There is something indescribable about the western part of the United States. It’s as if an invisible magnetic force is consistently pulling me toward it with unruly strength. Being in the mountains inspires me in ways I can’t quite explain. Everything about it feels like a metaphor for life, and running through Mother Nature’s greatest masterpieces always reminds me why I love running. When my friend Elizabeth invited me to run the Sedona Half Marathon as part of her journey to run a marathon or half marathon in every state, I jumped at the chance.

Watch the 2-minute recap of my Sedona Half Marathon Race Weekend here:

The weeks leading up to the race were complicated to say the least. Amidst a huge work event, traveling, the final stages of building our house and a miscarriage a week before the race, my body and heart weren’t in a racing state of mind. I knew this racecation would simply be a chance to disconnect, recharge, spend time with a dear friend and run for the joy of running in one of the most beautiful places in the country.

Sedona Half Marathon race recap on
Sedona Half Marathon race recap on
Sedona Marathon Race Recap on

The day before the race, I read an article about the event on the front page of a local Sedona newspaper. At the end of the story, there was a quote from a woman who had run the Sedona Half Marathon six times and was planning to run it again this year. She described the race this way:

“The course is terrible. It turns around on a hill and finishes on a hill. But the view – I have to stop and take a selfie, every time. It’s incredible.”

This woman could not have been more right. The Sedona Half Marathon was one of the most beautiful races I have ever run. It was also one of the most challenging.

Sedona Half Marathon Race Recap on
Before the race at the start
Sedona Half Marathon Race Recap on
This was the cutest runner on the course. This woman was racing the states like Elizabeth and was running the full marathon dressed like a cactus. This was her 39th state.
Sedona Half Marathon Race Recap on

The Sedona Half Marathon is an out-and-back course that will remind you of a roller coaster. It started at about 4,500 feet and included 1,100 feet of climbing. It actually reminded me of the Kauai Marathon course I ran in 2014. The first half mile of the course is downhill. Then, you start to gradually climb for the next two miles.

Sedona Half Marathon Race Recap on

At about mile 2.9, you {finally} descend down a very steep hill. The course then goes up and down, up and down the rest of the way. There was a very steep hill around mile 5, which is the first point where I walked for about 30 seconds. Once I started running again, I experienced a lot of cramping in my ribs the rest of the race, which sharpened intensely on all the downhills and subsided a little on the uphills. I hydrated and ate well the day before and had my normal pre-race meal. But for some reason, my electrolyte balance was off despite taking two GUs, water and sports drink on the course.

After rounding the corner at the turn-around point, I couldn’t believe how steep the hills we had just run up were. I was hurting, so I decided to start walking up the hills and running all the downhills and flatter portions of the course.

Photo Source: Action Media
Photo Source: Action Media

Since running on mostly flat surfaces in Florida and inconsistent running leading up to the race, I was not prepared for the hills or committed to pushing through the pain as I normally am for a race. The result was a gorgeous race that included a lot of walking and ended with my slowest half marathon time ever. I never felt good. My first mile was my fastest mile at 7:58. My slowest mile was mile 11 at an 11:00/mile pace which included almost a half-mile of walking. I pulled it together the last two miles and was so glad to see the finish line after running uphill the last half-mile. Elizabeth was waiting for me right at the finish line. She finished about 12 minutes before me, having felt strong and smooth during the race, a fantastic sign given all the hard work she has already put into her Boston Marathon training for April. This race marked the 35th state in her journey to race the states.

Sedona Half Marathon Race Recap on
Sedona Half Marathon Race Recap on

I love running for fun. I love training for run. But racing … I like to reserve that for being my best. Even though I planned to just finish and not run very fast, seeing the time on the clock and not being committed to giving it all I had made me feel deflated, even as the scenery convinced me I most certainly was running in Heaven. I said I didn’t have a goal. I said I didn’t expect to run fast. I said I would walk up steep hills and take pictures when I wanted to. I did all that and was still bummed with the outcome. It’s the competitor in me. I’m not built to do anything mediocre. I don’t enjoy running a half marathon 21 minutes slower than my personal best, even when I tell myself it’s ok.

Every time we run and race we learn something about ourselves. I learned that I’m so incredibly grateful and thankful to get to run and experience running across the world. I was reminded that I’m so fortunate to have developed such special friendships through running. I also learned that racing without purpose does not fuel my deep passion for running. Until I’m ready to train hard and race with purpose, I am going to keep running for fun in my neighborhood and with friends, reserving racing for the moments where I’m ready to test my true potential and fulfill the strength I have inside me. I have my heart set on running the 2017 St. George Marathon as a big comeback race. Time shall tell and we shall see.

Despite my less than stellar race performance, it was a truly amazing weekend. Elizabeth and I had a spectacular time in this remarkably beautiful city. We ran, we hiked, we ate like queens, we shopped, we went off-roading in a jeep, we visited Sedona’s most popular sites and made a million memories.

Sedona Half Marathon Race Recap on

I would highly recommend the Sedona Half Marathon to any runner, especially as a long weekend getaway with good friends. Here’s what you should know about the race:

  • You can fly into Phoenix and rent a car to make the 2-hour drive to Sedona. The trip is a straight shot and a beautiful drive you will enjoy.
  • Sedona is an amazing city. You will say the words “wow” and “stunning” about 300 times a day. Everything is really close and convenient to get to.
  • Sedona is about 4,500 feet above sea level, so if you don’t live in a place with any altitude to speak of, you may experience some acclimation issues. We found ourselves a little more out of breath than usual. You’ll want to be extra mindful of staying hydrated in the higher altitude. The race is extremely hilly, so plan to enjoy this race and save your big goals and PR dreams for a course that is not quite as challenging. You will have to climb about 1,100 feet during the race.
Sedona Half Marathon Race Recap on
You can see the total elevation gains and losses during the course of the 13.1 miles. I wore my Endorphin Warrior LIMITLESS Training Bracelet the entire weekend and also gave one to Elizabeth to remind us of our limitless potential, strength and possibilities.
  • The race has a later start than most events. The marathon started at 9 a.m. and the half marathon at 9:10 a.m. You are able to really take your time in the morning without rushing, but it also means a later finish time, which will cut into post-race activities.
  • There are quite a few hotels within walking distance of the race start. We stayed at the Sedona Real Inn & Suites for $139 a night and loved it. They had free breakfast and Wi-Fi, and all the rooms had refrigerators, microwaves and DVD players. It was perfect for a race weekend and for accommodating pre-race food and hydration needs.
  • The race expo is easy to access but very small. You won’t find any mind-blowing gear to buy or memorabilia you will want to take home. Instead you can spend your money on a pre-race Pink Jeep Tour and an amazing post-race dinner at L’Auberge Sedona’s Chef’s Table.
  • All of the race logistics are simple and easy. The race starts and finishes at the same location, and the course is an out-and-back route. There are also 5K and 10K options if you are coming with runners who prefer a shorter distance. Gear check is convenient, and you can find your throw-away clothes at gear check at the end of the race (volunteers gather them all up and put them in piles for runners to find). There’s a Goodwill about 10 minutes from the race start where we purchased some throwaway jackets for less than $4 the day before the race.
  • The race T-shirt and medal were pretty basic. The scenery on the course more than makes up for the mundane bling.
Sedona Half Marathon Race Recap on
  • There are so many amazing things to do in Sedona, which makes it the perfect destination for a racecation. Later this week, I will share a Sedona race weekend travel itinerary for anyone who is interested in running/racing in this beautiful town. Great hikes, adventure tours, shopping, sightseeing, delicious food, breweries/wineries and more await.

Have you ever run the Sedona Half Marathon or Marathon? What is the most beautiful or scenic race you’ve ever run?



So first off, I absolutely loved the video and hearing your voice, plus the scenery is just amazing. You are so right about Arizona and how you feel transported to another world when you’re there.
Second, I can 100% understand how you feel both defeated and happy about “just running for fun” but then seeing the clock. As you know, I suck at not competing but this was truly a great time and place for you to just not give a s**t, be with your friend in a beautiful setting and enjoy giving your mind and body a break.
Wish I could just give you a big HUG!!! xoxoxo


I think Big Sur has been my most scenic marathon. I was in Sedona a few months ago – a pretty place. I ran the St. George Marathon a couple of years ago, which is a great race and also beautiful, but be prepared for hills (again)! I’m glad you were able to complete the race even though you’re going through such a difficult time.

Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

I would totally have done this one for fun. I’ve been to Sedona and what would be the point of running fast? Save that for a race in Illinois where it’s ugly and there’s not much to see! I’d want to take in all the sights. And get some energy from the vortexes.

Sandra Laflamme

So gorgeous! I would love to run there sometime. It is definitely hard to run and not worry about time when you are a competitor. Try not to feel to deflated. You need to go easy on yourself a little. Sending big hugs to you!

Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

Holy hills that’s a lot of climbing in a half! I’ve never been to Arizona but your photos are so beautiful. I haven’t done a scenic half yet, but my next half marathon in March is along a big lake on the Eastside of Seattle, which will be a nice change from just racing along the roads.

Lora @ Crazy Running Girl

Holy cow, sooo beautiful! I will have to add this to my wishlist. I ran Big Sur Marathon in 2013 and it was AMAZING!!!!


You would love it Lora. I am dying to do Big Sur as well. It is definitely on my race bucket list … although it will definitely need to be a non-goal run 🙂 xoxo

Carolina John

Cool! Glad you found the cactus runner – Charlotte Corriher is a good friend of mine. she runs every marathon in costume and lives in NC and Key West, FL. Y’all should connect!


Love the post and video! I lived in Arizona for 13 years and my hubbie and I always took get away weekend trips to Sedona. It is truly one of the most amazing and beautiful places on Earth! My sister still lives in Phoenix so I will have to recommend this half marathon! As for the competitor in you, I often feel the same. If I can’t give 100% to training, then I don’t feel like doing the race just for fun. I did a half ironman last spring and I knew I did not want to put in another 100% training, so I told myself to cut back on the training and have fun. I was very disappointed with my time although I could not expect much more. So I think it all depends on the person. So I have agreed, like you, to just enjoy this time now running and doing whatever I want for training, since I have no big races on the calendar. Great post as usual!


I lived in Flagstaff for three years (college) and though I didn’t run then, I totally got down to Sedona any chance I got (which wasn’t enough). I think I’d love to do this one some day, just for fun, just to get back there!