Martin SMith

Chicago resident Martin Smith and friend, John McGivern have some fun after the 2012 race

Courtesy of Martin Smith

Some people don’t like flying. Some don’t like running.

Both those things suit Chicago resident Martin Smith just fine.

For the 10th straight year, Smith will pack his bags this month, board an airplane, and fly to Arizona to take part in the Arizona Distance Classic in Oro Valley.

And, just as last year, Smith won’t be the only out-of-state runner joining in on the fun this go around.

In 2013, according to Oro Valley Economic Development Manager Amanda Jacobs, the Arizona Distance Classic attracted participants from all 50 states and four countries. So far, participants from 47 states have registered this year.

Race Director David Babner expects the numbers to be just as impressive this year, with more than 2,200 racers anticipated to register by time the races begin on March 23.

To Smith, who is a frequenter of the Chicago Marathon, there is something unique about the Arizona Distance Classic, which is now in its 10th year of operation.

“I could race anywhere,” said Smith. “This race is the reason we visit Oro Valley. It does its job with attracting tourism.”

So does the well-kept Town of Oro Valley.

“First and foremost is the setting,” said Babner. “Once you get the opportunity to see Oro Valley, you want to keep coming back, especially if you are from another state or country, or even from another part of Arizona.”

Babner adds that as opposed to larger races, the Arizona Distance Classic has a unique niche.

“It’s got a boutique feel to it,” said Babner. “Unlike some of the mega races out there, we keep this race small. You get to run in and out of neighborhoods. You get to see Honeybee Canyon, which is home to the largest saguaro population in the country. You get fantastic views of the Catalinas and other mountain ranges. I’d put this race against any course in the country.”

Babner said 80 percent of race participants are from Arizona, while the majority of the remaining participants are from Ohio, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Smith’s home state of Illinois.

Smith, who also regularly runs the Chicago Marathon, has been training in sub-zero temperatures in his hometown. He will be competing for his personal best in the half marathon, while his wife will run the quarter marathon. The couple has convinced other members of their Chicago running group to tag along. It’s an experience they want to share.

“I’m always trying to get more people to come with me,” he said. “It’s definitely a memorable race.”

To register, visit

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