It’s a mix of nerves, excitement, and fierce competitive anticipation as you wonder how it’ll all turn out. October 1st started no differently as a few of us from the Arizona Office of Tourism headed towards our fate and put forth our best in the Great Arizona Grape Stomp 5K in the Verde Valley Wine Region. Do you need more of a motivation than wine?

We arrived in downtown Cottonwood to a very relaxed race check-in. I gave one of the volunteers my name and peered over her shoulder to see how many racers had signed up, so far I was 115.  With possibly 150 racers that morning, I had a chance. We were given our t-shirts and goodie bags, and ushered towards the starting line. The race was scheduled for an 8:00am start, but at 7:55am, racers were still in stretching mode, with photo ops every which way you turned. By 8:15am, we lined up on Main St. and without so much as a “Ready, Set, Go!” the pack took off in the direction of the morning sunrise.

It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes and we were crossing over the Verde River with Dead Horse Ranch State Park – the half way mark –in sight. The weather was a breezy 70 degrees, but at nearly 4,000 feet, the run was much more challenging than what I was used to in Phoenix (about 1,000 ft. elevation) with mostly flat training routes. No matter – I was about 20 runners from the front and I could taste victory.

Just as we hit Dead Horse Ranch State Park, a runner’s worst nightmare struck – the side stitch.  This particular instance was more of an "all-across-your-abdomen stitch" and it strong-armed me to a walk. No less than ten to fifteen runners shot past me -- including children half my age. By the time the stitch had subsided, I trotted back into the pack, this time with less realistic visions of victory and because of that, was able to do what I love the most about running – simply enjoy the moment, the scenery and the feeling of each foot in front of the other.

After the finish, we enjoyed free athletic massages right along the street and cheered for those that placed first, second and third.  One of the winners was only 12 years old!

RedRoosterCafe2 crop.jpgWe joined many of the fellow racers at the Red Rooster Café for breakfast, and indulged in quiches, fruit salads and mini breakfast sandwiches. Mostly, we took in the gorgeous patio-side weather.

Making our way back through Jerome, we poked around a few quirky shops and perused the Mine Museum until hitting the post-run “wall” and decided to call it a day. Another great race, and another great Arizona Saturday. 

Feeling the race fever? There’s truly no better season, as Arizona’s desert areas offer wintertime weather promising several months with ideal temperatures for endurance training. Our office will also put out a nice article on our October eNewsletter covering several statewide races for every level.  Here's a sneak peek.

We’ve got a dash for every taste, including those like myself… that also like wine.


RebekahBell2.Blog.jpgRebekah Bell is Advertising Manager for the Arizona Office of Tourism.  She manages consumer advertising initiatives related to broadcast, print and outdoor media.