REVEL Mt. Lemmon Limited Edition Course Previews
REVEL Mt Lemmon Limited Edition
Feb. 22, 2021



A course strategy – and overall race strategy – is a must for optimal performance on race day. Whether this is your first REVEL race and your goal is simply to finish, or you are REVEL veteran aiming for a PR or BQ, you should have a well-planned strategy for how you intend to manage the Mt. Lemmon course!

The head coach of REVEL’s Online Coaching Program, who has run a Boston Qualifier in all the REVEL marathons, has prepared a detailed description of the Mt. Lemmon Marathon and Half-Marathon courses.

Managing the Course Based On Segments

A critical component of your race strategy is the course profile itself. Where are the sharp descents? Where are the climbs? Where does the course “flatten” a bit?

You want to plan your race with course segments in mind, and with an overall strategy for varying paces throughout. Your varied paces will be dictated by the elevation losses and gains, and you want to know before the race where those variations will occur.

Generally, the Mt. Lemmon Marathon course can be divided into three sections:

Miles 1-4: The Very Slow Start

Miles 5-25: Blazing Fast 21 Miles

Miles 26-F: The Flat Finish

Similarly, the Mt. Lemmon Half-Marathon course can be divided into four sections:

Miles 1-2: The Gently Fast Start

Mile 3: Short Slowdown

Miles 4-12: PR Territory

Miles 13-F: The Flat Finish

You can study the courses yourself on the REVEL website. You can zoom in, use the interactive elevation chart, and get a feel for what lays ahead of you on race day. If possible, you should drive the course before race day to get a feel for what the segments look and feel like. Knowing what to expect, and when, is helpful when preparing your course strategy.

The marathon and half-marathon courses are summarized below based on the segments described above.

The Marathon Course

Miles 1-4: The Very Slow Start

Starting at almost 7,800’ elevation, the first 4 miles of the course are challenging, but with proper planning and strategy you can manage the slowdown that you almost certainly will experience here.

From the very start, the first half-mile of the race gains 126’ of elevation, which is more than the famous “Heartbreak Hill” in The Boston Marathon. Mile 2 loses 189’ of elevation and can be extremely fast, with an overall downhill grade of -3.6%.

Miles 3 and 4 are where you can expect to slow down the most. Mile 3 gains 128’ of elevation, and that is at altitude of more than 7,900’. Breathing will be difficult, and the climbing will be tough. Mile 4 climbs another 229’ at an elevation just under 8,200’.

Allow yourself to slow down in these climbing miles. You still have many miles to go, and you want to conserve your energy for the next 22+ miles ahead, which are all remarkably fast and markedly downhill.

Miles 5-25: Blazing Fast 21 Miles

The climb throughout mile 4 peaks at mile 4.35, where the elevation is 8,187’. Over the distance of the next 20.65 miles, all the way to mile 25, you will lose 5,387 feet. That is 260’ per mile, with an average downhill grade of -4.9% overall.

Resist the urge to chase people if they pass you. While you want to take advantage of gravity, you should not feel as if you are running “too hard” or “too fast.” If you do, then you should ease back a bit and aim for a “comfortably hard” pace.

There is no question that this 21-mile section is what makes Mt. Lemmon a fast race. Every mile in this stretch, except for miles 11 and 14, drops more than 200’ per mile, with most well more than that.

Keep in mind that there are some short climbs in this section. You will see them if you drive the course before the race, and you definitely will feel them when you run the course. Prepare yourself for a few short but steep climbs at miles 7.3 (70’), 8.8 (59’), 10.1 (34’), and 15.9 (88’). These climbs will slow you down a bit, but your overall pace in those sections will still be faster than what you encountered in the climbs inside the first 4 miles. However, be prepared so that you are not surprised or discouraged when you encounter them.

Miles 26-26.2: The Flat Finish

After mile 25, the course flattens out a bit compared to the prior 21 miles, especially in the final half-mile of the race. Although the course does continue to drop another 96’ in the final 1.2 miles, you will notice the flatter sections of the finish.

Summary of the Marathon Course

The Mt. Lemmon Marathon course loses almost 5,100’ of elevation from start to finish, but actually loses more than that (5,473’) from mile 4 to the finish. Over the 26.2-mile course, you likely will surprise yourself with your speed on the downhill segments. After the anticipated slow miles from the start up to mile 4, remember that gravity is your friend for the next 22 miles. Take advantage of the benefits of downhill running!

The Half-Marathon Course

Miles 1-2: The Gently Fast Start

Starting at 5,877’ of elevation, the course drops over 180’ from the start to mile 1. That is a comfortable and manageable descent for your first mile as you warm up. Mile 2 picks up speed significantly, dropping another 273’. You will want to manage the early downhill by easing into your pace, settling in for the long haul, and letting gravity pull you along at a comfortably fast pace. You should not feel as if you are running “too hard” or “too fast.” If you do, then you should ease back a bit and aim for a “comfortably hard” pace.

Mile 3: Short Slowdown

You can expect a short slowdown in the second half of mile 3 due to the short, but steep, climb. Around mile 2.8, your elevation will be 5,181’. Before you get to mile 3, you will climb almost 90’ to 5,268’. You will need to “switch gears” to a slower pace based on even effort and should be prepared to run slightly slower than your goal pace on the uphill segment. Remember, this is still very early in the race, and you have downhill miles ahead where you can expect to speed up significantly.

Miles 4-12: PR Territory

This is where your half-marathon personal record (PR) will be made. Miles 4-12 all totaled lose 2,473’ of elevation, which is 275’ per mile. If you are keeping tabs on your pace, don’t be surprised to see that you have picked up significant speed. This is where gravity is your friend, and you will want to take advantage of the favorable downhill miles. However, be wary of a sensation of “running too fast.” If you feel out of control, or if you feel yourself working “too hard” while running downhill, then slow down.

Miles 13-13.1: The Flat Finish

The final 1.1 miles of the course are relatively flat, losing 84’ overall for the final stretch.

Summary of the Half-Marathon Course

The Mt. Lemmon Half-Marathon course loses 3,173’ of elevation from start to finish. With an average loss of around 242' per mile (a grade of -4.6%), this one of the fastest half-marathon courses you will ever run. Over the 13.1-mile course, you likely will surprise yourself with your "faster than normal" pace on the downhill segments.

Paul Carmona is the Online REVEL Coach who has designed training plans specifically for REVEL downhill courses. He is a 25-time REVEL Marathon Finisher and has run multiple Boston Qualifiers on every REVEL course that he has run, with his current streak at 23 BQs in a row at REVEL marathons!