Sunday morning’s The Marathon Project in Chandler, Arizona (20 Dec. 2020) is another in a long list of brainstorms conceived by HOKA Northern Arizona Elite founder/coach Ben Rosario, along with agent Josh Cox, and Big River Race Management’s Matt Helbig. Ben is a fellow native St. Louisan and quintessential “when the world gives you lemons you make lemonade” type guy.
Thus, despite the pandemic cancellation of so many annual races, Sunday’s The Marathon Project will host nearly 100 runners, men and women alike, who will go in search of PRs in the cool, dry desert air on a flat 4.3-mile loop that encircles the Rawhide Western Town & Event Center, an authentic replica of an 1880’s Arizona mining town. The Marathon Project will stream live ( 8 a.m. Mountain time) on USATF.TV (requires subscription). NBCSN will air a 90-minute race replay on Sunday at 8:00 p.m. ET.
In the inaugural year of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon/Half-Marathon in 2004, we brought a number of the invited Kenyan runners to the Rawhide Western Town to shoot a feature piece for our Fox Sportsnet TV show.
Once we got the Kenyans corralled (a chore in itself, as you might imagine) we had them strap on six-shooters and don cowboy hats to simulate an old West gunfight.
I had been in Kenya the year before, and now as the dirt kicked up from our running shoes on the dusty Main Street of the replica western town, I off-handedly said to Michael Kapkiai, who would finish third that first year at RnRAZ, “you know, it looks a little bit like home,” meaning a village that reminded me of Kapsait, Kenya some 100 kilometers north of Eldoret City. And without a hint of irony, Michael took in the view of the General Store, Hitchin’ Post, and wooden-plank sidewalks and said, “yes, but maybe a little bit more built up.”
Kapsait might be the most remote of Kenyan training camps. Run by two-time Honolulu Marathon champion Eric Kimaiyo (1996-’97), Kapsait sat high along the western escarpment of the Rift Valley, hidden away in the Cherangani Hills up near the Ugandan border. Run, sleep, eat, that was the full measure of life in Kapsait at 10,000-feet altitude.
Good luck to The Marathon Project.