Tucked away in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains, just east of downtown Phoenix, there is hidden treasure. According to legend, an old prospector named Jacob Waltz discovered a gold vein in this rich desert landscape, but died before he could pass on the location of it. Today the area is known as Lost Dutchman State Park, in honor of Waltz, and mining for gold is not allowed. Modern day runners can get their hands on their own treasure though. All they need to do is run the Lost Dutchman Marathon.
This gem of a course starts in the mountains, atop the Peralta trailhead. With campfires to keep you cozy at the start and amazing views as the sun rises over the Superstitions, it makes for one of the most relaxing and pleasant race starts ever. For the first six miles, the course follows a dirt road through the Saguaro and scree that dot the landscape. This year’s race even had a wildlife feature: six longhorns wandered across the trail by mile four. Once on the road, the course follows Superstition Highway and weaves through the neighborhoods of Gold Canyon and Apache Junction, before finishing in Prospector Park. The views of the mountains are inspiring and the course varies just enough to keep things interesting. However, the long straight-aways of the last 10k can make it a challenge to stay mentally strong. For the last mile and half, I could see the turn for the finish line!
The organization at LDM is top-notch. From their detailed and timely email updates to their hassle free packet pick up and race day operations, not a detail is missed. One friendly volunteer even boarded the shuttle buses to offer band-aids for the guys who may have forgotten about nipple chafing. From the race start to the finish, it feels as if the volunteers equal the number of runners, which really makes an athlete feel well supported. Post race, the organizers follow up with thank you emails and race results almost immediately.
Hands down, there is no better race start than LDM. Runners can huddle up next to campfires and sip hot coffee while watching the sun come up over the mountains. The peaceful nature of the surroundings takes the edge off pre-race jitters and the low-key atmosphere allows athletes to focus on the race ahead. Bag drop off (you can hang onto your warm ups until 10 minutes to the gun) and the start is just a four minute walk from the staging area. The course traverses through small neighborhoods with bands of dedicated spectators, but no huge crowds. You can definitely feel the love, but if you need looking a lot of external motivation, you may want to pack some tunes. Once you hit Prospector Park there are plenty of folks, but nothing that will make you feel crowded or overwhelmed. The race organizers put out a great spread (including breakfast burritos) but the highlight of my morning was getting my picture taken with the Prospector and my newly acquired “gold”.
Lost Dutchman Marathon combines all the best elements of a good race: fast course, nice scenery and great organization with the history and charm of small town to create a real treasure of an event. Don’t miss it.
LDM has Jaw-dropping views and a fast course but the long, lonely stretches in the last 10k can be tough.
From pre-race emails to post races surveys, these race organizers have everything covered.
This race really does give you a great Wild West experience, from desert campfires at the start and pictures with Prospector Pete and your newly acquired “gold” at the finish.
Careful event planning and race day shuttles make transport a breeze. It would be nice to have packet pick up remain open a bit longer and to offer half-marathoners transport to the start from local hotels.
Whether you a seeking a PR or just a really pretty run, head to LDM.