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Rock ‘n’ Roll in Arizona

Joanna Gunderson

January in NYC can be rough for us cold-averse runners!  The air can hit hard and the sun sets way too early.🥶Delightedly, I escaped the frigid temperatures for a long weekend with fellow NY Flyers and friends Lisa Konorty, her daughter Romi and Manuela Montagnana. We welcomed the warmth of Phoenix, Arizona along with each other's company, great brunches, happy hours and Personal Records at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Race Series!  (Of course, good music too!). 😎🌞🍸🥞☕

This annual event always takes place during Martin Luther King Day weekend, which can make for a quick getaway to recharge⚡right at the start of the new year!

This was not my first time, rockin' (so to speak) Arizona's Rock 'n' Roll series.  In 2022, I took on the marathon, though as a training run. Lisa and former flyer Vanessa Koury opted for the half instead. 

Hot, sunny, 68 degrees and a late start would not lead to a PR (4:15:06) but I embraced the opportunity to escape NY's cold 🧊 while practicing a long run with my new hydration camelback.  The dry desert's heat 🌵🔥, rolling hills and bridges made for a challenging run indeed, and it was no surprise that  they cancelled the marathon option moving forward.  

Now they offer a 5K10K and Half Marathon; much more enjoyable distances in such challenging conditions.


Lisa with her daughter Romi graciously hosted me at Lisa's house in Sun City.  Manuela opted for a hotel, but joined us for brunches and happy hours as we ate and ran our way through the fun-filled weekend! 🥳

Flyer women Manuela Montagnana, Lisa Konorty, Joanna Gunderson, and Lisa’s daughter Romi attend the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona expo. 

I was pleased to learn that Rock ‘N’ Roll moved the start time of the event to 7:15am to accommodate the heat. The weather was a lot more comfortable than in 2022, with a 42-degree average temperature. 🎉

Since I was on the mend from COVID and also busy with life's obligations, I choose to run the 10K with Romi, while Lisa and Manuela raced the Half. This scenic race was beautiful!  The sun rise in the desert made those rolling hills and three bridges more bearable. 

Runners running during the desert sunrise of the 10K

Congratulations to Lisa and Manuela!  They both ran strong half marathons and both of them PR'd -- Lisa ran her PR in 1:52:33 and Manuela beat her prior PR by 3 minutes

Reflecting on her race Lisa said: 

“The half was a PR for me by  more than one minute. I thought the course was fun and full of energy with the bands along the course. I especially loved the challenging two miles of hills; mile 10 and 11 in Papago Park. It was so cool to run through Tempe, Scottsdale, and Phoenix all in one race. And I loved the Flyer ladies’ camaraderie.”

A stunning sunset in Sun City, Arizona.

While you're out there, take the time to see the surrounding region of Phoenix including TempeScottsdale, and Sun City.  We also enjoyed a few walks through Sun City with "Harley the Corgi" and Lisa's neighbor Marv -- (Marv just finished his 90th marathon in December and is 83 years old!).  

With Romi, Marv, and Harley the Corgi 😊

The colors of the  desert are stunning, Arizona is beautiful, the desert desserts were delicious and the coffee flights are fantastic!  

A tasty coffee flight at JOJO Coffeehouse in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Overall, I would recommend Arizona's Rock 'n' Roll Running Series for a beautiful long weekend getaway and a healthy dose of vitamin D for those of us trudging through these frigid and frosty NY winter months!  🌞 

-Joanna Gunderson