The Albuquerque Half Marathon began as part of the festivities involved with the Duke City’s tricentennial celebration.
Since then, it’s evolved into a tradition of its own spanning nearly two decades.
“We kind of piggybacked off that. We held an event to coincide with that celebration and basically continued the celebration for the next 18 years,” said RunFit founder Stephen Pino. “We’ve kind of revised the course over a couple of years, but for the most part it’s the same.”
This year’s edition of the half marathon kicks off on Saturday, April 15, at Winter Haven Road NW near Sagebrush Community Church. Other races include the half marathon relay, 10K, 5K and Kids K. Pino expects between 400 to 500 runners for the half marathon and a total of 1,200 to 1,400 participants for all the races.
“It’s a well-attended event,” he said. “It’s basically a big party.”
The main race crosses the Rio Grande and allows for views of the Sandia Mountains and North Valley Bosque before heading into Los Ranchos de Albuquerque in the North Valley. According to the race website, it’s a flat and fast course, “which makes it a personal best candidate.”
“We get a lot of fast runners,” Pino said. “We do have those that are here because of the altitude training that Albuquerque brings. We have people that come down from Santa Fe that are training up there. They just want to see where they’re at as far as their fitness level. We get good, fast runners that come out and use that as their race to qualify for something else, or just as their target race to come out and run a fast run and then have that experience shared with those other fast runners.”
However, the scenery alone is worth the price of admission.
“I think the uniqueness of being able to experience crossing over the Montaño Bridge (makes it special),” Pino said. “We get an entire lane that we go down into the Los Poblanos fields. From there, it’s just beautiful, going through the fields and the North Valley, where people oftentimes don’t get the chance to run in the roads. It’s an experience that people don’t often get.”
The race was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and moved to November in 2021 before resuming a relatively normal schedule last year. It’s been a slow burn getting the turnout back to prepandemic figures, but that isn’t unique to just Albuquerque.
“Participation is down throughout the country, the entire world, based on the pandemic and what that’s done to the industry,” Pino said. “It’s slowly coming back, but it wasn’t that leaps and bounds that people might have thought would’ve happened after the pandemic … It’s not a sprint, it’s basically a marathon of getting back into the swing of things.”
Proceeds from the race will benefit RunFit, a non-profit organization launched in 2006 that combats childhood obesity through afterschool running and walking programs throughout the district. The program focuses on children ages 5 to 13 and trains them to run distances up to 3.1 miles as part of a RunFit team. The half marathon is one of numerous events the organization promotes throughout the year.
“I think the key with our events in particular, because we put on many throughout Albuquerque, is basically bringing the community together,” Pino said. “That accentuates what we try to do, which is really just trying to bring that and bringing the sport and getting people healthy. That’s our mission.”