The 1979 Fiesta Bowl Marathon and the Scenic Drive
by Jim McAllister
On December 1, 1979, a friend of mine from Kansas City and I ran the Fiesta Bowl Marathon in Scottsdale. We had both run eight previous marathons and were anxious to try Scottsdale since we’d heard it was a good one that would probably include cool temperatures in December. Besides, we had never been to Scottsdale and heard it was a nice place to visit, especially in the winter.
The only thing we knew about the course was that it was gradually downhill and started early somewhere north of Scottsdale in the desert.
On the morning of the race we were herded into buses at the hotel at Chaparral and Scottsdale Roads. We were eventually hauled to Dynamite and Scottsdale Roads, where we turned and were eventually dropped off a few miles west. I say “eventually” because the area was a lot more primitive at that time than today, and the bus driver got lost!
The route of the 26.2 mile course was to run east to Scottsdale Road, then south to Frank Lloyd Wright, east to Pima, and south to the finish line at Scottsdale Community College.
If I had to pick a time when I decided I wanted to live in Scottsdale, it had to be that chilly 40-degree morning. I was in great shape and I loved the desert landscape with the knowledge that later in the day the temperature would be about 70.
Little did I know that when I ran the few miles back to Scottsdale Road then headed south, I was running on a section of the Scenic Drive from Dynamite as far south as Happy Valley. The Drive had already been designated for sixteen years before I made my initial appearance in 1979, and it looked quite a bit different from now.
In those days, Scottsdale Road was still two lanes and contained several washes that created a lot of dips. I don’t recall many businesses along the way; the desert came to the edge of the road. There was no 101, shopping centers, car dealerships, or restaurants as there are today, but there was the beauty of Tom Chauncey’s ranch on the west side of the road. I remember a couple of horses looking at us quizzically as we ran by.
Frank Lloyd Wright ended at two-lane Pima Road as we turned south to our destination at SCC. That was about twenty miles into the race, and I was still feeling all right. I remember passing some runners who were walking by that time. My personal goal was to finish the race in under three hours, but I missed by 4 minutes and 5 seconds, crossing the finish line in 3:04:05.
Still, it was a great day and if I realized one thing from that experience it was that someday I would be moving to Scottsdale. In 1987, my wife and I had bought a condo for extended visits, and by 1989 we were full-time residents.
Jim, Thank you for submitting this article to The Peak. We appreciate your excellent articles and support.