In prior years, both race courses started in Phoenix, however, in 2012 the courses were split. The start of the marathon is located in downtown Phoenix near the CityScape Plaza. The half marathon and newly added 10k start in Tempe. All races finish in the city of Tempe at the Tempe Beach Park. The event also includes wheelchair races starting 10 minutes and 5 minutes before the marathon and half-marathon races. The average start line temperature is around 40 °F (4 °C), and the average daily high temperature is between 50 °F and 70 °F (10 °C-21 °C).
Along the route are over 40 high school cheerleading teams and 70 bands who perform for the runners. Later in the evening there is a concert held in Tempe for all the runners, volunteers and spectators.
The event is noted for the half-marathon world record set by Haile Gebrselassie on January 15, 2006, who ran the second half of the marathon course in 58 minutes and 55 seconds. This part of the marathon course is slightly downhill, but is still within IAAF requirements for world record status. Gebrselassie's record stood for a year, until it was lowered by two seconds on February 9, 2007 by Samuel Wanjiru at Ras al-Khaimah.
Simon Bairu set a new men's race record for the half marathon, on January 17, 2010, with a time of 1 hour, 2 minutes, 47 seconds which was well under the previous race record of 1 hour, 4 minutes, 35 seconds set by the late Ryan Shay in 2004.
Deena Kastor set a new women's race record for the half marathon, also on January 17, 2010, with a time of 1 hour, 9 minutes, 43 seconds which also broke the state record.