Nervously facing a crowd of over 300 Rim Country Middle School students, Carrie Mitchell fielded a barrage of questions including one that left her reeling.
"Did you ever have to go to the bathroom," asked a seventh-grade girl.
Not a giggle was heard from the audience as Mitchell explained that during her five-hour run in the Dec. 12 Honolulu, Hawaii Marathon, there were opportunities for rest room stops at porta-potties set up along the course. But, she tried not to stop, promising herself she would run the entire 26.2 miles.
Mitchell, a former sixth-grade teacher at RCMS who now teaches in the Flagstaff School District, was in Payson Friday to thank the physical education students in the classes of Randy Wilcox and Carol Duggan for their financial support in the benefit marathon.
"They were my biggest supporters, raising over $600," Mitchell said.
In all, Mitchell raised $3,958 in pledges which will ultimately be donated to the Leukemia Society.
Prior to entering the run as a member of the Leukemia Society's 2,700-member Team in Training, Mitchell set a goal of raising at least $3,800.
The donations from the RCMS PE classes helped her shatter that goal.
The money the local youngsters donated to the Leukemia Society in Mitchell's name was generated in a friendly competition that pitted the boys in Wilcox's classes against girls in Duggan's.
Because many of the students had Mitchell as a teacher two years ago, most were eager to help her raise the money, Wilcox said.
Bringing in spare change, often handfuls of pennies, the girls donated about $100 more than the boys.
"The kids were so supportive of this," Duggan said. "I can't say enough about their generosity. There was an outpouring of love and concern."
Part of the friendly wager between the two classes was that the losing classes had to buy cookies for the winners. So, after Mitchell's short thank-you and question-and-answer session with the students, the boys served cookies to their female counterparts. Then, the entire group -- escorted by Mitchell -- adjourned to the Payson High School track where they ran laps with the runner.
Mitchell learned of the Honolulu Marathon and the efforts of America's Team in Training last summer while surfing the Internet.
As a longtime recreational long-distance runner, she said the idea of participating in the benefit event intrigued her.
"By running and raising money for the Leukemia Society, I could help find a cure for the disease and fulfill my lifelong dream (to run a marathon)," she said.
After deciding to participate in the project, Mitchell was given three honor patients to dedicate her efforts to. They were Jacob Farr, 3; Haley Knutsen, 3, and Charlotte Dutton, 10.
"They need my help in their fight against the terrible disease," Mitchell said.
After months of fall training in the high altitudes of Flagstaff, the opportunity to travel to Honolulu and participate in the run finally arrived in early December.
"When I got there, I was really anxious, a little nervous," she said. "There was a total of 26,000 runners -- people everywhere."
The marathon experience that took her along the streets of Honolulu and over the nearby beaches ultimately turned out to be as trying as she had anticipated.
"It was one of the more difficult challenges I have taken on in my life. The race was not an easy one," she said.
One of her goals before entering the event was to run the entire distance, which she ultimately accomplished.
"Although it took me about five hours -- partly in the rain -- I did it," she said.
At the finish line, the knowledge of a job well done was reward enough for the first-time marathon runner.
"I felt an awesome sense of accomplishment," she said.
About the only negative Mitchell experienced during the experience was the short stay on the island of Oahu.
"We were there only a day after the run and I was so sore I couldn't walk around to see the sights," she said. "I want to go back again when I have the time to enjoy the island."
According to Leukemia Society officials, more than $8 million was raised at the Honolulu Marathon.