Julia Randall Elementary School principal Peggy Miles is a veteran long-distance runner. She's competed in 5K, 10K and marathon events.
But none of the competitions she's entered have been as enjoyable and rewarding as the Holualoa Marathon she and three fellow Rim country educators participated in Dec. 5 near Tucson.
"We all had such a great time and it was a good way for those of us in the elementary (schools) to get to know each other," Miles said.
Teammate Kathy Igielski, a teacher at Frontier Elementary School agreed.
"Everyone on our team was so funny and so enjoyable to be around," she said. "We had a great team."
On the relay crew with Miles and Igielski were Payson Elementary School principal Roy Sandoval and Kathy Igielski's husband, Mike Igielski.
In the event, held on the outskirts of Tucson, Miles opened the relay running. The first 8.1 mile leg was on Biosphere Road. Kathy Igielski took over the second leg, a 5.5 mile run, through Oracle Junction.
As a first-time long distance runner, Igielski was initially concerned about the weather.
"We thought it might rain, but it stopped," she said. "That made it (the running conditions) really nice."
The third leg, 6.3 miles in length, was run by Mike Igielski. Sandoval anchored the team during the final 6.3 miles.
Sandoval is no stranger to long-distance endurance events having competed in cycling challenges around the state and in Mexico.
Prior to traveling to Tucson, he said he was eagerly looking forward to the race as an opportunity to build camaraderie among schools and as a much needed escape to an athletic challenge.
As the anchor on the team, Sandoval was joined about 300 yards before the finish line by the other three runners. The trio hooked up in a joint show of support for one another and the elementary schools.
"We all wanted to cross the finish line together," Miles said. "We were there to promote unity."
Although Miles stressed that marathon time was never a concern among the four runners, her competitive nature had her sights quietly set on a respectable showing.
"In the back of my mind, I was always hoping we could break that magical four-hour barrier," she said. "It was kind of an unspoken goal."
Miles' aspirations were realized when the four learned their time was 3:59.57.
"Breaking four hours made the run even more rewarding," Miles said.
Throughout the event, the four runners -- who named themselves "Escuela Corazones" or "school hearts" -- wore team T-shirts designed and made by FES teacher and long-time high school coach Dan Reid.
"The shirts were really nice and kind of made us feel more like a team," Miles said."Dan did such a great job on them."
For Igielski, the event has sparked an interest in long-distance challenges.
"I definitely want to do this one again," she said. "I'd also like to try the Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon in Phoenix."
But for now, its back to the classroom and the task at hand -- helping provide a quality public education for all children.