Twelve Rim country runners were among the nearly 30,000 runners who participated in P.F. Chang's Rock ‘n' Roll Arizona marathon and half-marathon last week.
The runs, which are now being touted as the largest inaugural running event in history, drew four Payson representatives to the 26-mile marathon and eight participated in the half-marathon.
Marathoners included Glen Galster, Linda Gibson, Pat Meyers and Peggy Miles.
Entrants in the half-marathon were Patti Blackmore, Debra Colbertson, Jason Cress, Mike Foil, Carolyn Fruth, Theresa Mendoza, Monica Savage and Deb Stevens.
All of the Payson entrants managed to complete the runs Jan. 11 in Phoenix and Tempe.
Among the most impressive showings turned in by the Rim contingent was the one from 61-year-old Pat Meyers. The Payson Regional Medical Center surgery nurse finished 12th in the 60-64-year-old female division. Meyers' net, or chip, time was 5:03.44. That means her average per-mile pace was an impressive 11:35.
Other Rim marathoners, age/sex divisions and times were Galster (male, 50-54-years), 5:04:50, Gibson (female 30-34-years), 4:09.42 and Miles (female 45-49-years) 4:21:06.
The best time among Payson's male half-marathon runners was turned in by the 34-year-old Cress, who was clocked in 1:41.35.
Among the female athletes representing the Rim country, Fruth and Savage -- both 39-years of age -- turned in similar efforts. Fruth toured the 13-mile course in 1:52.32. Savage finished in 1:50:34.
Also from Payson were Blackmore (female, 30 years; 2:12.46), Colbertson (female, 50 years; 2:41:41), Foil (male, 30 years; 1:53.01), Mendoza (female, 25 years; 3:26.01) and Stevens (female, 45 years; 2:23.18).
Prepping for the run
For training partners Miles and Gibson, the Rock ‘n' Roll run marked the culmination of months of conditioning and strategizing.
"We trained for the marathon by running from Four Peaks to Fountain Hills and back to Fort McDowell," Miles said.
Those sessions, she said, "helped me shave 25 minutes off my first marathon (in 2000 in Tucson)."
The two Payson High School teachers agreed that the actual marathon was much easier than the grueling practice sessions.
"The training is brutal; the run is fun," Miles said.
For Fruth, who was participating in her third half-marathon but first in the past 20 years, the Internet provided a valuable training tool.
"I went on a Runner's World site and got a 13-week training program," she said. "I ran four-to-six miles a day during the week and a long run on the weekends."
Among the challenges of the inaugural Phoenix runs was dealing with the huge field of runners that turned out.
"It was different in that you had to dodge in and out of runners trying to get ahead," Miles said. "It was a little frustrating."
The field of half-marathoners, Fruth said, was shoulder to shoulder at the start line. It took the Payson High graduate and mother of two almost six full minutes to reach the starting line from where she was jammed into the contingent of eager runners.
That's where the chip timing turned important. Runners were given both a gun time and a (computer) chip clocking.
"I've never run with the chip before," Fruth said. "It doesn't penalize like a gun time."
Although the course was crowded, the ambiance of the run thrilled Gibson, Miles and Fruth.
"There were many young kids standing on the sidelines with their hands out to give high fives," Miles said. "Linda and I made a special point to make contact with those kids."
For Gibson, "those kids cheering me on definitely gave me more strength."
The many bands, cheerleaders and spirit squads that lined the course also helped provide an emotional boost to the exhausted runners.
"They made the run especially enjoyable," Miles said. "I couldn't help but pick up the pace every time I heard music."
Fruth agreed: "They made the run so much fun, one that I want to do again."
According to event sponsors, 40 high school cheer squads lined the course to help make it a musical marathon as sponsors had advertised.
About halfway through the race, Gibson and Miles took a brief break to prepare for the final leg
"We changed shoes, took Tylenol and got a drink of water," Miles said.
"Strategy is a big part of the marathon event."
In retrospect, Gibson says she doubts she has ever consumed as many pain killers in a day.
After overcoming the early challenges of the lengthy course, the final few strides proved to be the most difficult for the two athletes.
"The last two-tenths (of a mile) were the longest," Gibson said.
"It seemed like I was forever turning corners looking for the finish line."
As a teacher and former high school coach, she also had some words of advice for aspiring young athletes.
"Pain is temporary, pride is forever," she said.
In almost perfect weather conditions, the field got off to a running start at Wesley Bolin Memorial Park in downtown Phoenix. The finish was located in downtown Tempe near the campus of Arizona State University.
Along the course, runners passed Bank One Ball Park, America West Arena and the renowned Arizona Biltmore resort.
The course had virtually no hills to slow them down.
"It was really flat and the weather was great," Fruth said. ‘I think that most everyone who entered was happy with their times. I know I was."
All proceeds from the marathon will benefit nationwide charities.