Runners have a new reason to come to the Rim Country -- the Payson Area Habitat for Humanity Rim Country Challenge sponsored by the Mazatzal Casino and Hotel.
Organizer Bob Charameda, chairman of the PAHH fund-raising committee, said the half-marathon is planned for October and will have a sanctioned and certified course. It is also part of Arizona's Grand Prix circuit of races, he said.
As part of the Grand Prix it is hoped the new race will draw the competitors who participate in the circuit.
Senior Olympian runner Tom Cooka is part of Charameda's race task force and through his connections he is inviting Native American competitors to take part.
Additionally, an invitation is being issued to the athletes at the High Altitude Training Center at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
"We're calling it the Rim Country Challenge so the flatlanders know the course will be over varying terrain," Charameda said. He thinks the course and the altitude will be a draw for marathon runners for training purposes.
The event will also include a 5K walk/run race and children's races on the same day to make the festivities family-friendly. The PAHH is also presenting its annual Home Run 5K Walk/Run and Fun Run May 13 at Payson's Rumsey Park. Registration forms are now available.
To learn about presenting a half-marathon, Charameda and his task force helped with the recent P.F. Chang's Rock ‘n' Roll Arizona Marathon and Half Marathon in the Valley. The group has also received assistance from the presenters of the long-distance races in Prescott and Sedona, Charameda said.
PAHH race organizers have hired a firm specializing in races to set up a registration Web site and take care of timing. The Web site is currently under construction.
With the Mazatzal Casino and Hotel serving as presenting sponsor of the Rim Country Challenge, the race will begin and end at the casino, with the awards presented at the casino, Charameda said.
The Payson Parks and Recreation Department, Main Street Program and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce are also assisting with the race.
To find out more about either the May 13 Home Run 5K or Rim Country Challenge in the fall by calling PAHH at (928) 474-0330, the Payson Chamber of Commerce at (928) 474-4515, or the Payson Parks and Recreation office at (928) 474-5242, ext. 7.