Running up the steep, curvaceous hill that is Airport Road as it leaves McLane is a challenge to seasoned runners.
In .45 miles the elevation gain is 165 feet, making it the toughest stretch of the half marathon portion of the race Payson Area Habitat for Humanity is using to raise housing funds.
Ted Lucas, Jerry Baker, Peggy Miles and her dog Sadie have been training regularly for weeks.
"I've been in training 30 years," the 63-year-old Lucas said with a gentle laugh one brisk October morning. "But any more I'm a participant rather than a racer."
Lucas has been running for health, fun and recreation all of his adult life.
"I used to go to the track and win sprints, but I've gotten over that," he said with another smile. "Now I even take walking breaks."
"We meet early Saturday mornings to motivate and encourage each other in preparation for the race," Miles said, while her 13-year-old Queensland heeler running partner, Sadie, roams impatiently at her feet.
"What's the hold up," Sadie seems to say as she waits to run.
"We're both so old we can push each other," Miles said, giving her dog a fond pat.
Three to a couple dozen runners have been meeting informally at the library to train together for the Oct. 28 race.
Miles and Baker have not made up their minds whether they are running the half marathon or the 5K.
"You can do the half easy," Miles tells Baker.
Baker is 25 and works during the day, so runs at night after work.
"I wish I was up there in mileage," Baker replies. "I haven't trained to compete, I'm more of just a 5K runner."
There are 13.1 miles to the half marathon and 3.1 miles to the 5K.
"It is nice to have other runners with me for motivation," Baker said.
When Miles trained for her first marathon she trained by herself. In her second competitive marathon, she trained with a friend.
"My time was much better the second time," she said.
Baker, who has also participated in the Payson Triathlon, the New Times 10K and ran cross country when he attended Payson High School, makes up his mind on the longer race.
He expects the half marathon will take him two hours to run and estimated the winner will probably cross the finish line at about 75 minutes.
"I just want to finish and feel good," Baker said.
Those who race in the 5K will face a different hill.
"There will be a hill that starts up South McLane and goes almost to the top (in the 5K) so I can't say there won't be nothing to it; runners will definitely feel it," Mark Smith said. He is a veteran runner of 19 marathons who often joins the Saturday morning training.
Miles' best race time was 44 minutes at a 10K at sea level in Ireland in 1997.
She remember farmers standing by the rock wall yelling, "Go Arizona!"
"We encourage people to come out and cheer on the runners because it really gives them motivation to endure the distance," Miles said.
Runners will gather at Habitat's carb-load spaghetti dinner the night before the race.
"It builds on the fun and we can check out the competition," Baker said.
Mazatzal Casino is sponsoring the races. Native Americans will be awarding the prizes that include feather fans, burden baskets and turtle rattles.
In addition to the half marathon and 5K there will be races for younger athletes. A quarter mile for ages up to six, and half mile for seven and eight year olds and a mile race for nine to 11.
Registration can be done online, www.rimcountrychallenge.com by mail, at the carb dinner or on race day.
RIM COUNTRY CHALLENGE
Spaghetti Dinner, 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27 at the Rim Country Middle School, 304 S. Meadow St.
Adult tickets for the dinner are $6 (age 12 & over); children's tickets are $3 (ages 5-11); there is no charge for children four and under. Tickets may be purchased at the PAHH office, 1013 South Goodfellow Road, (928) 474-0330, or at the door on Friday evening.
Contact Bev Graff, (928) 472-6198, for additional information.
Payson Area Habitat for Humanity Half Marathon/5K and Young Athletes Fun Run, Oct. 28
The Registration Booth will be located in the parking lot by the Mazatzal Casino.
Race numbers, timing chips, T-shirts and goody bags will be handed out at the Friday night carb dinner party between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30.m. or at the registration area in the parking lot of the Mazatzal Casino after 6 a.m. on race day.
The Half Marathon and 5K race course is U.S.A. Track and Field certified and sanctioned.
The Half Marathon and 5K race will be electronically timed by Race Central using "Champion Chip" technology.
Funds raised from the race will be used by PAHH on homes and the 14 unit "Longhorn Village" duplex-style condos.
Applications for homes are still being accepted. To obtain guidelines or apply contact Lois English, selection committee chairperson at (928) 468-8512.