An uphill climb that thwarted many Payson runners proved only a mild challenge for Habitat for Humanity Rim Country Challenge half marathon champion, Steve Folkerts.
"It wasn't too bad," Folkerts said of the Airport Hill ascent. "There was a lot of downhill runs to make up for it."
The fabled hill climb was part of a 13.1-mile course.
Prior to the race, organizers of the inaugural event had warned entrants not to expect to turn in fast times, mostly because of Airport Hill.
But Folkerts said his time of 1:15.44, was a decent one considering Payson's elevation.
The champ's nearest competition, Candon Sevey of Mesa, trailed Folkerts by 6:81.
As Folkerts neared the finish line, Payson Parks and Recreation coordinator, Mary McMullen, who helped stage the race, said, "He's the one we picked at the start to be the winner. He looks like a long distance runner."
McMullen was on target with her assessment. In 1996, Folkerts qualified to participate in the 100th anniversary of the Boston Marathon.
Last summer, he was the men's runner-up in the Flagstaff summer running series and has been a champion of the Lakes Run Club in Bloomington, Ill.
Folkerts learned about the Challenge while surfing the Internet and was extremely pleased how well the first-ever event was conducted.
"It was a good race and great weather," the Phoenix resident said. "It's great to be up here. The air's clean and fresh."
Among the women runners, Ursula Hanna of Prescott Valley out-dueled Stephanie Robb of Fountain Hills for the title.
Hanna was timed in 1:39.06 and Robb in 1:41.22.
Payson High School chemistry teacher, Cynthia Pool of Tonto Basin, was third among the women runners in 1:42.47.
Payson's top male runner was Mark Smith, who finished in 1:48.36.
From the Rim Country, 14 runners turned out to participate in a field that included entrants from Colorado, Tennessee, Canada, California, Wyoming and Alaska.
In the 5K Rim Country Challenge, Payson High School freshman Josh Frewin took first overall with a time of 20:54.
Ironically, Frewin is not a member of the Longhorn cross country team.
Instead, he plays on the school's soccer team. The two sports run concurrently during the fall season.
Maggie Diller of Chandler was the Rim Country Challenge women's champion touring the about 5K course in 21:15.
Also in the field of 56 runners was 82-year-old Ray Kinsman who was participating in his third Habitat for Humanity 5K run. Kinsman timed in at 39:52.
For Kinsman, the most challenging portion of the course was the run up McLane Hill.
"That was tough," he said. "But after I got over it, I could put a little speed on."
All proceeds from the run will benefit the Payson Area Habitat for Humanity and its goal of providing "decent, affordable and healthy housing for low-to-moderate income residents who are unable to obtain conventional financing."
Rim Country Challenge half marathon results
Steve Folkerts, Phoenix, 1:15:44
Candon Sevey, Mesa, 1:22:25
Ben Campbell, Tempe, 1:28:26
Gary Grierson, Chandler, 1:31:55
Tim Travis, Scottsdale, 1:34:24
Ursula Hanna, Prescott Valley, 1:39:06
Stephanie Robb, Fountain Hills, 1:41:22
Cynthia Pool, Tonto Basin, 1:42:47
Karen Donmoyer, Scottsdale, 1:43:37
A.J. Smith, Joseph City, 1:44:46
Joan Lyman, Scottsdale, 1:45:30
Deborah Goodwin, Phoenix, 1:46:04
Jack Schneider, Colorado Springs, Colo., 1:47:36
Mark Smith, Payson, 1:48:36
Jeff Kulaga, Tempe, 1:49:13
Cari Shelzi, Mesa, 1:49:53
Karen Evans, Payson, 1:52:58
Ted Lucas, Payson, 1:53:00
David Garcia, Chandler, 1:53:18
John Allen, Show Low, 1:53:50
Gayla Smith, Joseph City, 1:56:02
Tracey Boysen, Cottonwood, 1:56:06
Linda Gibson, Payson, 1:57:29
Steve Robb, Fountain Hills, 1:57:41
Lora Liu, Ooltewah, Tenn., 1:57:48
Karen Smith, Tempe, 1:59:19
Chad Sayban, Goodyear, 1:59:28
Kevin Moore, Phoenix, 2:02:08
Sev Huselid, Mesa, 2:04:14
Rachel Sorrell, Tempe, 2:06:47
Jeannine Cote, Peace River, Canada, 2:07:45
Mike Foil, Payson, 2:10:18
Becky Gray, Phoenix, 2:10:24
Ivan McLaws, Payson, 2:10:43
David Johnson, Phoenix, 2:10:58
Bethany Beck, Payson, 2:11:39
Kaye Ferguson, Scottsdale, 2:11:55
Wendy Rombold, Colorado Springs, Colo., 2:12:31
Melanie Fuhriman, Scottsdale, 2:13:38
Tom Cooka, Payson, 2:13:39
Butch Harkin, Payson, 2:22:53
Marty Michelson, Gilbert, 2:24:01
Michael Igielski, Payson, 2:24:08
Frank Laspisa, Payson, 2:25:34
Trevor Collon, Mesa, 2:27:43
Chris Schur, Payson, 2:30:32
Peggy Miles, Payson, 2:34:42
Fran Robb, Fountain Hills, 2:35:55
Bryan Chambers, Globe, 2:37:05
Troy Collon, Mesa, 2:38:02
Alan Levine, Scottsdale, 2:50:46
Veronica Blackhat, Window Rock, 2:51:07
David Rutter, Payson, 2:53:03
Deb Stevens, Payson, 2:56:22
Chuck Howell, Chandler, 2:56:25
David Watson, Payson, 4:09:15
View a photo gallery of the Habitat for Humanity Rim Country Challenge