Veteran Runners Offer Free Training For Challenge Runners

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A pair of veteran runners are serving up free training sessions in preparation for the upcoming Rim Country Challenge, Payson's annual half marathon and 5K.

Linda Gibson and Peggy Miles are offering the training session at 7 a.m. each Saturday. The sessions begin at the parks and recreation office at Green Valley Park.

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Linda Gibson and Peggy Miles, shown during an early morning training run, are offering the training sessions at 7 a.m. each Saturday. The sessions begin at the Payson Parks and Recreation office in Green Valley Park.

"These ladies, who are both fantastic runners themselves, will take folks for runs on the half-marathon route," said Payson Parks and Recreation Trails and Outdoor Recreation Coordinator Mary McMullen.

Gibson, a 37-year-old mother of two and Payson Center for Success science and social studies teacher, is probably best known for her appearance in the 2008 Boston Marathon.

In the prestigious run, she turned in a clocking of 4:11.38.

Gibson qualified for Boston, a longtime goal of hers, at the Holualoa Tucson Marathon.

Her clocking in Tucson of 3:43.49 surpassed the Boston age/sex group-qualifying standard of 3:45.

Gibson has also participated in the P.F. Chang Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, has been a Payson Turkey Trot age-group champion, and as former coach of the Lady Longhorn soccer team, was once named 3A Coach of the Year.

She also has participated in previous Rim Country Challenges.

Miles, a 51-year-old mother of two, has been a fixture on the local running scene for more than a decade. In 2000 she finished her first marathon, running the Hyundai Tucson event in 4:53.08.

At the time, Miles -- then a PHS physical education teacher -- said she was running to set a good example for her students.

A few years after the Tucson run, Miles organized the "Fitness Factor" lunchtime program at PHS.

Loosely based on the television program "Fear Factor," the program proved to be very popular among students eager to build their physical fitness.

In 1999, Miles won her age division at the Payson Turkey Trot and competed in the inaugural Rim Country Challenge Half Marathon covering the course in 2:34.42.

Miles is now the Gila Community College Wellness Center facilitator, is a National Council on Strength and Fitness certified trainer and a coach on the Club Rim volleyball team.

For those interested in participating in the upcoming half marathon, but don't want to run the entire 13.1 miles, a new event is being offered.

"They can partner up with up to three teammates to complete the route," McMullen said.

"This is a chance for new people become race participants and for businesses to sponsor a team."

Also new this year will be a young athletes' fun run.

All races, which will be held Saturday, Oct. 4, start and finish at Payson's scenic Green Valley Park. The half marathon and relay begins at 8 a.m., the 5K begins at 8:15 a.m. and the young athletes' fun run begins at 9 a.m.

Officials say the half marathon course is hilly and provides a challenging route throughout scenic areas of Payson.

At last year's run, Scott Griffin of Leadville, Colo. took the gold in 1:42 overcoming runner-up Karen Doonmoyer on the downside of Airport Hill.

Griffin was in Payson visiting his parents.

The 5K course is less difficult and weaves throughout Payson neighborhoods.

In 2007, Chris Standage won in 19:39. Payson High School cross-country team member David Knauer was second. Among the women 5K entries, Madelyn Champlin claimed first in 23:02.

This year, awards will again be given to the first overall male and female finishers of the marathon and 5K. Awards will also be given to the first three male and female finishers in each age division and certificates will be given to all young athlete participants.

Registration is open through Sept. 26, with late registration available from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. on race day.

All proceeds from the event benefit the Payson Area Habitat for Humanity.

PAHH board member Ross Hage touts the run as one that "benefits a terrific cause -- providing affordable housing for those in need."

He also says the half-marathon "provides an opportunity for Arizonans to do something fun and healthy in the great outdoors during one of the most beautiful times of year in the Rim Country."

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