Last fall, Payson Area Habitat for Humanity Fund-Raising Chairman Ross Hage praised Mary McMullen and Deb Rose of the Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department for spearheading the most successful Rim Country Challenge in the three-year history of the half-marathon, 5K, team relay and young athletes’ fun run.
Hage lauded both as, “great assets to our community.”
For the fourth annual Challenge, Hage has stepped away saying he needed a break, but McMullen and Rose will again oversee the runs to be held Oct. 3.
“We’ve been contracted the past two years to do the Challenge and we’re excited for that,” McMullen said.
The proceeds from the Challenge benefit PAHH, which has as a mission, “to provide decent, affordable and healthy housing for low-to-moderate income residents.”
For those who’d like to either enter, participate or lend support to the Challenge cause, all races start and finish at Payson’s scenic Green Valley Park. The half-marathon and relay begins at 8 a.m., the 5K kicks off at 8:15 a.m. and the young athletes’ fun run starts at 9 a.m.
The half-marathon course is hilly and provides a challenging route that runs through scenic areas of Payson.
Sponsors have issued a warning of sorts saying, “the course is not flat and fast so don’t expect to set any speed records. It is called The Rim Country Challenge for that reason.”
Last year, 28-year-old Brandon Day of Lakeside turned in an Olympic-like effort dominating the half-marathon field in a record time of 1:18.10.
Shane Hengest took the 5K title in 19:40 or a 6:20 pace.
Rendering Day’s feat even more remarkable is that he was running into a headwind most of the time.
At the 2008 event, which drew a record 200-plus entrants, 14 runners turned in times faster than 2007 winner Scott Griffin of Leadville, Colo.
Griffin said the course was tough, but it was rendered easier because he was competing at a lower altitude than he was used to in Leadville.
Each year, plenty of those not entered in the race, scramble to find locations where they can watch and cheer for the runners.
Prime locations are on Payson Parkway, McLane, Airport or Vista Roads. The course also traverses through Manzanita Hills.
A good spot to watch the final stretch, where runners will be battling for last gasp honors, is along Country Club Road.
The 5K course is less difficult and weaves throughout Payson neighborhoods.
McMullen calls the relay event, which debuted last year, a special attraction because it gives those athletes not wanting to run an entire half-marathon a chance to compete and it’s a great way to showcase local businesses.
“We’d like them (businesses) to get involved by sponsoring the (relay) teams,” she said.
The only change to the event this year will be the addition of a new sponsor, the Kevin Dick Investment Management Group, and an 80-years-plus age group.
“We hope we get of few of them,” McMullen said.
Last year, 83-year-old Ray Kinsman, was 59th in the 5K in 38:06. McMullen said she did not expect Kinsman to enter this year.
At the conclusion of the run, awards will also be given to the first three male and female finishers in each age division, and certificates will be awards to all young athlete participants.
While Hage no longer helps host the run, the advice he once gave still holds true.
He said, the run “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.”
Registration is open until Sept. 25 on the rimcountrychallege.com Web site. Also late registration will be available from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. on race day.
Entry fees are $40 for the half-marathon, $20 for the 5K, $120 per team for the relay teams and $10 for the young athletes’ fun run for those who register by Sept. 25.
After that date, the fees increase by $20. The fun run fees, however, will not increase.
For more race information and to register go to: www.rimcountrychallenge.com.