Rim Runners Turn Out For Rock ’N’ Roll

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A field of 17 Rim Country runners was among the more than 30,000 who hit the Valley streets Jan. 16 for the P.F. Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon.

Of those, 15 finished the half marathon and two crossed the finish line in the full marathon

Leading the way for the Payson runners in the 13.1-mile half marathon was 52-year-old Chris Schur who was clocked in 1.49:48.

In the full marathon, Brent Blanch toured the course in 3.58:49 and Melissa Diquattro was timed in 4.08:58.

Among the most remarkable showings from Payson entrants was turned in by 80-year-old Tom Cooka who was first in the 80-99 years age division with an ET of 2.13:11.

Cooka has been a staple on the Rim Country running scene since his retirement from the Santa Fe railroad in Winslow more than two decades ago. Winning the age division title at P.F. Chang’s was just another feather in the cap of the running warrior who as a 50-plus-year-old competed for Northland Pioneer College and is a former National Senior Olympics champion.

Also for Payson in the P.F. Chang Half Marathon, Marissa Ward, 32, finished in 1.57:03 and Eric Ward, 40, was timed in 1:59.02. Michael Burket, 43, crossed the finish line in 1:49.48 and 45-year-old Marty Rose was timed in 1:49.48.

Schur, Eric Ward, Marissa Ward, Burket and Rose were the only Rim runners who broke the chip-timing two-minute mark.

Former Payson resident Gerry Foster, 44, now a teacher at Desert Vista High School in Tempe crossed the finish tape at 1:40.39.

The half marathon overall men’s championship was won by Australian Shawn Forrest in 1:03.07 and Mexico’s Madai Perez took the women’s crown in 1:11.49.

In the full marathon, Josh Cox won in 2:17.32, but instead of stopping at the finish line he kept on running in an effort to break the world record in the 50K.

He, however, missed the world record by seven seconds, but set an American standard.

Arizona native Sally Meyerhoff won the women’s title in 2:37.56. She was the first American to win the Rock ’n’ Roll women’s marathon crown.

Longtime Rim Country sports fans will remember that in 2002, Lady Longhorn Whitney Hardt outran Meyerhoff, then a running superstar at Tempe Mountain Pointe, in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs at the Chandler Rotary Invitational.

The 2011 Rock ’n’ Roll attracted a wide variety of runners including those who entered for the personal satisfaction of completing such a grueling event and the more seasoned veterans there to set records and win honors.

Others competed for a cause such as remembering a fallen friend or to earn money through pledges for charities like cancer research or muscular dystrophy.

Whatever the reason for running, the Phoenix streets were buzzing Sunday morning just after the first responders from the recent Tucson shooting tragedy kicked off the race with a moment and silence and later with the sounding of the starting horn.

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