It started as a college project, and future plans are for the race to include a full marathon in the Mining City.
Sunday, Sept. 20 will mark the halfway point of that goal as the Mariah’s Challenge Half Marathon and 5K Fun Run will be held in Butte.
Both races begin at 9 a.m. Registration deadline is Sept. 18. Click here to sign up.
The inaugural Mariah’s Challenge 5K was held at Copper Mountain Park, and the race drew 200 runners on a frigid spring day. Race organizers are hoping to top that number this year.
“Coming out on a cold, windy day to support the youth, that’s Butte tough,” said Leo McCarthy, the founder of Mariah’s Challenge. “When you have kids in mind, good things happen,”
Jenna McCarthy, Leo’s daughter, is the race coordinator. She started it as part of her master’s thesis at Montana Tech
“I was hoping for 75 to 100,” she said of the inaugural event last spring. “I was trying to raise some awareness for Mariah’s Challenge in a way we could replicate each year.”
Mariah’s Challenge is an organization that rose from the ashes of the Oct. 28, 2007 death of 14-year-old Mariah McCarthy, Jenna’s younger sister.
The younger McCarthy was killed when she and two friends were run over by an underage drunk driver while walking home on a walking trail along Blacktail Lane.
Since 2008, Mariah’s Challenge has awarded more than $300,000 in college scholarships to area high school seniors who live by the ideals of the challenge — refrain from underage drinking and drinking and driving.
The cost for the race is $75 for the half marathon and $30 for the 5K. Since this is the first half marathon in Butte in recent history, the race is, by comparison, cheaper for Butte runners who normally have to travel out of town for half or full marathons in Missoula, Helena, Bozeman and Billings.
For starters, hometown runners won’t have to spend money on gas, hotels and meals to run the race. Plus, 100 percent of the money goes to scholarships for area students. It is money that is helping make a difference in the community, and beyond.
“For those who haven’t decided (to run), I hope they will just do it,” Leo McCarthy said. “We’ve got some great people running, and we have some great support from businesses. When you’ve got Butte behind you, you can do anything.”
Jenna McCarthy said the putting on the race wouldn’t have been possible without helpers like Eddi Walker and Curtis Moen.
Walker is an avid runner who chipped in with years of experience running races around the state. Moen, also an avid runner, designed the course for the half marathon.
The race will start at Big Sky Harley Davidson, which is by Three Bears Alaska. The half marathon heads south on Continental drive to the Nine Mile. It will then head back into town on Highway 2 and turn north on Harrison Avenue.
On the 10th mile, the race will turn east on Elizabeth Warren Avenue. It will then turn south on Mount Highland Drive until it reaches Blacktail Lane. Then the race will head north and run past the cross marking the spot where Mariah McCarthy was killed nearly eight years ago.
The race will turn right on Elizabeth Warren and then right on Continental Drive on the way to the finish line at Big Sky Harley Davidson.
Jenna McCarthy, who got an A on her thesis, said the plan is to have a full marathon in the near future. She said she envisions a race on the walking trail, once completed, between Butte and Anaconda.
“That is the ultimate goal,” she said. “We want to have a successful half marathon for a few years and move to a full marathon.”
Race runners can look forward to what Jenna McCarthy calls “really cool shirts.”
The race T-shirt includes the Mariah’s Challenge Race logo on the front. On the back is a poem written by and in the handwriting of Mariah McCarthy.
The shirts will serve as a bragging point for runners as well as a reminder of what was lost because of a poor decision of one driver.
“With the innocence that was shattered that day,” Leo McCarthy said, “I think the town looked in the mirror and said ‘We can be better.’ It is changing not because of Mariah’s Challenge or anybody else. It’s the reflection in the mirror.”
That reflection can look a whole lot better after running, whether it’s the 13.1-mile half marathon or the 3.1-mile 5K.
Plus, Leo McCarthy said, runners are almost guaranteed to not finish last. That’s because McCarthy himself has signed up for the half marathon.
“If you want come out and beat me in a race, sign up,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll be the last one in.”