The Little Race That Could

Today if you were to drive down a certain two-lane road near Red River on a pre-dawn winter morning, you just might see a tiny light bobbing through the darkness. The slight figure wearing the headlamp will wave and keep running. Never mind that it is two degrees Fahrenheit: Lisa Mackey is getting a few miles in before work and she is one determined woman.

Lisa has been a dedicated runner for thirty-five years, with two Boston marathons under her belt, as well as just about every other race distance. When she’s not running, she’s hiking with her husband and three Karelian Bear Dogs, then it’s on to her job at the Red River Chamber of Commerce.

Mackey juggles a slew of responsibilities but none are quite as all-consuming as serving as Race Director for the Red River High Mountain Half-Marathon and 5K. She took over organizing the race in 2013 after Paula Richey determinedly ignited the initial idea. Convinced that Red River’s beautiful scenery and clean air comprise the perfect ingredients for a major running race, both women have persevered to buoy the event into what it is today. Mackey’s longtime racing and running experience brought a new level of experience to the race. Knowing firsthand what participants want and expect, she began recruiting sponsors and volunteers. She raised funds, printed flyers, ordered T-shirts, marked the course, scheduled first aid specialists, and tended to the other thousand details. Being a race director, she quickly found out, is a non-stop endeavor. On the eve of the first race, Mackey didn’t sleep a wink. Would the race be a success?

As it turned out, the answer was a resounding “yes.” It truly was “the little race that could,” budding from a scrappy local event into one that can proudly hold its own against any race out there.

Yet, Mackey wasn’t content to stop there. She made it her goal to grow the race even bigger, and grow it she did. Every year since its inception, the number of entrants has increased markedly, drawing new visitors from states all across the U.S., as well as winning back many happy participants from previous years.

Lisa attributes this to the fact that “we are a small town race with big city perks.“ She works tirelessly to procure an exceptional array of prizes, as well as generous cash prizes to the top finishers. In addition, she maintains that the volunteers are truly the heart of the event, providing sports drinks, water, and encouragement at every mile along the entire race course. “I could not do this without all of the wonderful people who come out and give their time,” says Mackey. This is a sentiment she repeats often, never stopping to consider her own selfless contributions.

This year’s race will take place on May 16. Though the event is timed, plenty of people participate just to enjoy the spectacular scenery and post-race festivities since the fun doesn’t stop at the finish line. The awards ceremony takes place at Mountain Treasures where it is always a lively occasion of food and camaraderie, making the race perfect for a destination weekend. Runners and walkers of all levels will truly be treated to a spectacular event, and somewhere in the crowd, a sleepless Lisa Mackey will be the reason why.

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