Food & Wine Classic: Chefs’ 5k worth the early wakeup call

Kelly J. Hayes
Special to The Aspen Times

You fly in from New York on the final flight, Thursday night before the Classic begins. You meet some friends for a few celebratory pops at the hotel. You’re juiced because you’ve registered to run the Food & Wine Celebrity Chef 5K Charity Run the next morning.

It’s now 6:30 a.m. Friday, and you’re working on maybe three hours of sleep. It’s 34 degrees and you’re freezing in your running shorts and cool race tee. Over there, looking all Olympian, is Marcus Samuelsson (when does that guy ever sleep?). Stretching like a sprinter on the still frosty grass is Richard Blais (hasn’t he run, like, five NYC Marathons since he got famous on “Top Chef”?). Nearby, leaner than a glass of dry Chablis, is Bobby Stuckey, the wine guy from Boulder who doubles as a marathoner.

You can’t catch your breath and suddenly it occurs to you, as Emeril would say, that you kicked it up a notch. Yep, you’re 8,000 feet higher than when you woke up yesterday. This is starting to seem like a bad idea.

But then the sun rises. Your face warms. The mountains glow alpine green. The crowd surges toward the start line and you get juiced all over again. You run 3.1 miles on a gorgeous morning, stride for stride with many of the most famous chefs and winemakers on Earth.

For seven years now, one of the most memorable events of the Food & Wine Classic has been the annual Celebrity Chef 5K Charity Run. It takes locals and visitors alike past multimillion-dollar Victorian homes, across the raging Roaring Fork River and back up the bucolic Rio Grande Trail before the welcome finish. It sets the stage for the Classic and those who brave the course before the opening sessions get big-time bragging rights.

But beyond all that, the race is a fruitful fundraiser for Wholesome Wave.

“The Food & Wine 5K charity race is one of the highlights of the weekend,” said Michel Nischan, founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization. “I’m astonished by how many chefs show up — after a long night of celebration — to run at altitude!” Over 300 people run, and the race is open to everyone, passholder or not.

“We are absolutely thrilled that proceeds support Wholesome Wave’s work in providing nearly 1 million low-income Americans with produce-purchasing power,” Nischan continued. “Whether through Wholesome Rx, our fruit and vegetable prescription concept, or by doubling food stamps when spent on fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets and grocery retailers in the Wholesome Wave network, Food & Wine’s support — and the runners’ — over the years has allowed us to make fruits and vegetables possible for people struggling with urban and rural poverty in 49 states.”

It is the classic way to start the Classic.

Kelly J. Hayes writes the WineInk column, which appears every Thursday in the Aspen Times Weekly.

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