Connolly, Meyer take Buddy Race titles in popular Fourth of July event
Art Connolly took a liking to the Boogie’s Buddy Race, Aspen’s annual Fourth of July 5-miler that raises money for the Buddy Program.
Even his battle with lymphoma, which eventually took his life in 2014 at the age of 76, didn’t keep him from running.
“He ran every year,” said Ashley Connolly, Art’s daughter-in-law. “He loved this race and he ran through his cancer treatments, so I do think of him. I feel like his spirit was with me and he’s proud of us.”
Running in honor of Art, Ashley Connolly was the top female finisher in the 31st annual race on Tuesday, which started a celebratory day in Aspen, highlighted by the late-morning Fourth of July parade through town.
Among the most noteworthy of shows came from part-time Aspen resident and seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, who brought in one of his signature No. 48 stock cars and to the delight of the crowd left some burnt rubber behind on the Aspen streets, starting the parade with a doughnut in the middle of Main Street.
“My big thing was to surprise the sheriff,” Johnson said of his buddy, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo. “He’s such a race fan and a 48 fan that I wanted to surprise him today and take him through the parade,” Johnson said. “There is not a better place to be on the Fourth and not a better day in my book on the calendar.”
The day’s excitement started at Rio Grande Park. An Aspen native, Ashley Connolly has competed in the Boogie’s Buddy Race numerous times. She grew up as a competitive athlete, but only got into running recreationally in her 20s. But with Art at her side, she was finally able to get the bucket list victory she wanted.
“Boogie’s is kind of the biggest race in Aspen, so it’s fun to actually win my hometown race,” said the 41-year-old Connolly, who was 11th overall with a time of 35 minutes, 30 seconds. “I felt strong because in the past I’ve gone out too fast and then got passed in the last two miles. But this year I didn’t get passed and my good friend, Jessica Chimerakis, she was second. But she wasn’t right on my tail at the end, so I didn’t get too nervous. But she did great.”
Chimerakis was second among women Tuesday with a time of 36:26, while Erin Sawyer was third in 36:39. Connolly’s husband, Mike Connolly, was sixth overall in 34:10.
Aspen’s Josh Meyer, a familiar name in the local running circle, was the overall winner of Tuesday’s race in 30:54. Meyer finished the course in a dead sprint, thinking he had competition right on his heels. Little did he know, he was well ahead of second-place finisher Brian Passenti, who completed the course in 31:40. Barton Tofany was third in 31:52.
“I thought I heard footsteps and I could just imagine them creeping up behind me and passing me at the end,” said the 29-year-old Meyer. “It was a little bit better than I was expecting to do. I was shooting for something around there, but maybe not quite as fast.”
Meyer found it especially fun to try and chase down former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong, who paced the field on his mountain bike. Meyer also wanted to give a shout out to his former cross country coach at Concordia University in Nebraska, Kregg Einspahr.
This was the second year the race was held on this specific course based around Rio Grande Park. Previously the start/finish area was located in the downtown core, but changes to the annual Fourth of July parade led to race organizers changing things around after 29 years. The other main difference in the course was the addition of a second hill on Power Plant Road.
“We thought it would be a good time for us to change the course and there is no better place for the start and finish than Rio Grande Park,” race director Joey Woltemath said. “Definitely this course is more difficult than the past, but people seem to like it. It adds a little more of a challenge.”
Full results can be found at http://www.buddyprogram.org.
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