Downtown Mile: It’s not about the money and glory, it’s the cookies |

Downtown Mile: It’s not about the money and glory, it’s the cookies

Elizabeth SeverySpecial to The Aspen Times
Carrie Messner, on her way to the overall victory at the Downtown Mile on Saturday. With a time of 5 minutes 10 seconds, Messner set a record for the course. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.

Carrie Messner trounced the field – men and women – at Saturday’s Downtown Mile, a fund-raiser for the Aspen High School cross-country team.En route to her first overall victory and second women’s title, Messner smashed her own women’s course record by nine seconds.And she was just training. Messner finished the mile race in 5 minutes 10 seconds, 15 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Steve Gonzales. She outran the field of 45 runners from the starting line.

“I thought she was kidding,” Gonzales said. “I didn’t think she was running that fast.”Gonzales took the men’s title ahead of his brother, Greg Gonzales, who finished in 5:45. Sister Lisa Gonzales-Gile took second in the women’s division with a time of 6:07. Gonzales-Gile’s son Bridger, 5, rounded out the family scoring with a first-place finish in the boys’ 5-and-under category in 8:44.Austin Weiss took third for the men – fourth overall – in 5:48, and Robin Severy was the third woman (6:09).Messner, a professional steeplechase runner, viewed the Downtown Mile as part of her daily training. She left shortly after the race to finish the day’s run with a speed workout in Carbondale.

“It’s nice to do a workout in a race atmosphere,” she said. “I was supposed to run a little faster, but it’s a little cold and uphill.”Messner is training for the U.S. Nationals, to be held in two weeks in Carson, Calif. She has been competing in the steeplechase for only a year and a half, but she holds the fourth-fastest time in the country. Messner finished third at the 2004 U.S. Olympic trials.Women’s steeplechase is not yet an Olympic event, so 2004’s trials served as the national meet for Messner and the other top women. The event is expected to be part of the 2008 Olympics. “We’ve been fighting for it,” Messner said. “We’re just trying to get the event more well known.”

This year marks the first time women’s steeplechase is an event at the World Championships, held Aug. 6-14 in Helsinki, Finland. Messner’s steeplechase time is fast enough to earn her the World A standard, meaning that a podium finish at nationals will secure a spot at worlds.Messner was a four-time All-American track and cross-country runner at the University of Colorado before moving to Carbondale last year. She ran distance events at CU but jumped at the chance to compete in the steeplechase after college.”I always wanted to run it in college, but it wasn’t an event,” she said. “It’s just fun, it’s different. It takes a certain mentality to run the steeplechase.”Messner is not a recreational jogger. She spends about three hours every day working out and runs between 80 and 90 miles a week. Running is her career, and it’s not easy to make ends meet as a professional women’s steeplechaser, said.

Messner can’t work full time because of the time she puts into training. She is sponsored by Asics, but the contract doesn’t cover all travel expenses to races across the country and around the world, so she spends about $500 every trip. And women’s steeplechase doesn’t have as much prize money as other events.”If I were to get an American record in the steeplechase, it would be $5,000,” Messner said. “Any other event is $25,000.”It’s definitely a hard sport to make it in.”Messner took home $50 and a plate of homemade cookies for winning the Downtown Mile. The money will go toward a plane ticket to U.S. Nationals – but the cookies are priceless. “Next year I’m going to get her,” said Steve Gonzales, the 2004 Downtown Mile victor. “Because I want the plate of cookies back.”