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Garrett runs from Aspen to Denver

Tim Mutrie

It took eight days, as predicted, for ultra-runners Essie Garrett and Tonya Ciarochi to arrive at the downtown Denver offices of the Women’s AIDS Project of the Empowerment Program Tuesday evening, completing their 220-mile benefit run from Aspen to Denver.

Garrett, the U.S./North American women’s running record holder, having covered 170 miles in 48 hours, and Ciarochi, a concert pianist by profession, left Aspen the morning of August 1, along with Simone, a pack llama, carrying their gear. The trio averaged nearly 30 miles a day down to Glenwood Springs and then east on the Interstate 70, arriving at the finish in Denver Tuesday (Aug. 8), about five minutes ahead of schedule.

Garrett, a 53-year-old large appliance maintenance teacher at Denver’s vocational/technical Emily Griffith Opportunity School, has run more than 20,000 miles since 1981 while raising more than a million dollars for 250 charitable organizations. And of the dozens of ultra-runs she’s undertaken to benefit good causes in the last 20 years, never once has she failed to finish on time, including runs exceeding a thousand miles.

“Essie and Tonya ran in about 5:25 p.m.” Tuesday, said Carol Lease, director of the Women’s AIDS Project of the Empowerment Program, “so they made it in just before the 5:30 p.m. deadline. Simone came across in a van; she was pretty tired.”

Garrett and Ciarochi’s run benefits the Women’s AIDS Project of the Empowerment Program in downtown Denver, as well as the Western Colorado AIDS Project.

“The only disappointing part is that we’ve only raised about $421,” Lease said. “We’re hoping that people who heard about their run will continue to help us out.”

Garrett and Ciarochi, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, did encounter some difficulties along the route, as well as countless good Samaritans, which they relayed Monday afternoon during a cell-phone interview while eating dinner Monday at about 4:30 p.m.

“We’re doing fine, we’re almost to the west side of Denver and things are going really well,” Garrett said, on day seven of the eight day journey. “But we had to allow Simone to ride some of the trip because the pads on her hind legs were bleeding in Glenwood Canyon.”

“And when Simone got ill, Tonya and I had to push through the night with our backpacks just in case we had any other difficulties,” Garrett said.

“But we’re on schedule, we’re nearly where we’re supposed to be,” she continued. “After dinner, we’ll be running to the west end of Denver, and finishing tomorrow.”

“All of us are tired, just exhausted,” Garrett added, “but everyone we’ve encountered has been incredibly supportive and helpful.”

“This isn’t the first time we’ve had trouble with pack animals,” Ciarochi added Monday, referring to their Continental Divide Trail benefit run last summer with pack burros. “We’re having to carry 20-25 pounds in rain gear and water, so our backs are sore, but it makes you appreciate the llama even more. It makes us more of a team, but it’s definitely harder.”

Ciarochi was careful to not be too confident with one day of running ahead.

“Essie (Garrett) knows the big picture very well, and she’s warned us not to feel like we’re already there – we can’t let down our guard,” Ciarochi said. “We’re on schedule and feeling good, very good, and we’re close to accomplishing the mission, so we’re trying to treat this like any other day and not be careless, but it’s harder because we’re very tired and fatigue is a factor.”

Nevertheless, Garrett, running on her third set of shoes, and Ciarochi, running on her second pair, were injury free.

For information about contributing to the Women’s AIDS Project of the Empowerment Program or the Western Colorado AIDS Project, the two beneficiaries of Garrett and Ciarochi’s run, call 303-320-1989.


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