Glenwood runner makes emotional return | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood runner makes emotional return

Mike Vidakovich
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Never missing a Turkey Day 5K, Paul Driskill walks with his granddaughter, Rebecca Cossins, as people cheer him on at the finish line Thursday morning at the Glenwood Springs Golf Club. (Kara K. Pearson/Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” There is no specific blueprint as to what makes a person a hero.

The athlete-hero often emerges out of a single, crucial challenge or moment. Hero status is accorded also to someone who, through time, has performed extraordinary, brave, or noble acts in a selfless manner. The myth is given time to develop and simmer before earning its way into our thoughts and conversations.

Heroes are supposed to lift our spirits, gladden our hearts, and teach us about human potential.

So it was that with the dawning of this clear and crisp Thanksgiving morning, Paul Driskill, who has been running in races throughout the Roaring Fork Valley since 1972, made his way to the starting line of the annual Turkey Day 5k Run. It’s a race he has never missed since its inception in 1986.

This year, things were different though.

It was just two months ago, to the day, that Driskill was struck by a car and left severely injured while out on his daily 16-mile morning run. He was flown to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, where doctors could give no assurances to his family as to whether he would make it through the night, let alone ever run again.

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“The doctors were pretty amazed that he was even alive,” said Paul’s wife, Jeannie Driskill. “He was so banged up with broken bones and head injuries.”

No one will ever know for sure, but there was speculation among the medical personnel who attended to Paul, that his excellent physical strength and conditioning may have been a contributing factor in saving his life.

So it mattered little to anyone, that on this day, Paul was relegated to walking the course with his granddaughter, Rebecca. Folks were just happy, and thankful, to see him up and around and at the Thanksgiving Day event that has developed into much more than just a footrace for many.

Co-race director Karen Greenwood said she couldn’t imagine what things would be like without the 70-year-old Driskill at the starting line.

“With Paul here, the spirit and tradition of the Turkey Day 5k continues,” stated Greenwood.

Dallas resident Rick Chavez, who lived near the Driskills while growing up in Glenwood, used to marvel at seeing Paul out running each and every day. As a boy, Chavez couldn’t imagine running long distances unless someone was in pursuit. He now regularly runs a sub 20-minute 5K.

“I remember seeing Mr. Driskill out there every day pounding the pavement,” said Chavez, who makes the annual trek from Texas to run the race. “As kids, none of us would run unless we were playing a game of some kind. Now we’re all training and running races. He must have inspired us when we were young and we didn’t even know it.”

Driskill just may be running’s version of the eternal flame. It’s probably true that he has inspired more people to hit the roads than he will ever know. On this special day, the always quiet and reserved Driskill wanted to thank everyone and let them know they have been an inspiration to him also.

“It’s just great to see everyone,” he said.