Glenwood runner makes triumphant return
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Sunday was Paul Driskill’s birthday.
He was exhausted, emotional, reflective and thankful.
Nine months ago to the day, there was no guarantee that Paul would see his 71st birthday.
Let alone another Strawberry Shortcut race.
At 6:50 a.m. Sunday, Paul warmed up for the Shortcut 10K race. Jeannie, his wife of 47 years and nine months was by his side ” as always.
It was the culmination of his comeback.
On Sept. 22, 2007, a hit-and-run driver slammed into Paul as he was on his morning 16-mile run. He was left for dead, but this is Paul Driskill, and there were races still to be run.
Paul ran both the 10K and the 5K at Sunday’s Shortcut. As the seconds clicked away, Jeannie waited anxiously at the finish line, peering down the final stretch, waiting for Paul to appear. Her gaze never shifted.
Then, there he was in his trademark headband with his awkward, recognizable running gait. Jeannie raised her camera and clicked away.
Paul Driskill made his triumphant return to the race he loves so much.
But there is no animosity or anger or even a symbolic “take that,” to the man or woman who mowed him down as he ran on the road near Rosebud Cemetery.
Watching Paul finish the race, one had to wonder if the heartless person who left him for dead has any idea of Paul’s comeback.
For Paul, it was an emotional day. His voice cracked as he talked about Sept. 22 and the painful road to recovery. He knows that his assailant will probably never be caught.
His eyes shift to the ground as he talks.
“I wouldn’t be mad at him or her,” he says about what he’d say to the person who ran him down. “I would like to know what happened. I would like to know why. That’s what I’d ask them.”
This was Paul’s 27th Shortcut and by far his most satisfying.
Few expected that he’d be back this soon.
Race organizer Jim Yellico smiles and says, “The shortcut without Paul would be like strawberry shortcake without strawberries.”
The crowd and other runners would agree. He was given a huge ovation as he made his way to the finish of the 5K.
“It felt great,” he says about the crowd. “They keep me going.”
“I’ve been looking forward to the Shortcut since I got hurt,” Paul adds.
He’s a man of few words, and his unassuming nature is a contrast to his recognizable appearance. Everyone in the running community knows Paul Driskill.
He says that it wasn’t easy. He’s back to running 12 to 13 miles a day, but the Shortcut was tough. This was one of the most difficult running days he’s ever had, he confesses.
“The first race (10K) wasn’t easy,” he says with a grin.
Jeannie never doubted that Paul would be back at the Shortcut.
“I thought he’d be back, but I didn’t know if he’d be back this soon,” she says.
“I’m really proud of him; I always have been.”
Paul’s love of running is second only to his love of Jeannie.
“She’s always been there for me,” he says, his voice wavering again. “She’s my inspiration.”
She gives him an agreeing smile and tap on his knee.
Since the accident, Paul has changed his running routine.
“I don’t run on the road anymore,” he says with a nervous smile.
Now, he goes right out his backdoor and jumps onto the new Rio Grande Trail for his daily runs.
It was a hard day for Paul. The races were tougher than usual. He stumbled at the end of the 10K and fell. But Sunday was about the Shortcut, not about time. It was about a comeback.
The comeback started at the 2007 Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, a month after the accident when he walked the race using a cane. Then he ran the Mother’s Day Mile. And now, he can add his favorite race to the comeback list.
“The Shortcut means a lot to me. I didn’t care about my time, just finishing. I thought a lot about the Shortcut.”
And he did both the 10K and the 5K.
A very successful comeback.
And somewhere there’s someone who has no idea what the Driskills have gone through over the past nine months. And probably doesn’t care. This person didn’t care about Paul Driskill at 5:30 a.m. on Sept. 22, 2007.
But Paul isn’t angry, just confused why he was left for dead.
Most of us would be angry.
Just like running, Paul has no desire to look behind him, his focus is squarely on the road that’s ahead.
Paul’s passion for running has kept him going through good times and bad, and his goals are the same as always.
“Just keep running and trying to improve.”
With his first post-accident Shortcut in the books, it was time to go home and celebrate birthday No. 71.
After the awards ceremony, Paul and Jeannie headed for home walking up Cooper Avenue holding hands.
It was a good day. It was a tough day.
It was the day Paul Driskill made his comeback at the Strawberry Shortcut.
Sunday was nine months to the day when he almost died.
Tomorrow will be the next day in a comeback story that keeps writing new chapters.