Challenge Aspen takes strides in Amsterdam | AspenTimes.com

Challenge Aspen takes strides in Amsterdam

Abby Margulis
Special to the Sun

The Challenge Aspen 2013 Amsterdam Marathon Team. Front row, from left: Jenni Petersen, Austin Weiss, Tim Anderson, Elaine Crowley, Chris McKelvey, Sally Anne Harrell, Sam Louras, Margaret Molteni, Michaela Idhammar, Catherine Rohrstaff, Kim Baber, Shannon Bolona and Rich Hooper. Back row, from left: Sam Lovstad, Jason Hodges, Rob Smith, Tom Clark, Jessica Palen, Brett Coleman, Virginia Edelson and Jamie Kinnaird. Not pictured: Tamme Mellenthin, Charis Caldwell, Sara Broome and Cathy Mann.

Twenty-six valley residents completed 26 miles at the Amsterdam TCS Marathon on Oct. 21 to benefit Challenge Aspen.

The previous executive director for Challenge Aspen, Mardell Burkholder, started the marathon-fundraising event 11 years ago. But for the past nine years, Jenni Petersen, director of finance and human resources for Challenge Aspen, has coordinated the event. Petersen also has run in the past eight marathons.

"It's a great experience for people to get to know (Challenge Aspen), be an ambassador for us and have a great experience," Petersen said. "And there's this amazing fundraiser going on in the background."

This year the team members raised more than $50,000 to help support Challenge Aspen programs, from scholarships for people who show financial need to purchasing and updating their adaptive equipment, Petersen said.

Challenge Aspen, founded in 1995, is a Snowmass Village-based nonprofit that provides year-round recreational, cultural and educational experiences to anyone with a disability, according to its website.

The organization each year selects participants to travel to a fun location outside the United States, such as Iceland or Toronto, to compete in a race. When runners are selected, they commit to raising a minimum of $3,600 for Challenge Aspen's various programs, and this year most participants went over their goal. Challenge Aspen in return provides the team members with a 20-week training program with marathon coach Austin Weiss and round-trip travel expenses, including airfare, accommodations, race fees and a victory dinner after the race.

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Weiss provides a training program for all kinds of runners and walkers. Throughout the summer, workouts, runs and races are planned for the team members to get in shape.

"There are people who have never run a mile, and there are people going for a Boston qualifying time," Petersen said.

The group endured the eight-hour plane ride over the Atlantic to enjoy a five-night stay in Amsterdam, a few days of fun and exploration and, of course, the race they all worked so hard to finish.

Petersen's personal time was 5 hours, 17 minutes.

"It was a challenging day for me due to injury and illness, but I found motivation and drive thinking about our mission and our amazing participants," she said. "Everyone finished their races, some battling injuries and some nailing their personal record times."

Petersen keeps running for the experience.

"My favorite part (is seeing) our runners and walkers get ready for their races — picking up their bibs, the nervous butterflies, our coach Austin Weiss' amazing preparation speech — and achieving all of their goals," Petersen said. "Race day is such a humbling collaboration of hard work, dedication and support. Seeing the elation on all of our runners' faces after crossing that finish line and knowing they did it to support Challenge Aspen — it's priceless."

For more information or to donate, go to http://www.challengeaspen.org.

Abby Margulis is an editorial intern working at The Aspen Times this fall. She is a junior at DePauw University in Indiana.

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