Tales from the Buddy 5
July 2, 2005
After the bedpost-rattling cannon blast booms from the Smuggler Mine, and before the old-fashioned parade takes over Main Street, Aspen’s Independence Day kicks off with the annual Boogie’s Diner Buddy 5 mile race.Now in its 27th year, the Buddy 5 is a holiday rite for locals and visitors. It’s also the largest footrace in the upper Roaring Fork Valley all year – about 1,000 participants are expected to toe the line Monday morning.Looking toward the race, the Times checked in with four fixtures of the Buddy 5 – Elliot Robinson, Lisa Gonzales-Gile, Jim Crown and Betty Severy – for their take on Aspen’s most popular race.
On July 4, 1965, Elliot Robinson went for his first run. And Robinson, who turns 70 in November, has been running ever since. He’s finished hundreds of races, including seven Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.Last Sunday, he just missed qualifying for his eighth full-distance Ironman with a second-place finish in his age group in a half-Ironman in Lubbock, Texas. (Only age-group winners earn starting slots in Kona.)But he’ll be back out Monday morning for the Buddy 5 – “I’ve run it almost every year since it started,” said Robinson, a Georgia native who moved to Aspen in 1975.And for Robinson, it’s been quite a run. Forty years ago, he was pitifully out of shape – 192 pounds compared to his sinewy, present-day 138.An old Army buddy had come to Georgia to visit for the holiday – a buddy that happened to be Jim Beatty, who, in 1960, became the first man to break the four-minute mile indoors.”He said, ‘Come out and run out on the beach with me,'” Robinson recalled. “Well, he ran about six miles and I only made it about 200 yards. I was in such terrible shape.””But I decided to keep running; I was 29 then. And I ran every day after that. Well, I missed some days, but I did string together 981 straight days in there without missing one.”Robinson said he won’t be checking his watch during the Buddy 5 this year. He’s not out to prove anything.”I run this race with a lot of joy because a lot of my friends can’t run anymore,” he said. “So I run for them, too.”
It’s not an Aspen footrace without Lisa Gonzales-Gile.The Aspen runner shows up for just about every endurance test piece in the neighborhood. And, not only that, she’s usually at the front of the pack at the finish.Oddly, while she’s finished second for women in the Buddy 5 “three or four times,” she’s never won it.”Always the bridesmaid,” said Gonzales-Gile. “And as I creep up on 50, I’m thinking I might have missed my chance.”But I’ll keep trying.”A native of Seal Beach, Calif., Gonzales-Gile moved to Aspen in 1991. She thinks she’s run the Buddy 5 every year since, except for last year. “Unfortunately, I had a back injury. But my mom and 4-year-old son, Bridger, did it, so that was pretty cool,” she said.Monday looks to be another family affair for Gonzales-Gile. Her mom, dad, husband, two brothers, sister and son, now 5, will be participating.”So it’s multi-generational – we kick off the Fourth of July together,” she said. “And that’s true even for families who come up for the holiday.”The race gets the town going, gets it ready for the big parade, and it’s a kickoff for the summer running season. I think it’s a celebration of the stuff we love about Aspen.”Due to a nagging calf injury, Gonzales-Gile said she might not actually be “racing” this year. “But if worse comes to worse, I’ll run with Bridger. And that’s not so bad after all.”