The heart and sole of local races |

The heart and sole of local races

Meredith Cohen

Aspen’s annual Old Fashioned Fourth of July parade begins at noon on Tuesday. Anyone who’s ever wondered what it would feel like to live in a Norman Rockwell painting should pick a curbside spot in the downtown core to get a good view of the ruddy-cheeked, freckle-nosed kids who’ll be waving American flags at the fire trucks, vintage convertibles, decorated floats, local politicians and armed services veterans as they inch down Main Street.Like skiing, hiking and the weather, the Roaring Fork Valley excels at picture-perfect parades. But the area most embodies the storybook spirit with its foot races.The New York Road Runners Club – arguably the nation’s premiere organization for those addicted to pounding the pavement – has succeeded in flawlessly executing everything from the Empire State Building Run-Up with 100 invitation-only competitors to the New York City Marathon with two million spectators cheering on 30,000+ entrants. Still, NYRRC races have nothing on the ones held here. The local races clearly lack the structure of big city events, but they more than make-up for it with loads of character.With all due respect to the Boogie’s Diner Buddy Five Miler, the Race For the Cure, the Strawberry Shortcut, the Golden Leaf Half Marathon and the other assorted high-profile summer foot races and winter uphills, the most heartwarming races in the area barely get any attention other than brief mentions on the local radio and TV stations, event websites or in the newspapers.The Lobster Crawl 5K race in Carbondale last weekend was held in conjunction with the town’s fifth annual music and crustacean celebration. Handwritten course maps describing the 5K distance as “3.2 miles” were available for viewing by the 30 or so entrants at the registration table prior to the start. One race organizer was overheard saying he thought the course was actually 3.15 miles, but either way, at least there was some warning that the distance might not be in accord with its traditional definition. At the Dandelion Dash 5K in Carbondale in May, the course was actually measured at 3.65 miles by two runners with GPS watches who compared readings after crossing the finish line. Several runners took an even longer route due to some confusing direction signs spread throughout the route.Both races had water glitches – the Dandelion Dash ran out of it before mid-packers neared the finish line. The Lobster Crawl organizers either couldn’t decide or agree where it should be left at the course’s end – at the finish line or the registration table, leaving some thirsty runners wandering back and forth between the two spots until locating the cooler.At the conclusion of both races, though, the gaffes had little to no effect on the high spirits surrounding the events. The Lobster Crawl, proceeds from which benefited Colorado Rocky Mountain School’s preschool, wrapped up by having a few dozen tots race down the block toward a fire truck with the “Chariots of Fire” theme blasting out of speakers. Cherry cobbler so fresh and locally-made it was still on the baking sheet was offered to all participants. The Dandelion Dash awarded geraniums and other potted flowers to finishers in categories like Youngest and Oldest.If tradition holds, the annual 16.5-mile Mt. Sopris Run-Off at the end of this month will forgo the usual dispensation of commemorative t-shirts prior to the event. Instead, the race organizer will wait to see how many people register on race day and when the clock starts, he’ll complete his own race by printing the exact number of shirts needed just in time for the runners to cross the finish line.At the Aspen Downtown Mile, the first person to cross the finish line is rewarded with a plate of cookies baked by the race director’s mother. The Glenwood Canyon Shuffle Half Marathon lets age-category winners pick from an assortment of locally made potteryFor their Earth Day 10K race in April, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies had people officially register on Post-It Notes. Staffers were sprinkled throughout the course quizzing runners on subjects ranging from recycling to global warming.Many area race directors will appear at the starting line to officially kick-off the event and then bicycle ahead of the runners to the finish to record the winning times. Other organizers will drive to the start so runners can leave their warm-up clothes in the back seats and then drive to the finish so the items will be conveniently available to everyone at the end.Like homemade mashed potatoes and Bob Dylan’s voice, some area races may not be the smoothest, but they’ve got a whole lot of soul.E-mail questions or comments to

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