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Aspen runners take steps for healthy food program

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Nearly 400 runners participate in the 2013 Food & Wine 5K Charity Run in Aspen. The 2014 race will be held Friday, starting and finishing at Rio Grand Park.
Dale Strode/The Aspen Times |

With the rising sun peaking over Smuggler Mountain early Friday morning, chef Michel Nischan could not and would not stop smiling.

How could he?

The celebrity chef and founder of Wholesome Wave looked over the field of nearly 400 fidgety runners, who had gathered at Rio Grande Park for the start of the benefit Food & Wine 5K Charity Run.

“I can’t believe this — 400 people,” Nischan said. “It’s crazy.”

Then, he smiled again.

“To see 400 people out this early in the morning, … supporting the work we do at Wholesome Wave. Amazing,” Nischan said, explaining that the nonprofit foundation was established to help make fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables accessible and affordable to families.

“We are trying to provide healthier foods for families in poverty,” he said, adding that the longtime support of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen enables Wholesome Wave to forge ahead in its healthy culinary mission.

“Food & Wine and American Express sponsor our group with 2 percent of ticket proceeds from the Food & Wine Classic,” Nischan said. “And now we have the run.”

The 5K, launched last year, also benefits Wholesome Wave.

After the runners left the starting line Friday morning and began to work their way through Aspen’s West End, heading toward the Music Tent, Nischan reiterated his appreciation for the support of the runners who started Friday’s Food & Wine Classic schedule with the three-plus-mile run.

“One thing that I think is fabulous is the way that sports build community,” Nischan said. “There is a camaraderie that comes with competition.”

A running race and good, healthy food go together, said Nischan, who is the owner and chef at the famed Dressing Room in Westport, Conn., a wholesome-food based restaurant he started with Paul Newman.

“Fitness and good food: Make that happen in your life,” he said.

Chris Gomez and Megan Lund Lizotte, obviously, made it happen.

Gomez, a former collegiate 1,500-meter runner at Northern Arizona University, won Friday’s 5K in 18 minutes, 16 seconds. Official times and results will be available on the Food & Wine Classic website, foodandwine.com.

“It was fun. It’s a good little course,” Gomez said. “I like when it transitions between road and trail.”

The trail portion of Friday’s course took runners down the hill behind the Aspen Meadows, eventually connected with the Rio Grande Trail, where the field headed back up the river to the finish at Rio Grande Park.

“I was a little slower than I thought I would be. But we are at 8,000 feet,” said Gomez, who has won Flagstaff’s summer running series the past four years.

“I’m a registered nurse in Flagstaff. I work in oncology,” said Gomez, who came to Aspen to take part in the Food & Wine Classic and the 5K race.

Lizotte didn’t travel quite as far to win the women’ division of Friday’s race.

The valley native, who was a collegiate track and cross-country standout at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, is from Basalt.

“I wanted some speedwork. That’s exactly why I did this,” said Lizotte, who normally competes in longer trail runs. She ran 21:09 Friday.

“I’m trying to make the U.S. Mountain Running Team again this year,” she said, pointing to a July 21 qualifying race in New Hampshire. The top four women will qualify for the U.S. team that will race in the World Championships in Poland.

“My training is mostly hill running. So this (5K) is nice. I love these community events,” she said. “You get out and see people. And you get some fast running in.”

Lizotte, who gave birth to daughter Maven eight months ago, said she’s still rebounding as a new mom with an infant.

“It takes awhile. Longer than I expected,” Lizotte said. “Breast feeding takes a lot of energy out of you.”

But her training progression is on track, she said.

“Things are coming together. I’ve had a couple of wins this year, good confidence boosters,” Lizotte said.

She said she was proud to be able to contribute to a charity life Wholesome Wave through Friday’s 5K (which likely measured a bit longer than five kilometers).

“I like doing events where I really agree with their mission,” Lizotte said with a smile that matched the perma-grin of Wholesome Wave’s founder.

“One of the things I dig about this weekend is that the Farmers Market opens,” Nischan said, adding that the Wholesome Wave Foundation is behind a national push for local farmers markets.

Through congressional efforts, Wholesome Wave helped add language to the current farm bill, which will double the value of food stamps at farmers markets.

The bill is through the Senate.

“Once through the House, yes, it would double the value of food stamps because of our work and this kind of support,” Nischan said.

dstrode@aspentimes.com


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