Race for the Cure runners fighting cancer in Aspen | AspenTimes.com
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Race for the Cure runners fighting cancer in Aspen

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

For Aspen cancer survivor Betty Gates, the Komen Aspen Race for the Cure is always a special occasion.

But Saturday’s 23rd annual benefit was off the charts.

Clad in a pink shirt on a day of pink, Gates also had a small pink placard pinned to the back of her shirt.

It read: “Running in memory … of Diane Gates.”

“Yes, our daughter Diane died in May. I’m a cancer survivor 25 years, and unfortunately that gene runs in the family,” Betty Gates said as the 5K runners milled around Rio Grande Park preparing for their Saturday morning race.

Gates said the Race for the Cure is a chance to remember her daughter in a unique atmostphere of camaraderie. And it’s a chance to celebrate survivors.

“It’s an amazing camaraderie; it’s a special bond,” Gates said as she stood among other runners and walkers wearing similar signs of hope and memory.

“Everyone who is wearing a pink shirt has been through hell and back,” she said. “We all share that special experience. When you see someone with a pink shirt on, you know they have survived.”

She said a glance or a nod is all that’s needed among the survivors.

“Everybody who survived cancer knows what it is like to go through it. They know what it’s like to go through the chemo,” she said. “They know what it’s like to be so sick you can’t move … to be so sick you throw up constantly.”

It’s unlike any other bond, she said.

“I can walk up to anyone with a pink shirt and say, ‘How long?’ And we talk. And then, we can hug and kill. We shared the same experience.”

Drew Seyler, of Carbondale, also saw Saturday’s Race for the Cure as an opportunity to remember and celebrate.

“I’m running in memory of Helen Gray,” Seyler said of his mother-in-law’s mother. “She died of breast cancer.”

Gray said he was happy to get out for a morning run with a cause in mind.

“This is my first one. I’m glad I have … family to run for,” the Carbondale electrician said.

Adding to the special nature of Saturday’s event, Megan Lund Lizotte was the overall winner in the 10K race, staged on a course she helped design last year.

“My grandma is a breast-cancer survivor. It’s definitely a cause that resonates,” Lizotte said after winning the 10K in 39 minutes and 44 seconds.

The member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team and a former collegiate standout, Lizotte said she enjoys racing in the valley.

“This is my community. I really enjoy seeing everyone,” said Lizotte, who used the 10K Saturday as her final hard-effort workout before next weekend when she will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Mountain Running Team again.

Though tired from a tough week of training, including a 20-mile trail run last weekend, Lizotte said she was pleased with her pace Saturday morning.

“I wanted to run under 40 (minutes). I thought I could run around 39:45.”

Bingo.

Lizotte finished in 39:44, running at a 6:20-mile pace.

She said she expected Robbie George and Brian Johnson to pull into the lead on the downhill of Cemetery Lane (on the 10K course).

“Then, you get to the Rio Grande Trail, and it’s a gradual uphill to the finish,” she said. “You have to stay focused, let your body relax and keep your form intact.”

Lizotte had overtaken the two on the way down.

“I think my downhill running is coming along,” Lizotte said.

“This week, I’ll rest. Take some easy runs,” she said. Next Sunday, she’ll bid for a U.S. spot in the World Mountain Running Championships.

For George, Saturday’s 10K runner-up, the chance to run with a professional added to the race.

“I went out hard because that’s what my college coach wants me to do,” said George, an Aspen native now running at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

“Megan and my friend were sticking with me for the first bit. Then, I stayed with her until the downhill, and she just flew by,” George said. “I guess that’s why she’s a professional runner.”

George said he will continue to train in Aspen before heading back to Los Angeles with his college team poised to make a run for a regional championship.

“It’s a great team. I love those guys. Hopefully, I can help the team next season,” said George, a biochemistry major.

With Lizotte first and George second, Roaring Fork Valley natives went 1-2 in Saturday’s 10K.

Lucas Franze won the 5K race later Saturday morning. He finished in 19:57.

Benjamin Mosona was second (20:48).

Ahna Maxwell, fifth overall, was the top woman in the 5K race (26:07).

Results from Saturday’s races will be available online at http://www.komenaspen.org.

dstrode@aspentimes.com


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