I had another life once. It feels so long ago I can barely remember it. But I’m reminded by strangers when they ask about the Olympic tattoo on my back. See, in my “other” life, I competed for Australia at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games in handball. It was an amazing time in my life and although the memories have faded, they will be there for life.
As former high-level athletes will attest, it’s hard to find a “replacement” once you retire from the sport you’ve spent so many hours trying to perfect.
As a substitute for handball, I started traveling. I found myself in London around 2005 and got fully entrenched in the London lifestyle. Unfortunately, you don’t know what you don’t know and I didn’t know about parkrun at the time. It’s a shame because it probably would have been a great savior for my lack of exercise.
Fast forward a few years and I found myself back in Australia, on the stunning Gold Coast with two children and a very lackluster training program. This was a strange phenomenon for me, as I had never allowed exercise to take a back seat. It was at this point, when deciding to get my fitness back, that a friend told me about parkrun. Unbeknownst to me, this was the beginning of parkrun in Australia, and it just so happened that one of the first parkrun events was just minutes from my house. [Kirra parkrun recently celebrated its 300th event.] About the same time, I had discovered triathlons. I was never a great runner, so parkrun provided a great opportunity for me to build on this leg while having great support and great fun, not to mention great coffee afterwards.
Kirra Beach was my first parkrun experience.
I enjoyed attending parkrun. Not necessarily on a regular basis, but I always knew parkrun was there, and I loved that fact that I could attend whenever I wanted to. I knew I would always be welcomed back by friendly faces. My running improved and as a result, so did my triathlon times. I loved this period in my life. I found an amazing group of women that I continued to train with for years.
During this time, a series of events led us to move to a small ski resort in Australia called Thredbo. I first toyed with the idea of starting parkrun in Thredbo because I thought it would be cool to have Australia’s highest parkrun. Unfortunately, I never started a parkrun in Thredbo because at this same time, we won our green cards for America.
We spent the next three years traveling back and forth, chasing the endless winter. But summer was calling, and we made the decision to stay in America.
We settled in Aspen primarily because of the community. While there is an element of glitz and glamour, Aspen has a thriving year-round community of welcoming, friendly people, and with around 300 days of sunshine per year, it seemed like the perfect place to start a parkrun.
Aspen is such an active community with a large network of running and hiking trails so it was difficult to find the right route for Aspen parkrun. A few other things we had to consider when choosing the route were the many summer events on the calendar that affect traffic on certain trails, as well as the fact that half the year some trails would be snow covered and not maintained. We fully intend to keep Aspen parkrun going year-round, so it was important to find the right route. I didn’t want it to be too challenging, although in a mountain town it’s hard to find a totally flat route. The route needed to be on a trail that would be plowed through the winter, although I am certainly anticipating some snowy Saturday mornings! The Parks and Recreation Department has been a great help in choosing the right route. They know the trail system like the back of their hand, so they had some great input when selecting the best path. The City of Aspen has also been incredibly supportive of launching Aspen parkrun. Having a program that will appeal to not only tourists, but most importantly to the local, year-round population will create a weekly event that supports the ideals and principles that Aspen holds dear.
I love the route we’ve chosen. It has a little bit of everything that is Aspen: great mountain views, a challenging little hill on the second half of the run, and as a bonus, it will be the highest altitude parkrun of the 1300 parkrun events worldwide.
With the route chosen and approvals given, we are now just 3 weeks away from the launch of Aspen parkrun. It has been an insightful journey thus far and the US parkrun team have been so supportive in getting me to this point. Now we are ready to start spreading the word about this new fixture on the Aspen calendar. I am so excited to welcome walkers and runners of all levels for this laid-back, healthy, fun start to people’s weekends. I know the energetic Aspen community will love it and I am proud to have finally realized my parkrun dream.
Aspen parkrun is a free, weekly, timed 5k run/walk, starting at 8:00am every Saturday, year round, at the Aspen Recreation Center. All participants are welcome at the weekly post-parkrun social meetup at The Pantry. One-time registration at parkrun.us gets you a free personal barcode. That is your ticket to Aspen parkrun and to over 1000 other weekly parkrun events worldwide. Walkers, joggers, runners, volunteers, and strollers are all welcome! (Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted on this route.)
You can follow Aspen parkrun at: http://www.parkrun.us/aspen/
Shelley Roy, Event Director