Looking for a challenge this summer? The Aspen Valley Marathon might just be the perfect way to challenge yourself physically and mentally, while simultaneously providing funding for the Challenge Aspen Foundation.
What began as a small half-marathon in 2010 has blossomed into a Boston Qualifying Marathon, half-marathon and 5K races. Organizer Katherine Fitzgerald, a passionate runner, created the Aspen Valley Marathon with the hopes of creating a competitive running opportunity for the many athletes and running enthusiasts within the Aspen/Snowmass community. This year, Fitzgerald has partnered with Sean Solon, fellow athlete and organizer of several benefit functions within the area. Together they have taken the small, community race and put it on the running map for the entire country.
One aspect of Fitzgerald and Solon’s collaboration has been to turn the Aspen Valley Marathon into a benefit race in addition to a highly competitive footrace. Proceeds from the Aspen Valley Marathon will go Challenge Aspen, a foundation dedicated to providing recreational, educational and cultural opportunities for those individuals with disabilities. According to their mission statement on their website, “The aim of Challenge Aspen is to carefully orchestrate life changing adventures, giving participants the courage to learn something new, trust their own abilities and carry that ideal forward, reaching goals in other areas of their lives.”
Recently with the influx of returning veterans coping with long-term injuries and disabilities, emotional and physical due to service overseas or time in the military, Challenge Aspen has taken their mission statement into another realm of the community and created the Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities, or C.A.M.O. program. Through specially designed military activities, disabled service men and women can experience incredible experiences, while once again enjoying the camaraderie of fellow veterans.
Challenge Aspen serves all aspects of the disabled community year-round. While most people typically associate Challenge Aspen with winter activities and races, there are lots activities happening during the summer months as well. Summer camps exclusively for teens, camps focusing on music and dance, high adventure experiences and adaptive bike camps are exciting and incredible experiences for anyone, and most especially for people who never imagined these opportunities to be available to them. Summer scholarships are available, funded by events just like the Aspen Valley Marathon, enabling those for whom their medical challenges have inhibited their financial flexibility.
Since runners are racing for such a great cause, they deserve a truly fantastic course. This year’s marathon course begins at Wagner Park in Aspen and follows the Rio Grande Trail to Lions Park in Basalt. It looks to be a great Boston Qualifying course, promising fast times as the race is almost exclusively downhill, with a change of elevation of almost 2,000ft. The half-marathon will be a paved road race, starting at Jaffe Junior Park in Woody Creek. Like the marathon, it will end in Lions Park. The 5K will take place in Lions Park and will be run exclusively in Basalt.
In Aspen/Snowmass Village the residents rise to the challenges around them, whether they are mountains to be skies, races to be run, or foundations to fund. Aspenites are up to the challenge. Are you?