Making a run to the bell
Post Independent Sports Editor
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Erin Alfstad isn’t a life-long runner, but running is something she’s become passionate about.
She is, however, hoping her run can save someone’s life.
“Hopefully we can raise some money, and then raise some suicide awareness,” the 46-year-old Glenwood Springs resident said.
Alfstad’s run is the inaugural Ring the Bell 5K for Suicide Awareness, which is scheduled for Sept. 28. It’s sponsored by the Aspen Hope Center, and proceeds from the race will help educate people about all aspects of suicide, ranging from symptom recognition, prevention and, in worst-case scenarios, dealing with the aftermath.
The aftermath for Alfstad, she said, is something she hopes will turn into something positive in the coming years.
“Once I tell my story,” she said, “it seems like everyone has a story they can share.”
Alfstad was the best friend of Niecey Cannon, a 51-year-old woman and life-long resident of the Roaring Fork Valley who committed suicide in July of 2012. Cannon was Alfstad’s best friend, someone who helped her tally up her tickets when they worked together at the 19th Street Diner or helped her plant flower gardens at home.
Their friendship lasted nearly a decade until July 30, 2012, when Alfstad heard the news of her friend’s death. She’d moved to Alaska with her husband two weeks prior, and the final outcome, Alfstad said, was partially a result of the depression Cannon had overcome returning to affect her.
“She’d always seem to be really happy, but signs were always there,” Alfstad said.
In a way, one could say Cannon was “running away from home.” She’d never left the area before she made that move with that husband, and it wasn’t long after she moved that she ended her own life.
But Alfstad, who in the past year had just run the Mother’s Day Mile, the Turkey Trot 5K and the Silt Hey Day Hobble 5K run, didn’t want her best friend’s memory to end.
Alfstad’s husband, Rabbit, was able to comfort her since he had previously lost a brother to suicide when he lived in North Dakota. And he took heed when his wife suggested she’d like to start a symbolic run to honor her friend, purchasing what Erin said looked like a Liberty Bell when she finished her run down Canyon Creek Road west of Glenwood Springs.
“At that point, I figured I was pretty well committed,” Alfstad said, laughing.
She’s done plenty of running around since then, gathering sponsors, supporters, and stories from around Garfield County. So far, she’s gathered $1,500 in donations, not including anyone who has registered for the race so far.
Runners drop their cars off at New Creation Church on Highway 6 & 24, and they’ll be shuttled to the start line at the base of Canyon Creek Road for the 9 a.m. race. They’ll then run mostly uphill to the Canyon Creek Bridge, where that Liberty Bell will be.
Alfstad figures that bell — the turnaround point of the race back to the start/finish line — can be symbolic in a lot of ways. Runners can ring the bell in memory of a loved one lost to suicide, or they can ring the bell just to celebrate reaching the highest point of the race course.
Either way, she figures the $25 registration fee will go a long way. It also helps that the good cause the run is intended for is fueled by Alfstad’s newest passion.
What also helps, Alfstad said, is that she gets to honor her best friend.
“This was just an idea that came into fruition, but it’s very symbolic,” she said. “It’s just my way of honoring Niecey. I just hope it makes a difference.
“Someone’s life might be saved from this. Let’s hope.”
Jon Mitchell is the sports editor of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Rifle Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-384-9123, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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