Shortcut not slowing down |

Shortcut not slowing down

Post Independent/Kelley Cox Racers cross the Grand Ave. bridge during the 2003 Strawberry Shortcut.

Bob Willey was running in his fourth Strawberry Shortcut in 1983, back when only a 10-kilometer race was offered, when he found he was getting a little extra jolt. It wasn’t the jolt of adrenaline some runners get when they make the turn at the far end of the loop and head back toward the finish line. It was electricity.”We were in a major lightning storm at the far end of Midland (Avenue),” Willey said. “It was just popping like crazy, and we were so far from home we just had to keep on running.”The lightning didn’t stop the 1983 race, it just added another memory. And like those competitors, the Shortcut just keeps running after 26 years. The Coal Seam Fire gave the event possibly its stiffest test, but only managed to delay the race two weeks. Then the runners were back, pushing through the lingering haze and forgetting, if only momentarily, the destruction the blaze inflicted on Glenwood Springs and the surrounding communities. “It’s the longest-held (running) event in Glenwood Springs by far,” Willey said. “And it’s just part of the whole Strawberry (Days) spirit and local enthusiasm.”

Sunday’s 27th Annual Strawberry Shortcut begins with the 10K run at 7:30 a.m., while the 5K starts at 8:45 a.m. Both races start at Centennial Park and end under the Grand Avenue Bridge (see map). The 1-mile Family Fun Run starts at 9:45 a.m. under the Grand Avenue Bridge and ends at the same place. The Shortcut, which benefits the Colorado Special Olympics, is the second race of the four-race Glenwood Charity Race Series. Those who participate in three of the four races (Mother’s Day Mile, Shortcut, Citizen’s 5K Fun Run and Glenwood Canyon Shuffle) are eligible for a finisher medal and a raffle chance to win a three-day vacation at Red Mountain Adventure Spa, a Fitness Treadmill or a weekend condo in Moab, Utah.Race veterans look backOn Sunday Willey will celebrate his Shortcut silver anniversary, matching the run of Paul Driskill – affectionately known in Glenwood running circles as “the guru” – who ran in the first 25 Shortcuts.”Paul Driskill and Bob Willey. When you think about running in the valley you think about those two,” said Mike Vidakovich, who has run in 15 Shortcuts and has vivid memories of his Glenwood Springs Elementary School days watching his teacher, Driskill, running laps around the gym during recess.With so many runners who make it a point to pencil the Shortcut into their summer plans, there is an abundance of memories that carry through the years.

Driskill, who isn’t expected to compete this year, recalls the inaugural event that drew fewer than 250 runners – a solid number for the opening year of the event that only included a 10K race, but a far cry from the 900-1,000 expected this weekend.Willey entered the Shortcut scene in its third year and remembers the early “kings and queens” of the event. The annual battle between Bill Aragon (three-time winner) and Kim Hartman (two-time winner) on the men’s side was occasionally interrupted by an interloper like Stan Mavis, who shocked everyone with a time of 30 minutes, 56 seconds in 1981. It was then revealed that Mavis was a member of the Olympic team that boycotted the games in Moscow. The time was the only sub-31 mark on any Shortcut 10K course.On the women’s side, Julie Benzel (who married and became Julie Foster) won five straight 10K races (1982-86) and another in 1991.”No one has dominated like Julie Benzel-Foster,” Willey said.With the exception, maybe, of Phillip Castillo.Castillo, a member of the U.S. Army team, won six 10K titles (including five straight) and three 5K titles from 1996-2002.

A look aheadThe Strawberry Shortcut festivities begin Saturday with the Kappa Theta Sorority Pasta Dinner at Centennial Park from 6-8 p.m. Tickets are $5, and Soul Feel will supply the live music at the event.There will also be live music the day of the race under the Grand Avenue Bridge with the Cave Bacon Band. Also, a number of downtown businesses are expected to open early and give discounts to those wearing their Shortcut shirts.As of Thursday afternoon, race organizer Jim Yellico had more than 500 registrations. He expects over 900 by Sunday, but wants to “challenge the people of Glenwood to make it to 1,000.”Today registration is open at the Bank of Colorado in Glenwood and Basalt and the Toy Shop in Basalt. Participants can register online at through Saturday evening, and there will also be registration starting at 9 a.m. at Centennial Park Saturday. Race-day registration begins at 6 a.m. in the starting area.For more information on the Shortcut, call 945-7760. For information on the Glenwood Charity Race Series, visit or call 945-8503, ext. 3336.For more information on the Shortcut, call 945-7760. For information on the Glenwood Charity Race Series, visit or call 945-8503, ext. 3336.

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