Run for Rio provides memorable ‘high’

by | Jun 10, 2007 | News Articles

Run for Rio provides memorable ‘high’

Runners and endurance athletes are forever seeking that special racing “experience” that provides the warm glow they need to sustain their competitive juices over a long period of time.

First-timers and repeat runners at the Bolder Boulder, a 6.2-mile race held annually on Memorial Day, often return with that feeling. The thrill of running with 50,000 like-minded people with music pumping from 20 or 30 bands or boomboxes and then taking that first step into Folsom Stadium before the roaring crowd can be a rare high.

Finishing an initial marathon is usually a very emotional experience for runners, and the eventual high they feel is one of fulfilling a tremendous accomplishment. Afterward, they may try one or many more marathons to try to lower their finish time or to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon; eventually they are more likely to be just looking for that certain marathon that provides a unique experience.

However, even some of the small, lesser-known races can provide the glow that leaves a warm and fuzzy feeling in the hearts of its participants. If you listen to runners, cyclists and multi-sport athletes for any period of time, they all seem to have fond memories of certain races, regardless of their performances in them and the size of the events.

Such was the case for the 60 runners and walkers who gathered at Rye High School June 2 for the 10th annual Run for Rio 5K. This was a race that was started to keep alive the memory of Rio Martinez, a Rye High student who died accidentally just prior to his senior year in 1997.

Nancy and Jim Martinez, Rio’s parents, made a quick decision a decade ago to donate Rio’s organs to the Colorado Organ & Tissue Donor Registry. They’ve promoted the registry at each running at the race, but it no doubt had its biggest impact this year, and not just because a registry representative was on hand to hand out free green “Donate Life” rubber wristbands to everyone.

Its impact was tremendous because Dave Karnell, who received Rio’s heart through the registry, was on hand to meet the Martinezes in person for the first time after making e-mail contact with them in April. Karnell, 57, who lives in the Colorado city of Centennial, walked the course and drew a loud ovation while covering the last 30 or 40 yards with Jim at his side.

The race was special for another reason. Traditionally, each year the race T-shirt has included a photo of Rio, usually in some mode of athletic competition from his years in football, basketball, track and cross country.
This year, Nancy had another idea.

When he was a young boy, Rio loved the Garfield comic strip, and one year he wrote to Jim Davis, who draws the strip. Davis wrote back, and the two developed a correspondence friendship over many years.

Nancy kept all of those letters received from Davis in a scrapbook, which also includes drawings of the comic strip characters made by Rio two days before his death. Nancy contacted Davis recently and received permission to use Garfield on the T-shirts this year, and Davis drew the Garfield running figures that appear on the left breast and back of the shirts.

Hence, the participants have something tangible that will keep reminding them of the high they felt at this year’s Run for Rio.


Registration is ongoing for the Riverwalk Criterium that is scheduled for 8 a.m. July 1 in the Union Avenue Historic District. There are 11 racing divisions from the juniors 8-14 years of age to the senior men’s pro category. The eight-tenths of a mile L-shaped course is considered flat, fast and safe. There is online registration through June 28 and “in-person” registration on the event day beginning at 7 a.m. and 15 minutes prior to each event. Contact Lew Perna (number below) for information.

The second annual Pueblo Child Advocacy Bike Ride will have a new date and location this year. It has been moved up to Aug. 11 and will take place from the east end of the Airport Industrial Park to the Transportation Test Center and back – approximately 38 miles.


Local runners who might normally travel to Colorado Springs for the popular Sailin’ Shoes race on June 16 can save time and fuel costs by running the Spirit Fest’s Freedom Financial Services 5K run that will start and finish along the downtown Riverwalk and take in the River Trail system.

All participants in the Women’s Distance Festival on June 30 will get a rare race treat by receiving colorful drawstring bags instead of the usual T-shirts that are given at most races. The bags will bear a new WDF logo created by local artist Kathy Godec. Another key amenity is having wood-carved awards made by Godec’s mom Lois Pfost, a member of the Southern Colorado Runners. The WDF is traditionally a run/walk for females of all ages and ability levels. Note that the event will be held a week prior to what had been posted on calendars earlier in the year.

The Survival Run 5K has picked Oct. 14 as its new race date and it will be held at the Airport Industrial Park in conjunction with a fun bike ride on the Transportation Test Center, thus creating a fitness extravaganza.


While entries closed June 8, curious spectators are urged to watch the Pueblo Open Swim Meet that will include a few masters participants in the open division. It will take place June 15-17 at the Mineral Palace Park pool.


The number of waves used in the swim start of the inaugural Splash & Dash aquathon on July 14 at the Rock Canyon Swim Beach will depend on the number of entries received. But the 500-yard swim and 5-mile run distances have been set. Race Director Victoria Esquibel of the YMCA has all the details, and entry forms have been distributed.


Five area runners tested the grueling Collegiate Peaks race last month, with Susan Gebhart of Penrose among the 52 finishers in the 50-mile division in the time of 9:58. Completing the 25-mile run were Pueblo’s Michael Orendorff (3:51) and Joe Bulow (5:47) and Canon City’s Roy (4:39) and Marcia Hughes (5:04).

Among the 449 finishers in last month’s Colfax Marathon in Denver were Puebloans Stephanie Wurtz (3:33) and Carl Bartecchi (5:03), Pueblo West residents Laurel (5:00) and James Wright (5:07), and Salida runners Bryan Boyle (4:31) and Cheryl Cook-McCoy (5:37).

Race Calendar

• June 15-17 — Pueblo Open/Masters swim meet, Mineral Palace Park pool, 3:45 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday & Sunday (
• June 16 – Spirit Fest Freedom Financial Services 5K Run, 8 a.m., HARP (564-7685).
• June 23 – Belmont Butt Buster (Prediction Series race), 5M, 8 a.m., 1318 Horseshoe Dr. (544-1029).
• June 30 – Women’s Distance Festival 5K, walk at 7:15 a.m., run at 7:30, City Park Pavilion (564-1443).
• July 1 – Riverwalk Criterium bike races, varying time lengths, 8 a.m., Union Avenue Historic District (719-360-4922).
• July 14 – YMCA Splash & Dash, 500-yard swim & 5M run, 7 a.m., Rock Canyon Swim Beach (543-5151).
• Aug. 4 – Moonlight Madness (Prediction Series race), 7:30 p.m., 5M, 5395 Verde Rd. (564-1443).
• Aug. 11 – Pueblo Child Advocacy Center Bike Ride, 38M, time TBA, Transportation Test Center road.


• Pueblo Poolhardies:
• Riverwalk Criterium: or
• Southern Colorado Runners:

Send comments and fitness information to Gary Franchi via e-mail at