February, 2001 Fit to be Tied Column
From the Pueblo Chieftain
by Gary Franchi
This Puebloan hasn’t missed a Runoff yet
Richard Ayala is on a mission. The native Puebloan started running in 1972, and the first race he ever ran was the inaugural Pueblo Chieftain Spring Runoff in 1979.
He hasn’t missed a Spring Runoff since then. And he has the T-shirts to prove it, as the photo accompanying this story illustrates.
Now 66 years old and retired from the U.S. Postal Service where he worked for 32 years, Ayala continues to run regularly but doesn’t race any more – except for the Runoff. Hence, he will make it 23 consecutive Spring Runoffs on Sunday, March 4, when he toes the new starting line at Dutch Clark Stadium to run the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) race.
“After so many years, I have to run ’em now,” Ayala said. “My motivation is that I’ve run every one of them.”
The 1953 Centennial High School graduate won his 65-69 age division last year with a respectable 5K time of 33+ minutes. This year, he’s hoping to be accompanied by two of his five daughters — Karen, a dental hygienist, and Kristi, who is attending school to become a legal assistant. His only son, John, has run the Runoff in the past.
Runoff participants have the option of running the 5K, 10K or 10-mile races or entering the new 2-mile walk. All races will begin at 9 a.m. in the stadium parking lot.
While he chooses to compete in the 5K, Richard could easily step up to a longer distance since he runs a 7-mile course from his Regency Park home three or four times a week. He probably also could race more during the year, too, especially since he used to run the Bolder Boulder, Cinco de Mayo and other local races.
But, as he says, “It takes a lot of time to stay in racing shape, with the speedwork and all that.”
So one race and dozens and dozens of enjoyable jaunts in the great outdoors comprise his year. And the 4-year Navy veteran loves every minute of it. In fact, he could probably qualify as a poster spokesman for the joys of running.
“I just love running,” he noted. “To me, running is therapeutic. It’s a stress buster. When those endorphins kick in, you’re in cruise control.
“I love to be out in the fresh air in the morning,” he added of his 6 a.m. jaunts. “The cold is no problem as long as the streets are dry. You just dress in layers.”
Life wasn’t always so grand for Ayala. He admits to being heavily into alcohol before he started running in ’72.
“But running changed my whole life,” he pointed out. “I kicked one bad habit for one good habit. But this is what life is all about – it’s about health.”
Hundreds of others are expected to share his quest for health by participating in this year’s Runoff. It’s doubtful that any of them will be on a bigger mission than Ayala, though. For this will be his 23rd consecutive Runoff … and counting.
Upcoming Area Races
* Feb. 11 – Valentine’s Twosome, male/female partners race, 1.6M each partner, City Park Pavilion, 9 a.m.
* Feb. 18 – Spring Runoff Prediction Race, 6M, City Park pool parking lot, 9 a.m.
* March 4 – Spring Runoff, 2M walk and 5K, 10K and 10M runs, Dutch Clark Stadium, 9 a.m.
* March 25 – Ben & Matt’s Trail Mix, 6.3M, Nature Center, 9:00 a.m.
See ya next month.
Gary Franchi can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.