Ladies from Pennsylvania enjoy mountain weekend at GECKO event

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Photo courtesy Joni Shirk Twelve ladies from Pennsylvania and their local organizer, Joni Shirk, enjoy a girls’ mountain weekend participating in the 10th annual Mountain Chile Cha Cha’s GECKO (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors) races recently. The “girls” are ages 54 to 76, with diverse running abilities — from winning the 5k to runner/walkers completing 10k and half marathon.
Photo courtesy Joni Shirk
Twelve ladies from Pennsylvania and their local organizer, Joni Shirk, enjoy a girls’ mountain weekend participating in the 10th annual Mountain Chile Cha Cha’s GECKO (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors) races recently. The “girls” are ages 54 to 76, with diverse running abilities — from winning the 5k to runner/walkers completing 10k and half marathon.

By Kirsten Le Roux
Special to The SUN

Last month, 220 trail runners lined up on a crisp, but bright, fall morning to compete in the 10th annual Mountain Chile Cha Cha. Amongst those runners were a group of 12 ladies from Pennsylvania and their local organizer, Joni Shirk, who chose the Chile Cha Cha for the running group’s reunion run after Shirk moved here last year.

“I ran this race about six years ago when it was a seven- or 14-mile course during a visit with our daughter, Alissa Zissman, who lives here in Pagosa Springs,” said Joni Shirk. “I now live in Pagosa Springs and love the community spirit. Our group has been running together (we met in the Lancaster Road Runners Club) for about 15 years, and several of our members were, or still are, very active members and officers of the club so we all know and appreciate the hard work and time it takes to put on running events for the community to enjoy.”

The group flew in from Harrisburg for a five-night, six-day girls’ mountain weekend (GMW as they called it), centered around the local charity GECKO’s (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors) race. The “girls” are ages 54 to 76, with diverse running abilities — from winning the 5k to runner/walkers completing 10k and half marathon.

One of the group members, Jeanette Fitzgerald, noted, “Some ran together crossing the finishing line holding hands; others competed with themselves to do the very best race they could on that day.”

I spoke with a few in the group and asked them to share their experience of visiting Pagosa Springs to compete in a GECKO event.

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