Running is how family remembers |

Running is how family remembers

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyEd Swinford, a local real estate broker, holds an annual 5K run to raise money for a scholarship fund in memory of his daughter, Crissa Lea Swinford, who died in 2001.

AVON ” Ed Swinford recalls jogging with his daughter, Crissa Lea Swinford, when she was eight. Six years after her death, a 5K run will bring her spirit back.

“When I’m out there with all those people, I just feel her presence,” said Ed Swinford, a real estate broker and 31-year resident of the valley.

The fifth annual 5Kbenefit run will take place July 28 at Avon’s Nottingham Park. Racers can walk or run around Nottingham Lake and along the Eagle River.

Rather than the typical wine-and-cheese benefit, the run gives families a way to enjoy themselves outdoors, Swinford said.

“We don’t make it a sentimental event. It’s filled with laughter and music and it’s a bright, cheery atmosphere,” Swinford said.

Ed Swinford moved to the valley in 1975 and was an assistant principal at Battle Mountain High School in Eagle-Vail. Ten days later, Crissa Lea Swinford was born on Aug. 25, the first day of school, which led to some “stress” and “excitement,” Ed Swinford said.

Crissa Lea Swinford was an avid skier and runner at Battle Mountain High School and running was always a part of their relationship, Ed Swinford said. They ran the Bolder Boulder together every year.

Ed had been riding motorcycles for 30 years and his daughter wanted to learn, he said. She had some experience, but she died on her first ride that spring, he said.

Crissa Lea Swinford lost control of her motorcycle in May 2001, when she was 25.

The Swinfords were riding separate motorcycles in Glenwood Canyon and were going the speed limit, Ed Swinford said.

“Certainly one of my regrets in life is ever taking up that sport,” Ed Swinford said.

Now, Ed Swinford, 61, jogs a few times each week and he likes to joke that he runs the Bolder Boulder in less than his age. He ran the race in 59 minutes this year, he said.

The family decided on a benefit run because they wanted to do something that would celebrate Crissa Lea Swinford’s memory, said Beth Walls, Crissa’s sister, who lives in Marina Del Rey, Calif.

People die in accidents in the valley every year and the race brings friends and family members of the victims out to run together, she said.

“I think there are a lot of people we would consider angels that continue to bring us out,” Walls said.

Runners’ registration fees will go toward next year’s scholarships for high school graduates, Ed Swinford said. This year’s two $2,500 scholarships went to Briana Barker and Allie O’Connor of Battle Mountain High School.

With gains made on the investment of past years’ race fees, the scholarship should continue easily in the coming years, Ed Swinford said.

“We focus on the fun, F-U-N, not the funds, F-U-N-D-S,” he said.

In deciding who to give a scholarship, the Swinfords try to find someone like Crissa. She was a good athlete and musician and was quiet and compassionate, Ed Swinford said.

“She was the one that would reach out, looking to help out the fellow student who seemed not to be in the popular peer group,” Ed Swinford said.

“Her favorite saying was live, laugh and love.”

And that’s how she would want racers to spend their day, he said.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or

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