Colfax man to walk full 24 hours of Relay for Life

Gonzales is first official WS100 winner
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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Andy Gonzales knows how to go the distance.

That is what he's been doing for much of his life as the first-place finisher for the 1977 Western States Trial Run, the first official year the race was held. The next year he also finished the race at the front of the pack.

On Saturday, he'll keep on going the distance when he walks the full 24 hours of the Auburn Relay for Life, an annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society that takes place at the Gold Country Fairgrounds.

"It feels like a challenge, but the main thing is that I can help the community with what they're trying to accomplish," Gonzales said.

Gonzales, now 57, has lived in Colfax since he was 15, but didn't start endurance running until he joined the U.S. Navy. By 1976, he was home running cross country for Sierra College.

The next year he by chance bumped into Gordon Ainsleigh, a founder of the Western States Trail Run, who convinced Gonzales to participate in the first official 100-mile race.

Gonzales, who was 22 at the time, finished first with a time of 22 hours 57 minutes. The next year he would shave that time to 18 hours and 50 minutes, according to the Western States Trail Run website.

Though he doesn't do much endurance running these days, Gonzales talks about running and walking long distances like it's a form of meditation, saying it's a way for him to "feel very, very close to the universe."

"I know I have it in me, this is not a race, and even if it was, I would take my time," he said. "You take off slow, you stay consistent through the night, and every hour I'm going to stop and refresh myself."

Gonzales will be walking for the Auburn Journal's Relaying the News for a Cure team this weekend. He said as long as he takes his 24-hour walk slow, stays hydrated and stays cool through a pack of ice secured under his hat, he should be good to go.

"It's my topic, something God gives each one of us, and he gave me the desire to do long distance stuff," Gonzales said. "Where that fits into the grand scheme of the economy of the world, who knows, but I can use it to give back to the human race and so what if it's not opening my checkbook. I can donate my time and enjoy it."

Contact Amber Marra at Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.