By Budd Bailey
Usually the members of the Lancaster Striders run races, not stage them.
But now the (running) shoe is on the other foot.
The Striders will go into the racing business a week from Saturday when they stage the “Strider-Glider Quarter Marathon” at Westwood Park in Lancaster.
“We came up with the crazy idea a little more than a year ago,” explained club president Paul Schaefer. “I called (club members) Mike Curry and Joe Hastreiter and invited them to my house in the summer of 2011. I said, ‘We’re a racing club with no races.’
“Mike said, ‘Are you crazy? Do you know how much work it is?’ ”
In spite of that warning, the Striders steamed ahead into the project to see how it would evolve. Opinions on how to run a race were not in short supply, since many of the club members run in dozens of races per year.
“Because we’re a club of 100-plus, we’ve had what I termed the race steering committee which has been meeting for a year,” Schaefer said. “They have their ideas. The biggest obstacle is to decide things. In the decision-making process, you accept all ideas. You just have to distinguish which ideas will work.”
Curry, who once upon a time had helped stage races, dug into the recesses of his files to come up with a four-page list of tasks that had to be accomplished for a race. One of the first issues to come up was the format and distance. A relay competition was discussed first but then rejected because of logistics issues. The group then settled on a race of 6.55 miles, which is one-quarter of a marathon race.
“We wanted to do a race with an unusual distance. We have our fair shares of 5Ks (kilometers) here. I lived in the Genesee Valley region of Rochester for a while, and they had a lot of 10Ks and 7.5 miles and 15K,” Schaefer said. “When I came back to Buffalo to live, it occurred to me that we had very few 10Ks or 15Ks here. We said, let’s try to attract people. The quarter-marathon isn’t unique, but it’s close. I think there was one prior to this lately.”
The group picked out a course that is partially on a paved trail in Lancaster. It will be quite a change from the more familiar courses around Western New York. The club settled on a date in late October that avoided the Niagara Falls marathon, which will be held next weekend.
From there, the decisions had to come quickly. A successful race usually raises money for a particular cause. The Lancaster Striders thought they should keep the funds at home.
“The Trinity Church on Broadway in Lancaster has a food pantry.,” Schaefer said. “We did a kickoff run after we designed the course on October 23 of last year. I visited the pantry, and the shelves were bare.”
Then there’s the matter of volunteers. The usual source for help is the sponsoring club, but most of those people would rather be running than directing traffic. Luckily, the Striders found other sources of helpers, such as Trinity Church and Lancaster High School.
The discussions over premium gifts for entrants must have been lively. Ask a group of runners who do many races a year, and you quickly hear that they don’t need another T-shirt.
“We all have drawers in dressers or boxes in closets that are filled with them, We end up donating many of them to charity,” Schaefer said. “We decided to do little coolers. It’s a little different.”
Then there’s the matter of finding sponsors, which is always a challenge for a first-time race. Schaefer reports the club has turned up enough backing that the fixed costs of the race, including medals, food, etc. should be covered.
The new race director says he spends his free moments asking himself the question, “What am I going to forget on the day of the race? What will we have to do at quarter to nine that morning?” But he’s hoping to start another tradition, along the lines of the annual Mueller Mile sponsored by the Checkers Athletic Club.
“We started from ground zero,” Schaefer said. “We hope to move forward from here. I hope this is the first of many races. We have the core people who have a lot of great ideas and a lot of energy. … My job is to channel that energy.”
• Race to Cure Childhood Cancer 5K, 2402 N. Forest Rd. in Getzville, 8:30 a.m. Saturday, 681-4433.
• Tim Hortons 5K Coffee Run, 8289 Main St. in Eden, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 445-0047.
• Dr. Richard T. Sarkin Memorial 5K, Delaware Park Casino in Buffalo, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 713-0769.
• Niagara Falls International Marathon, Start at Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, 10 a.m. on Oct. 21, (905) 356-9460.
• Niagara County Deputy Sheriffs’ PBA 5K Run, Market St. in Lockport, 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 21, 622-6416.