The Lockport Y-10 race, which will be held Saturday, is Western New York’s second-oldest race behind the Turkey Trot. The 10-mile run in Lockport first took place in 1972, so this will mark the 42nd running.
It’s also one of the toughest events on the calendar. Ten miles in the open spaces of Niagara County in the month of February can be a long, long run. That means it is some people’s idea of fun, but not everyone’s.
“There are definitely those people who wouldn’t miss this race,” race director Jeff Tracy said. “Some people run it once and say they won’t go back and do it again. We get a lot of people who put it on the radar as part of spring marathon training.”
As befits an event that started only a few months after Frank Shorter won the 1972 Olympic marathon in Munich to start a running boom, the Y-10 race has evolved over the years. It was started by Goose Gray, John Chu and Alex Chiara.
“Why they started it, I can’t say,” Tracy said. “They were all runners. I guess they had a talk and said, ‘Let’s do this race.’ Goose is still around. He directed it for the first 25 years, but then started cutting back on stuff. I took over then.”
Fourteen runners showed up in the winter of 1972, and Gerald Teal of Niagara Falls was the first winner. One year later, Maryann Bolles — the first woman to take part in the Turkey Trot — broke down another barrier by becoming the first woman to take part in the Y-10.
Tracy remembers participating when the event was still in its infancy.
“The first time I ran it was when I was in high school. It was $2 to preregister, $3 on race day,” Tracy said. “They gave you a number, cup of soup and a donut.”
The race has tried to stick to an “old school” feel, in honor of Gray’s original vision. For example, many area runners have said they have enough T-shirts in their closet and want an “opt-out” system where they can skip the shirt and run for less money. This race is one of the few locally to do that.
“It keeps the costs down for people who just want to run. I want to keep it inimalist,” Tracy said. “I also like to offer the T-shirt, too. It is a challenging race, with the hill at the end. Some people like to show that they’ve run it.”
Did someone say “challenging?” That’s certainly true, although some years are more challenging than others.
The recent standard for such matters was set a couple of years ago, when snow and wind on the open spaces of Harrington Road and Slayton Settlement Road combined to give runners a major test.
“We had gone past the 5-mile mark, turning and going through open fields,” remembered Jim Smigelski of Lockport. “As we turned due west, there were four of us running in a straight line. I felt like I was bent over like the letter C. The other three guys were Canadians, and we remarked about how we were wasting energy. One of the Canadians said we should run a straight line, rotating the lead until we got out of the wind. Eventually we got to a point where the wind was blocked and we could run at our own pace.”
Tracy added, “I always tell people that I lose one volunteer every year. It’s the one I put at Harrington and Slayton Settlement.”
Remember the winter of 2011-12, known for its mild conditions? The Y-10 didn’t catch a break there.
“Last year, it was about the only bad day of the whole winter,” Tracy said. “The storm hit at 8 o’clock, and there was nothing we could do.”
Veterans of the race might tell today’s runners that this race is getting longer. Their memory isn’t failing.
“The course has been essentially the same over the years, but for the longest time it was 9.7 miles,” Tracy said. “Then they did a bridge reconstruction a bunch of years ago and made it 10.1 miles. Later we lost a street on the course, part of Washburn Street, to a business to use as a parking lot. We still run through it at the start. Now it’s a true 10 miles.”
In 2012, 307 runners finished the 10-mile distance, while another 61 took the “easy” way out and ran only the first five miles. Tracy is hoping for more than 500 finishers this year, including relay runners.
No matter how fast they run, all of those runners will have a similar reaction to that of Cathy Kern, Tracy’s friend. He liked the quote so much, he put it in the race application.
“I decided that the ‘Y’ in the Y-10 stands for ‘Yahoo!’ That is what you say when you reach the top of the Market Street hill after running the entire way,” Kern said.
• Mr. Ed’s Super Bowl Warm-up, 5K, Main Street in Middleport, 11:30 a.m. today, (585) 798-3282.
• Lockport Y-10, 19 East Ave. in Lockport, 10 a.m. Saturday, 434-8887.