It seems only appropriate that a road race be held to honor the memory of the late Buffalo mayor Jimmy Griffin. After all, who ran more than he did?
Common Council, State Senate, Mayor, County Executive, even President (New Hampshire primary) – it didn’t seem like an election year unless Griffin was running for something.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” said Maureen Tomczak, Griffin’s daughter and one of the organizers of today’s “Run Jimmy Run” 5-kilometer race. “My dad was not a runner. He hosted the Jim Griffin Charity Race, and he was an athlete - handball, baseball, and so on.”
When Tomczak thought about it, she realized just how physically fit someone needs to be in order to be involved in politics.
“It’s hard to do. It’s a young man/young woman’s game,” she said. “He’d come from City Hall, take a nap after dinner, take a shower and head out the door. During the few months when it was the throes of an election year, people would say they couldn’t keep up with him. You have to love it.”
Griffin’s children turned out to be runners of the more conventional type. When they decided to honor their dad — who died in 2008 — with some sort of event, a race came to mind.
“Dr. Lawrence Jacobs died the same year as my husband’s father. He was the inspiration for the ‘Jog for the Jake.’ We always liked the feeling of that race,” Tomczak said. “Michael and I talked about doing an event. We had a lot of crazy ideas; at one point we were going to do a kayaking event, but we decided to do this.
“We’re trying to model it after the ‘Jog for the Jake.’ The location is different, but the same feeling is what we want — a feeling of having friends around.”
Deciding to put on a race is one thing. Actually doing it, as many have discovered over the years, is quite another.
“Oh my God,” Tomczak said when asked about the workload. “I’ve run races. I’ve shown up and taken my packet. My sister and I said, ‘We could do that ourselves. It’s not that hard, not that much work.’
“Well, that’s all I’ve been doing lately. I feel like I’ve been running for office. I’ve been going to races. I have been working on insurance permits and the race course. It’s a lot of work, but it’s been fun too.”
The 5-kilometer course has never been run before. It starts, naturally, in front of the Jimmy Griffin statue in front of Coca-Cola Field. Then it goes along the waterfront before finishing up right outside the ballpark off Exchange Street.
“Once you’ve finished, then you will run down the field, get your picture taken which will go up on the scoreboard, and then everyone will head for the tent for the postrace party,” Tomczak said.
As for the proceeds from the race, they will go to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York. For Tomczak, that choice was easy.
“His dad – my grandfather – had Alzheimer’s. His brother Tom had a form of dementia, and he had another form of dementia,” Tomczak said about her father. She said the people from the Alzheimer’s Association “were so caring for him. Even though my father didn’t have Alzheimer’s, it was such a rare form that they were able to give us help in caring for him. … They just are a fantastic group of people.”
The Special Olympics also will benefit from the race; that was one of Griffin’s favorite causes.
Memorial events such as this one often serve as reunions for those who knew the subject. That was the case when the statue of Griffin was dedicated, and Tomczak is looking forward to seeing some of those people gather again to share laughter and memories.
“We have the greatest pictures of the men and women who were in the administration,” Tomczak said about the dedication ceremony. “They hadn’t seen each other in so long, it was like getting the band back together. They were reliving all these stories and laughing. They all had fun working for him. … Hopefully, it will be the same feeling this time.”
• Run for Rover, 5K, LaSalle Park in Buffalo, 9 a.m. today, 883-8544.
• Lindsay Matthew Scholarship Race, 5K, 6909 Milestrip Road in Orchard Park, 10 a.m. today, 667-3786.
• Run Jimmy Run Charity 5K, Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo, 10 a.m. today, 803-2301.
• St. Mary’s Church Chowder Chase 5K, 6919 Transit Road in East Amherst, 11:15 a.m. today, 830-6617.
• ESB Engineering Scholarship Run, 4 miles, 1111 Fuhrman Blvd. in Buffalo, 7 p.m. Wednesday, 694-5154.
• St. John Vianney Kickoff Run, 5K, 2950 Southwestern Blvd. in Orchard Park, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 677-4039.
• Lake View Field Day 5K Run, Center & Lake View Road in Lake View, 8 a.m. Saturday, 698-4005.
• East Aurora Rerun, 5K, Fireman’s Field in East Aurora, 9 a.m. Saturday, 652-3732.
• St. Amelia Amazing Race, 5K, 210 St. Amelia Dr. in Tonawanda, 9 a.m. Saturday, 834-5741.
• Jason Raby Memorial 5K Run, Lewiston-Porter High School in Youngstown, 11 a.m. Saturday, 754-8281.
• St. John’s Bash & Dash 5K, 1085 Englewood Ave. in Tonawanda, 7 p.m. Saturday, 435-5115.