Baby they were born to run ... in high heels.
About 400 women and men – yes, men, too – strutted their stuff for a good cause Friday night at Canalside, racing in the seventh annual 0.5K Stiletto Run.
Some wore normal workout clothes. Others were more creative, donning grass skirts, bright tutus, dresses, wings or striped stocks. But all sported some fashionable footwear in an effort to raise money for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. The minimum heel height was 3 inches, making it a little tricky for the competitive ones who looped around Marine Drive and crossed the finish line in style.
“It’s a riot,” said Jeffrey Bork, the race’s emcee. “I like saying it’s the fastest race on heels.”
For the second year in a row, Buffalo’s Melina Buck was the fastest female. She completed the course in about two minutes.
“It’s just so much fun,” she said. “But I’m really competitive so I take it a little more seriously than I probably should.”
Being an avid runner contributes. Buck is an assistant manager at Fleet Feet Sports and is training for the New York City Marathon.
“It’s so silly,” Buck said. “I start running fast and then I realize what I’m doing and I just kind of laugh at it because it’s such a fun race to be a part of.
“I’m a really serious runner, but I’m also a shoe freak, so it seems like the perfect race to participate in.”
Brian Snelling won the medal for men’s division champion, a title he had been seeking for five years. He looked determined, wearing a green headband and some white athletic socks under the black high heels he purchased just for the race.
“I was out to win it, but there’s always been guys who have been younger and in better shape,” he said. “But I’ve been running, practicing for it, not in shoes but I have been running.”
It’s not easy, he admitted.
“Being a guy, guys don’t know it but it takes a real toll on your calves,” Snelling said with a smile. “That’s going to be sore on me tomorrow.”
Dave Long of Tonawanda was surprised at the speed he could travel in his wife’s kicks.
“I had never done it, and once you took a couple steps, you realized if you stay on your toes, you can kind of move in these,” he said with a laugh.
His friend, Scott Warme of Niagara Falls, didn’t have as good of luck.
“The first part was nice and then when I started getting into the running mode, the heels started to wobble a little bit and it got a little nuts,” he said.
Shazam Mohammed said men shouldn’t try to upstage their female counterparts in the race, though.
“If a man runs in high heels and does well, it’s not always the best thing,” he said with a laugh.
Mohammed, who wore a blue tutu and a red shirt with a lightning bolt, participated in memory of his uncle.
“You get with a lot of people, you run, there’s a lot of positive energy, and everybody is here running for someone so that kind of lifts everybody up and keeps you going,” the SUNY at Fredonia marketing professor said. “I don’t think I saw a single guy wimp out, fall over or take off their shoes.”
Near the back of the pack was a team of about 25 wearing white shirts and carrying a banner bearing the face of a woman gone way too soon.
Angels for Amy walked as a tribute to Amy Walker, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer five years ago, at age 25.
“We’re always the last people to walk at the end of the line and everyone cheers us on and every year it’s very emotional when we cross,” said Tracey Taylor, Amy Walker’s cousin.
“She really wanted to live, so every year we walk in her memory and we want to inspire other women to be checked and have early detection and really raise money for research so they can find a cure.”
According to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, about 20,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and about 15,000 die from the disease.
Barbara Curto of Kenmore, an ovarian cancer survivor, walked in the race and sported plenty of teal, the color of ovarian cancer awareness. She had a teal ribbon painted on her right cheek, wore teal socks and shoelaces and had a teal stripe dyed in her hair.
“All my friends and family are here to support me, and it is an honor to be with them,” she said. “I’m happy to be alive, actually.
“I just think it’s great that so many people do it to support it. I hope someday they find a cure so no one else has to get it.”