When I first took over the responsibility of setting the rules for The Buffalo News’ Runner of the Year series, I was handed down some guidelines that have proven to be very effective and useful:
• Start with the Shamrock Run, and end with the Turkey Trot. That’s the local race season.
• Use a variety of distances, and spread out the races as much as possible.
• Give a boost to the area running clubs.
• Don’t include first-year races in the series.
Therefore, when changes come to the race calendar, there are standards to follow. Such is the case this year, as the series will have a couple of alterations.
This year, we’re losing the Fleet Feet Run into Buffalo 15K. That’s too bad from the series’ standpoint, since it was well done and an unusual distance. The replacement is “The Biggest Loser” Half-Marathon. I didn’t want another half-marathon in the series, as one is enough.
Therefore, that race is off the series calendar. There was no large need to replace it, since the Checkers Mile is held less than two weeks before Labor Day weekend. However, that has left me with five of the 11 races going the distance of 5-kilometers. Clearly, a 5K specialist has a big advantage with that schedule. What’s more, the new Champions 5K is designed to be something of an unofficial championship for the distance.
What, then, to do? The Lancaster Striders club supplies an answer with its Strider Glider, a quarter-marathon race (6.55) in late October. It’s a unique distance, and the race has been run twice. Those who have done it say it’s well-organized. So, it will be added to the 2014 calendar.
However, the Strider Glider falls only a week before the Bob Ivory Run, which is the smallest of the 5Ks in terms of participants of any of those in the series. It had 259 finishers last season and 231 the year before. Even though the event is a very good one, that’s the obvious choice for a switch. Too bad there’s no room for both.
As usual, you can follow the standings at buffalorunners.com. Webmaster Jeff John does an outstanding job of keeping track of the rankings.
This has become a tough few months for those who have worked at the finish line of area races. Late last year we lost John Beishline. Last week, Mary Thomas passed away.
Thomas was a former high school gym teacher and City of Buffalo parks department worker. She retired from that position in 1991, but for several years she served as an official at Buffalo track meets and as a starter at Grover Cleveland golf course. It was an easy transition, then, to the timing of races.
Tom Donnelly, Buffalo Marathon director, realized how valuable Thomas was to the operation at Western New York Finish Line Services.
“Mary was a staple of it for years,” he said. “At the finish line, she was right in the center of operations.
“She was as sweet as could be, but she was always so focused. She was all business when it was time to get those finish-line boards ready. She was very solid, a top performer.”
Yet Thomas won’t be remembered by most runners for that. She’ll also be associated with a willingness to sing the National Anthem.
“I’ve been singing since I was a little girl,” Thomas said in a 2007 interview. “I sang in grade school, and I sang in high school. ... I joined the City of Good Neighbors Chorale.”
Fellow timer Beth McMahon had the chance to see Thomas sing something other than the Star-Spangled Banner. “She did love to sing,” she said. “She used to compete at bars, and said, ‘You have to come and watch me.’ ”
Thomas was a unique part of the Western New York running community. She’ll be missed before and after races.
• Slush Rush, 5K, Dods Hall at SUNY Fredonia, 9 a.m. today, 673-3451.
• Olean YMCA Polar Bear Series, 10K, 59 Boylston St. in Bradford, Pa., 1 p.m. today, 373-2400.
• Fight for Air Stairs Climb, 38 flights, One HSBC Center in Buffalo, 10 a.m. Saturday, (585) 666-1402.
• Dyslexia Dash, 5K, 2491 Emery Road in South Wales, 12 noon on March 9, 687-2017.