You might remember Tom Burns, who ran in the Shamrock Run last year and then suffered a mild heart attack a few hours after crossing the finish line. Now, a year later, Burns has decided to run the race again.
Is this a case of pressing your luck?
“I feel fine,” said the veteran runner. “I don’t look at it as if I’m still recovering. Other than the cardiac rehab, which lasted two or three weeks, I’ve pretty much been the same person I’ve been before.”
But this year’s run through the streets of South Buffalo will have some extra meaning for him, and not just because he wants to finish it without a trip to the hospital.
“Around Christmas time, somebody said, are you going to run the Shamrock. I said, ‘damn right I am,’” Burns said. “I thought, maybe there’s something I can to put an exclamation point on it, do some good with it.
“The reason I started running was a family history of heart disease. It’s the number one cause of death. If I can raise money and awareness while I take a little walk, it won’t be for naught.”
Burns has been asking for donations from friends and family members for the American Heart Association. He’s had to raise his goal a couple of times on his page on the Association’s web site, as he had raised $2,700 as of a few days ago.
“I’m thrilled,” Burns said. “The support has been great. … It’s overwhelming when I read the spreadsheet with all of the comments. … This got me on the treadmill. You can’t put it out there and not train. It’s been motivating.”
Burns’ cardiologist told him that a half-marathon was a bad idea, but that runs up through 10 kilometers or so were good for him. Burns will be ready to go on March 1.
“I’m better running than not running,” he said. “If I have a heart attack on this one — well, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
Have you seen some identically dressed people running races lately? They are members of a relatively new running club, and its birth is an unusual story.
“Back in June, I wanted a running shirt with a Polish insignia on it,” said Paul Pulinski of Hamburg.
He struck out in finding such an item in stores, so he looked into having one printed up with a Polish falcon on it.
“I was told that I had to order 12 shirts, so I said, OK, I’ll take 12 shirts,” Pulinski said. “I asked what size shirt a few of my friends took; they didn’t know why. I had them printed, and I gave them out.”
The runners started to wear them at races, and the shirts created some conversation.
“Other people saw it, and they wanted a shirt. It grew from there,” Pulinski said.
Suddenly, Pulinski was spending some of his spare time running back to the manufacturer to order more shirts. The total recently went past 100 orders. Not all of the members, by the way, are Polish.
“At some point, I said, we might as well make it a running club,” he said. “We don’t have a yearly fee. If you get a shirt, you’re a lifetime member.”
The PAC Running Club designates a race per month for members to wear their shirts. It was tough to miss the members at the Mr. Ed’s race in Middleport earlier this month.
There are other activities involved besides the monthly show of solidarity. There are group runs on Sunday morning, followed by a breakfast. Then there’s the first annual party/banquet, that was held in Lackawanna Saturday night. More than 100 people turned out for that event.
So now Pulinski unexpectedly finds himself as the president of a running club.
“I guess you could call me that,” he added with a bit of wonder in his voice. And all because he wanted a shirt.
• Polar Bear 5K, 1691 Lockport Olcott Road in Olcott, 10 a.m. on Feb. 23, 434-8887.
• Canisius Chilly Challenge, 5K, 1180 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo, 12 noon on Feb. 23, 882-0466 x262.
• Shamrock Run, 8K, 62 Republic St. in Buffalo, 12 noon on March 1, 856-8613 x108.
• Slush Rush, 5K, Dods Hall at SUNY Fredonia, 9 a.m. on March 2, 673-3451.