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As runners took part in the first part of last Sunday’s “Dyslexia Dash” in South Wales, they noticed that the course featured a hill a few blocks from the start. They soon discovered that the course went up that hill for well over a mile to the midway point.

Along the way, one question ran through the minds of the participants: “Who’s responsible?”

“I’m the guilty party,” Eric Bray, the race director of the event, said good-naturedly.

The race, held at the Gow School, started on Emery Road, turned on Cornwall Road, and eventually led into Emery Park in an out-and-back pattern. Bray says he didn’t have much choice but to set up one of the most challenging courses in Western New York road racing.

“We wanted to make sure we featured the school, with the start and finish nearby,” he said. “But we could not use Route 16, so we had to go up the hill.”

That should have been enough of a challenge for most runners, but there was an added twist once they entered the park. The roads there were covered with packed snow and ice, leaving the footing uncertain.

Luckily, there were no reports of anything more serious than some slips by participants. The park obviously isn’t maintained for races in cold weather months; workers have other responsibilities. But the March date worked out well in terms of scheduling.

“It was convenient for the school,” said Bray, who coaches running at Gow when he’s not teaching mathematics there. “Minus the Shamrock Run, there are not a lot of road races in March. We had the advantage of the lack of competition.”

Still, the first-time race director was surprised to see a big crowd line up at the starting line.

“Thrilled,” he said. “For our first year, I was expecting no more than 50 runners. We quickly crossed that number and ended up with more than 200 people registering.”

A total of 170 people finished the 5 kilometers. The winners, Jay List (19 minutes, 12 seconds) and Carlin Sullivan (21:06), deserve a salute for their efforts. The race raised more than $1,800 for the school, and Bray has plans to make it an annual event.

Numbers, please

Let’s squeeze in our annual look at some of the statistics from the races held during the calendar year of 2013. Fritz Van Leaven’s numbers are always interesting to examine in hindsight.

Van Leaven looks for races in Western New York, Southern Ontario and Northwest Pennsylvania. There’s no sign of a drop in interest in races throughout the area. Last year, 314 races were staged, up from 286. The number of participants rose to 122,274. Consider that only five years ago, the number was less than half that (58,198 in 167 races).

The Turkey Trot remains the biggest race in the region, with 11,692 finishers in 2013. The JPMorganChase Corporate Challenge was second with 8,481, followed by the Around the Bay 30K in Hamilton, Ont., with 6,852, and the Shamrock Run with 3,812.

Many of the races that saw the biggest growth in raw numbers were at least a half marathon in distance. However, the biggest winner in 2013 was the Girls on the Run 5K – going from 788 runners to 2,060. The organization did split off from the Lindsay’s Legacy Run, which allowed that race to return to a more manageable size.

Six of the News’ Runner of the Year races saw their number of finishers increase, while the other six decreased. The combined number of participants was 22,234, down from last year’s 23,634.

Among new races, the leader for participants in Western New York was the Lucy Town Half Marathon in Jamestown with 374, followed by the FG III Memorial 5K in Angola (332), the Love Everybody 5K in West Seneca (288), and the Gay 5K in Buffalo (280).

By the way, 206 of the races were 5-kilometers in length, and 50 of the year’s events were scheduled in June – the most popular month of the year for races.

Race calendar

• Olean YMCA Polar Bear Series, half marathon, 1101 Wayne St. in Olean, 1 p.m. on Mar. 23, 373-2400.

• The Mustache March, 5K, Mang Park in Kenmore, 10 a.m. on Mar. 29, 877-0477.

• Bemus Point 5K, Long Point State Park in Bemus Point, 9 a.m. on Mar. 30, 488-0788.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com