Call it the incredible, beloved, and disappearing event on the running scene: the 10-kilometer race.
There just aren't many of them out there any more, at least as compared to a decade ago. And Judy Arlington misses them.
"I love 10Ks," she said. "To me, if you want to run a good 5K, you have to run a 10K to improve your overall conditioning. It's the most bang for the buck. It's twice the distance, so you hurt twice as much. It's an excellent training tool."
Lockport's Arlington, a former Buffalo News Runner of the Year, might be a little biased because she's good at the distance. She finished second among women at the Depew-Lancaster Boys & Girls Club 10-kilometer race July 4.
Arlington and the rest of the area's runners don't get that many chances to run competitively for 6.2 miles. There's a race in Bemus Point that goes 10 kilometers, as well as ones on the Tuscarora Reservation and at Chestnut Ridge in Orchard Park. But such races as the Parkway 10K, Cole's Oktoberfest Run, and Praxair 10K for MS -- all on the 1997 race calendar -- have gone the way of the dodo bird.
"The Parkway race -- I miss that one terribly," Arlington said.
"It seems like the 5Ks are taking over," said Chris Muldoon, the men's winner of the Depew-Lancaster race. "This is my first year that I've been road racing, but I've noticed that there are a lot more competitive 5Ks."
Muldoon has looked around the running landscape and taken a good guess at one of the problems with the 10-kilometer distance.
"I don't know if it's easier for race directors to put on a 5K," he said. "I don't know the logistics, but I wouldn't be surprised if that plays a role."
Muldoon is right. A 10-kilometer course needs twice the traffic control, twice the inconvenience to the area, and twice as many volunteers as its 5-kilometer counterpart. Even if organizers stage a race that has two 5-kilometer loops, volunteers have to put in more of a time commitment and the area is tied up in race-related activities for twice as long a time period.
More important, though, is that many charitable organizations have turned to races as a vehicle to raise dollars. That's led to a crowded race calendar in the area, but running races for the sake of running has suffered.
The way to maximize participation -- and income -- is to shorten the race distance. While almost anyone in decent condition can finish a 5K, the 10-kilometer distance is more of a challenge and scares some runners off.
Arlington says that shouldn't be the case.
"A lot of people who run 5Ks won't do 10Ks, they shy away from them," she said. "The 10K is a great distance. If you run a 5K, it's not that much more of an effort. There's a myth that you have to put all this mileage in [to run 10 kilometers]. You just have to start slower and be patient. You'll have just as good results."
Perhaps the most interesting part of a 10-kilometer race is the strategic element. It's not a sprint, but it's not a marathon either.
In the men's division of the July 4 race, Muldoon wanted to stick to a 5:20 per mile pace in the early going.
"I ran pretty solid, easy and relaxed in the first half," he said. "If someone went out at a 4:50 pace, I would think they'd either win or come back to me. But the first miles were around 5:23, 5:25. Dan [Giza, the second-place finisher] made a move, and I let him go a little bit. I didn't want to use up my energy. In a 5K it's different. If someone makes a move, you have so much less time for him to come back. In a 10K, there's no reason to panic."
Muldoon won the 30th annual running of the Lancaster race in 32:23, 19 seconds ahead of Giza.
Arlington used a similar strategy, even if it didn't quite work as well as it did for Muldoon.
"I was probably in fifth place after the first two miles," she said. "In the 10K, I put the blinders on and stay patient. You can't go after the lead.
"I did negative splits [faster second half than first half] for the race. The second 5K was where I made up ground. If I had another half-mile I would have won. I just ran out of room. I gave it everything I had."
Arlington's time of 39:41 was 11 seconds behind that of Jennifer Oreck of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Still, she had a enjoyable time in Lancaster with Muldoon and 607 other finishers who turned out on a rainy day for the chance to run 10 kilometers in a well-organized race.
"Lancaster does a wonderful job. The volunteers there are all smiles," Arlington said.
Tim Frank Memorial Canal Fest, 4 miles, 7 Broad St., City of Tonawanda, 7 p.m. Thursday, 694-6388.
Subaru Buffalo 4 Mile Chase (Buffalo News Runner of the Year Race), Elmwood Ave. & Bidwell Parkway, 7 p.m. Friday, 881-1652.
Laurel Run, 8K, Silver Creek Village Square, 9 a.m. Saturday, 661-4735.
Crabapple 5K Run, Stiglmeier Park, Losson Road, Cheektowaga, 9:30 a.m. Saturday, 897-7207, ext. 18.