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More stories about Tom Donnelly

Sunday's running column has some anecdotes about the late Tom Donnelly, who is entering the Western New York Running Hall of Fame on Sunday. There wasn't room for all of them, as many were anxious to contribute. Here are some others for you.

Jim Kenney: I helped out at the WNY Running Hall of Fame race. My primary job was to help Greg Lavis check in the volunteers. But that first year Tom asked me to get the tacos from ETS. Each year Tom would come to me and with a serious tone and say, “You know Jimmy, this isn’t a race without those tacos. They are essential to the success of this race.” Then with his smile, hand me the check. So then I would round up my taco team (Mike Curry, Don Pembleton, Wayne Nowicein, Mike’s brother), put our hands in a circle, on three shout “Taco” and off we’d go. Tom made everyone he came into contact with feel special.

Jim Nowicki: He was able to bring together all the running clubs in the area to help in one way or another toward the success of The Buffalo Marathon. Like the City of Buffalo is now growing , the Marathon is growing. Wish he was still around to be able to taste the fruits of his success. His contributions to the running community are endless. The running community owes him one.

Greg Weber: It was the end of my first year with the marathon and I had some rough patches during the day. Tom got wind that I was less then happy and sought me out and found me in my truck swearing up a blue streak. I turned and saw Tom standing there and looked at him and said, “I don’t need this. I am a volunteer. What are people thinking screaming at me?”

Tom paused and said, “Relax. Forget about the couple of idiots and look at all the people you helped today.” He talked me of the ledge that day. I am now proud and honored to carry on his legacy.

Fritz Van Leaven: Tom and I met at one of John Beishline’s race director meetings. We eventually crossed paths again as members of the Checkers Athletic Club’s board of directors. A few years after that, we helped launch the Western New York Running Hall of Fame. Then, he asked me to help with the Buffalo Marathon. He was the front man and I worked behind the scenes. We clicked. Tom was a runner first. But he was also a coach, a cheerleader, an organizer, a catalyst, and a great friend to so many. I sure miss him.

Jeff Gemmer: Tom was my assistant track coach and was the head track coach at Canisius High School after me when his son Paul, an accomplished distance runner as well, was at the high school. He was a great asset, especially with the distance runners , and an even better man.

Hans Steiniger: I ran with Tom Donnelly in Lindsay’s Legacy 5K race, his last race before he passed away. I was ahead of him for the first half of the race. When he caught up to me, he started talking to me. “Way to go Hans. Stay up with me. You’re doing great. Keep it up.” We ran together for about 2-3 minutes. The entire time he was talking. Eventually, I started falling behind a little at a time. But I ended up with one of my faster 5K’s of the year.
After the race, I sought out Tom and asked him, “How do you talk while you are running? I can barely grunt a “Hi Tom.” He said, “If I don’t talk, I go out too fast and struggle in the last mile to finish the race. By talking, I maintain an even, sustainable pace through to the end.” That was Tom, always encouraging runners to run their best.

-- Budd Bailey

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