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Budd Bailey’s Running: What can go wrong for a winter race? Plenty

Edla Collora isn’t convinced that the running gods hate her.

Yet.

That’s in spite of the fact that for the last two years, Collora has tried to put on a nice little winter race in Buffalo, and the weather has refused to cooperate.

“It’s Buffalo; you can’t count on the weather,” she said. “We live on the Great Lakes. We take that risk.”

Last year, Collora staged the Heart and Soul Run in Buffalo on a Saturday morning in February, and was greeted with a fierce snow squall during the race. Surely something like that couldn’t happen again.

Then as race day (Feb. 13) moved closer, Collora noticed the forecast was for record cold conditions.

“One woman, who had registered the day before, saw the forecast and said to me, ‘Can I have a refund? It’s going to be too cold,’ ” she said. “I said there were no refunds, because 100 percent of the proceeds go to charity. ... She responded, ‘I have asthma, and it’s unsafe to run.’

“So I asked her why would she sign up for a race at this time of the year, and she said, ‘The weather has been really nice this winter.’ ”

By the day before the race, it was obvious that the forecast would come true and that Feb. 13 would be the coldest day of the winter.

“We were sending out emails – the race is on, the race is on, we understand if it’s too cold for you to run but come out anyway,” Collora said. “Then Friday I received a phone call from the police commissioner saying they didn’t want people out on the street.”

While a zero-degree day isn’t exactly a summer picnic for runners, at least they have the chance to keep moving while running 5 kilometers. Other people involved in the race weren’t so lucky.

“We did have a gameplan for the volunteers,” Collora said. “Everyone was supposed to drive to their spot and sit in their cars. When they saw the motorcade come down the course that leads the runners, then they’d know to get out of their cars. I didn’t anticipate them being more than 15 to 20 minutes outside.”

A similar plan was in place for the timing crew, which also would be exposed to the elements during the course of the race. But the Police Department makes such decisions for a reason, and Collora quickly got the word out via email and other sources that the event was not going to go on as scheduled.

When a race gets postponed, especially on short notice, it causes a variety of problems. The first and most obvious is the food. The ingredients for a pasta lunch were bought ahead of time, so some of that had to be sacrificed.

But even that takes a back seat to workers.

“I lost a lot of volunteers,” Collora said. “That’s really the biggest loss.”

The race staff had spent a lot of manpower getting a room in the Larkin Center of Commerce ready for the postrace party. All that had to be taken down. The race’s goodie bags contained some discount coupons from local merchants; some of those had expiration dates for March 1 or so they will no doubt go unused.

Still, Collora pressed on. After talking with the police, she decided that a Feb. 27 date would work best. But a 10 a.m. start would bump into the Ice Man 2-Miler at Delaware Park, which didn’t make organizers of that race happy, and a 2 p.m. start wouldn’t work for Collora personally. So she accepted an 8 a.m. starting time – and planned a change in menu for the postrace party.

“Who wants to eat pasta at that hour?” Collora said. “We decided on yogurt and fruit, and to serve coffee afterwards. We thought the award ceremony could be short and sweet.”

The race went off as scheduled on Saturday morning, and the Morlock Foundation eventually will receive a check representing the proceeds.

As for Collora, she will spent the next 11½ months hoping for better luck for the 2017 edition of the race.

“I know this is never going to go beyond 230 runners unless the weather is so beautiful that people will come out to run,” she said. “It’s a small enough race for me to handle. I’m a one-girl show. Anything bigger, and I don’t know if I could handle it.

“The Morlock Foundation never gets the big headlines. They are small but they do a lot of great things for families with sick kids. If I can help them, I will.”

Race calendar

• Polar Bear 5K, 1691 Lockport Olcott Road, Olcott, 10 a.m. Sunday, 434-8887.

• Canisius Chilly Challenge, 5K, 1180 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, 10 a.m. Sunday, 882-0466 x262.

• Flight for Air Stairs Climb, One Seneca Tower, Buffalo, 9 a.m. March 12, (585) 666-1402.

• Shamrock Run (News’ Runner of the Year Race), 8K, 62 Republic St., Buffalo, 10 a.m. March 12, 856-8613 x108.

• Slush Rush, 5K, Steele Hall Fieldhouse at SUNY Fredonia, 9 a.m. March 13, 673-3451.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com