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Budd Bailey’s Running: Hyer to take rightful place in WNY Hall of Fame

Edna Hyer doesn’t think anyone should make a fuss about her accomplishments in running.

She’s the only one.

That’s why she was the one person surprised when she had been picked for induction into the Western New York Running Hall of Fame earlier this year. The ceremony will take place right after the Champions 5K at Elmwood and Bidwell in Buffalo, on Friday night.

Hyer didn’t even give much thought to the news that she had been selected to join the area’s most exclusive club of runners.

“I was all mixed up at the time,” she said. “I fell and broke my wrist from playing tennis. When I got home, there were all these messages from tennis players, asking ‘How are you?’

“I didn’t really pay much attention to any of the other messages, and I sort of passed it off. Then my daughter listened to it.”

Word quickly spread through the family, and everyone else did want to make a fuss about Hyer receiving the biggest honor in local running.

Edna still thinks she’s not worthy of all this - “I’m not a good runner; it’s just because I’m old,” she said - but she’s wrong.

Ask Vicki Mitchell, currently a coach at the University at Buffalo and one of the great runners in Western New York history.

“She’s raced at numerous Masters championships and placed over her career – which has spanned 30-plus years,” Mitchell said about Hyer. “She is a continual supporter of WNY running, competing at as many events as she can. And, despite health problems over the years, she has continued to battle back and train/compete. That alone is an inspiration to others.

“I am pretty sure Edna does not see the impact that she has made with the running community. She is too humble to look back and pat herself on the back. Her induction to the Western New York Hall of Fame is very well earned.”

Hyer is one of the local pioneers for women’s running in Western New York. She started almost 40 years ago when her daughter wasn’t allowed to take part in high school cross country meets. Hyer ran to help her daughter’s cause and to lose a little weight, and she’s kept at it.

“I have been around for a long time,” Hyer said. “There were three of us back then - Loretta Sheehan, who just died, and Gloria Brown. They were good runners. I started a little before the other two.”

She couldn’t have imagined back then what was ahead for her.

“I read Dr. George Sheehan’s book, and he said that a nice goal for a lifetime was 1,000 races,” Hyer said. “I thought, that will keep me out there when I don’t feel like it. Well, I went past 2,000 races last year.”

When Hyer started, women weren’t even allowed to run the marathon in the Olympics. Now, more women than men run for recreation, and they are catching up when it comes to racing. For example, the women outnumbered the men, 319 to 317, at the Erie County Fair race earlier this month.

Sheer participation hasn’t been Hyer’s only contribution to the sport. She was at the meeting in Louisville when USA Track and Field was created − Hyer still has the T-shirt to prove it − and she was that group’s Women’s Long Distance Chairperson for five years. Hyer made friends from all over the country, and she met track stars like Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis.

Hyer also edited the USATF Niagara Association newsletter for many years. She wrote a column called “From the Back of the Pack.”

“I used to write that I hated running, and I still feel the same way,” she said. “There was only one time that I can remember being really happy while running. I had suffered a groin pull and I had been on crutches for several weeks. I thought, enough of this, and ran a race. It was great to run again.”

At 82, few are in Hyer’s age group, so she is more or less assured of winning a medal every time she walks up to a starting line. Hyer doesn’t have space for all those awards in her house, or for most of the T-shirts she’s accumulated. So it all gets given away eventually.

The actual running, and the friends made along the way, are what count. That’s why Hyer was at the starting line shortly after breaking her wrist, ready to run in a race while wearing a sling.

“Several of my family members always have made a little fun of me for running,” Hyer said. “I don’t know why they all decided to come. But Laurie blabbed to them, and they are coming. My son is flying in from South Carolina. I’ll have a gang there.”

They’ll see her join Matt Hellerer and the late Jesse Kregal as part of the Class of 2016. Then Hyer fittingly will be linked with the most important people in area running history − even if she still doesn’t understand why.

“I just feel like they have done so much more than I have,” Hyer said about other Hall of Famers. “But I’m honored.”

Race calendar

• Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish 5K, 57 Center Ave., North Tonawanda, 11 a.m. Sunday, 622-6609.

• Telegraph Road Race, 14 min. & 18 sec., 4600 Telegraph Road, Pike, 3:15 p.m. Sunday, 549-5100.

• Jackhammer Trail Series No. 5, 3.2 miles, Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

• Flight of Five 1-Mile Run, 1 Lock Plaza, Lockport, 7 p.m. Thursday.

• Champions 5K, Elmwood & Bidwell, Buffalo, 6:30 p.m. Friday, 875-8427.

• Notre Dame Academy Fun Run, 2.2 miles, Cazenovia Park, Buffalo, noon Saturday, 392-0364.

• Dan Feather Memorial 5K, Bergman Park, Jamestown, 9:30 a.m., Sept. 4, 488-2203 x221.

• BNAC Peace and Love Run, 5K, Skyline Drive at Crittenden Road, Akron, 10 a.m., Sept. 4, 380-8954.

• Chicken Wing 5K, Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, 11 a.m., Sept. 4, 479-6545.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com

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