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There's no finish line for busy racer

It is 6:30 on a Saturday morning in Kenmore, and Paul Hassall is already up. No wonder -- he has a busy weekend planned.

Hassall, one of Western New York's most active racers, had five 5-kilometer races on his calendar over two days. He'd be doing some driving in between.

"I had everything I thought I was going to need packed up," Hassall said about his pre-race preparation. "I didn't know when I'd be able to stop back at the house that day, so I did a lot of prep work. I stuffed everything in bags. And the car is always filled with running shoes anyway.

"I really don't eat much before races. I drink a lot of coffee and have a PowerBar. That morning, I didn't think that would be enough."

Hassall left his house at 8:15 a.m., arriving in Clarence about a half-hour later for the Flight 4207 race.

"The plan was to do that race at 9:30, run the race in about a half-hour, jump in the car, and head for Hamburg to do the Kyle Reid race at 11," he said.

Hassall tried to plan his escape upon arrival, knowing he wouldn't have any time to waste after the Clarence run. However, he had to park about a quarter-mile away from the starting line -- so he realized that he'd have to hustle as soon as the race ended.

Hassall didn't warm up before the race, opting to save his energy for the rest of the day. Then he waited for the race to start -- 9:31, 9:32, 9:35 when the starting horn finally went off.

"Good lord, it was hot and humid," he said. "I thought, 'Why today?' as I was running. I could do nothing about it but complain."

After finishing in 30 minutes, 30 seconds, it was off to Hamburg. It took him a little longer than expected to get there, so from the car he headed directly to the starting line -- and heard the gun go off on the way.

"I was fortunate because they were delayed by five, 10 minutes," Hassall said. "Still, I was trotting up the street, 200 meters from the start, when everyone took off. I gave everyone else a head start. There were so many people there. I had to cut through so many baby strollers at first."

The funniest part of the whole weekend came at this point. Edye Radice had picked up Hassall's race number, as well as a couple of others, ahead of time in order to save her friends a bit of time at the start. She carried it along with her as she ran.

"She had them on the course," Hassall said. "Everyone was looking at her. She was 'The Numbers Lady.' "

Finally, Hassall caught up to Radice, pinned on his number and took off. He finished in about 33:02, in part because of the handicap at the beginning. Hassall stood for most of the postrace party, and didn't leave until after 1 p.m.

Then it was back home to Kenmore for a quick stop to take care of the cat and a few other things. No time for a nap -- the Salmon Run was slated for 5 p.m. in Wilson.

"It does take a little while to get there [from Kenmore]," Hassall said. "Every year I've gone, it's been an exceptionally nice time. They have a great chicken barbecue dinner. I was surprised they only had 150 runners."

And his time?

"My pace was even slower. I was down to 37:03," he said. "I really got hungry. I got annoyed at that. I usually don't get hungry, but I was starved. I had run out of energy."

Hassall hung around Wilson for a while, eating chicken, and didn't get back until after 8 p.m.

"I slept very soundly," he said. "But I had to get up early to do the Run for Rosa's at 9. It was hard to get up."

After finishing in Cheektowaga (36:57), Hassall had some pancakes and drove to Newfane for race number five. There he ran the "Running with Jesus -- Niagara 5K" in 29:33 -- his best time of the weekend.

Hassall's total distance: 25 kilometers, or more than 15 miles. New shirts in closet: five. Miles driven -- about 200. Time spent running: 2 hours, 47 minutes and 5 seconds.

"Maybe five [races] is my limit. I don't know if there's a room for a sixth," he said when it was all over.

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>Start packing

Twelve area runners are off to Singapore next year as a result of winning team competitions in the recent JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge.

The men's team winner from Moog consisted of Simon Curran, David Gawelo, Adam Demski and Eric Little. The Niagara Wheatfield CSD took the women's team title, with Kate Kohout, Kristen Mcguinness, Amanda Kelly and Lindsey Jerge on the roster. The mixed team winner was the Tonawanda City Schools: Jon Lacki, Elizabeth Randell, James Schraufstetter and Patricia Hilbert were on the squad.

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>Race calendar

* Bemus Point 10K, Long Point State Park Bath House, 9 a.m. today, 488-0788.

* Dick Bessel Independence Day Run, 2.3 miles, 2255 Baseline Road, Grand Island, 9:15 a.m. Saturday, 773-9680.

* Lakewood Family YMCA Firecracker 10K races, 5K and 2 miles, Lakewood Beach, 9 a.m. Saturday, 763-0303.

* Tommy's Run, 5K, Yates Park, Orchard Park, 10 a.m. Saturday, 662-6659.

* Depew-Lancaster Boys & Girls Club 10K (The Buffalo News Runner of the Year race), 5540 Broadway, Lancaster, 9 a.m. July 4, 683-6755.

e-mail: bbailey@buffnews.com

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