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Undy 5000 receives green flag

A new 5-kilometer race in Buffalo has a couple of funny features for an event that will benefit a very serious cause.

Start with the name: "The Undy 5000."

"I can't take credit for that," race director Tess Fraser said. "That was the Colon Cancer Alliance. It's so clever.

"I think it [the race] is something the community will enjoy. There's a good sense of humor."

The race will be held April 28 at Delaware Park in Buffalo. It's one of 16 such events held across the country to raise money in the fight against colon cancer.

Fraser has needed some laughter in her life in the past year, to relieve the burden of a tragedy in her family.

"This past June, my mother at 58 had stage 4 colon cancer," she said. "Prior to that diagnosis, there was no family history.

"I didn't know anything about colon cancer, and in my quest for knowledge, I discovered the Colon Cancer Alliance."

Fraser discovered that colon cancer is the second-landing killer of all forms of the disease, but it's also one of the most preventable.

"That's ridiculous," she said. "I started advocating for early screening. I wanted to reach out to people."

After discovering the series of races that take place in a variety of locations around the country, Fraser decided that she wanted to work on getting one to Buffalo. It was something of an unlikely step for someone who has only run a couple of 5Ks in her life. She received approval from the Alliance to do it last summer.

Fraser definitely discovered what every other new single race director has learned in nothing flat. This is a big job.

"It's definitely been overwhelming," the Town of Tonawanda resident said. "There's a lot of work that goes into it. When something like this happens close to home, I want to do something with that energy. I wanted to do something for other people.

"I picked some good friends to be on the planning committee with me. It's not a solo effort."

The premium handed out for registering for the race is definitely unique. Runners will receive custom-designed boxer shorts, and they are urged to run in them on the outside.

"It draws attention to the area affected by colon cancer," Fraser said. "Many runners in other cities don't wear boxers that are provided. People get creative with a choice of undergarments."

Then there's the giant inflatable, walk-through colon that will be at the event. Honest.

"I think it tries to get people comfortable with the idea of early screenings," she said. "I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with talking about getting colonoscopies. Whatever the embarrassments are, it's nothing compared to what your life will be like with cancer."

The display shows the various stages of colon cancer, including facts on Crohn's disease and Colitis.

As of late this week, pledges for the event totaled more than $18,000. Almost 350 runners will be there. Fraser said she was "overwhelmed" at the reaction by the public to the race.

However, one of those who won't be there will be missed most of all.

"My mom lost her battle," Fraser said. "I never expected her not to be there, but I know she will be with us."


Race calendar

*Nick Orrange Run, 5K, Baird Point at the University at Buffalo, 9:30 a.m. today.

*Canisius College Shoes for the Shelter 5K (News' Runner of the Year race), Koessler Athletic Center at 1833 Main St. in Buffalo, noon today, 888-2977.

*3 Kings Royal Race, 5K, 10893

*Sisson Highway in North Collins, 6:30 p.m. Friday, 337-3780.

*Liberty Mutual Hilbert Memorial Miles 5K, 5200 South Park Ave. in Hamburg, 10 a.m. Saturday, 926-8938.

*Envirun 5K, Goat Island in Niagara Falls, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 858-7897.

*Feel the Spirit 5K, 921 Cleveland Drive in Cheektowaga, 11 a.m. Saturday, 380-0231.

*UB Run for Smiles 5K, Slee Hall at the University at Buffalo, 9:30 a.m. April 22, 440-0365.

*Friends of Night People Run Against Hunger 5K, 320 Porter Ave. in Buffalo, 10 a.m. April 22, 884-5375.