Dan Horan was on vacation in Boston with his wife and kids when he heard about the Rapid Running Buffalo Half-Marathon being postponed. By Sunday morning, he was headed back to Orchard Park after booking a last-minute fight.
The reason: He had become the race director of a new half-marathon that will take place Saturday – replacing the Rapid Running event that was supposed to take place the same day.
The Rapid Running race was postponed Thursday, igniting feelings of outrage and disappointment among the hundreds of runners who had already registered and paid fees of up to $95 to participate.
Though his idea wasn't popular with his wife, Anne, at first, Horan eventually got her blessing and started getting ready for the new event – which those who had signed up for the Rapid Running event can run for free.
"I'm so happy that I made the decision to fly back and help the community," he said, adding that he also talked to a Buffalo Bills executive Sunday about the finish at the 50-yard line of Ralph Wilson Stadium featured in the Rapid Running event.
On Monday, it was announced that the new event, named the 50 Yard Finish, would be run at 7 a.m. Saturday in Orchard Park. The event will be put on by the Buffalo Niagara Sports Commission, the Town of Orchard Park and Eclipse Multi-Sport, which Horan runs with his wife. Runners can choose from a half-marathon, a 5K or a one-mile kids' fun run. They will also get to finish at the 50-yard line, as the Rapid Running event promised.
Though the Rapid Running race and 50 Yard Finish are separate events, the organizers of the new event didn't forget about the those who registered for the postponed event and were left wondering if their money would be refunded. Most paid between $75 and $95 for the event – an amount for a half-marathon that Horan calls "quite honestly ludicrous."
The 50 Yard Finish registration fee will be waived for any runner who registered for the Rapid Running Buffalo Half-Marathon. Such runners must register at www.50yardfinish.com and provide proof of Rapid Running registration. For those who want to run the 50 Yard Finish and didn't register for the Rapid Running event, the half-marathon is $50, the 5K costs $20 and the One-Mile Kids Fun Run is $8. On Saturday, the half-marathon costs $60 and the 5K is $25.
The 50 Yard Finish will be a USA Track & Field-sanctioned event, while the Rapid Running Buffalo Half-Marathon would not have been. But due to the short time available for planning, the live bands along the race course, the health expo and a post-race party with beer that would have been features of the Rapid Running event will not be included in the 50 Yard Finish.
Organizers of the new event also had to obtain the registration list from Rapid Running President David Mason, who Horan says "just didn't want to let the list go." The list showed that 714 people signed up for the half-marathon, 200 for the 5K and 40 for the kids' run.
While Horan said he was shocked the race was postponed so close to the run date, he said Mason "doesn't have a good track record," which, along with the high registration fee, is why Horan shied away from getting involved in the Rapid Running event.
"I still can't believe this guy isn't giving the money back," Horan said. "I've never heard of that."
Rapid Running is not affiliated with the 50 Yard Finish, so there is nothing organizers can do to make Mason give refunds, said Peter Burakowski, communications manager for the Buffalo Niagara Sports Commission.
Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara, said her organization received "a flurry of emails" from those who registered for the Rapid Running event and were coming from out of town.
Since then, organizers have talked to the Bills, which donated the use of the field in the 50 Yard Finish. Gallagher-Cohen said the Bills were well-informed of the postponement and spoke with Rapid Running about rescheduling the race for the fall.
Gallagher-Cohen said her organization has been getting "extremely positive" emails from those who registered and is looking for volunteers for the new event. "It's crazy," she said. "We're trying to get donations. The biggest need we have right now is volunteers."
Bob Barnashuk, of Orchard Park, signed up for the Rapid Running event and will be taking part in Saturday's race, which will allow him to run with friends as he originally planned. But he's not counting on getting his registration fee of about $80 back from Rapid Running.
"I don't expect that with how David Mason handled it," he said, adding that he plans to dispute the charges. "They need to suffer the consequences of their actions."