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Running by Budd Bailey: Distance diehards love 6-Hour Classic

The annual 6-Hour Distance Classic returns to Amherst on Sunday, complete with a cast of characters who are the first to admit that they aren’t exactly conventional athletes.

And if they don’t think that way, their friends and family will do it for them.

“Sometimes my family will be talking about something like ‘Oh, I rode my bike for 5 miles,’ Katelyn McCadden of Kenmore said. “Then my grandmother will say, ‘Well, what about Katie running a marathon?’ And they don’t want to touch it. ... I guess they think I’ve gone so far beyond what’s sane.”

Perhaps there’s an even less polite way of putting that.

“My family thinks I’m kind of a nut,” Ed Housel of Rochester said.

Those are two of the runners who will take part in the event that is now staged by It gets underway at 8 a.m. on the Amherst Bike Path. Some of the competitors will be running laps on the 3.25-mile course for six straight hours. What’s more, they like it.

“It’s just a different feeling, a different atmosphere than when you are not racing for a distance but racing for a time,” said McCadden, who called this her “favorite event.” “You try to get in as many miles as you can in six hours. If you get over 40 miles, you get a gold medal for the race.

“It brings in all different types. There are also people who want to support those trying to run the 40 miles. It’s a good time, but not everyone wants to run that long.”

For Housel, who has run this event five times in the past, an event like this fills him with satisfaction.

“A half-marathon or a marathon are so short,” he said. “You are constantly running so hard, and worrying about a time. You never have the chance to enjoy yourself. In this event, you get to talk to other people, meet a lot of nice runners.”

Comparing the two runners, the 56-year-old Housel is the veteran. He’s done 53 ultramarathons and 20 marathons over the years.

“It started back when I did the first run in Buffalo in 2005, in Delaware Park,” Housel said. “I had been running marathons, and I wasn’t getting any better. I was driving all over the place for marathons, and I stumbled on to it on the Web. I figured I’d run a marathon, finish in about three hours and then walk for three hours. But everyone on the course just kept cheering, which wasn’t part of the plan. It was kind of fun.”

He discovered that there’s something of a circuit of ultramarathons in New York State during the course of the year, and that driving to them is relatively easy. He’ll try to run three to five of them in a given calendar year.

Last year Housel lasted 5 hours and 12 minutes at the Amherst run, covering 29.2 miles along the way to finish second in his age-group. He’s hoping to make it to 40 miles this time around.

As for McCadden, she simply was looking for some new challenges … and found one.

“I think I’m always tossing around the idea of mental toughness,” she said. “Being a runner makes you stronger mentally. You go through life looking for challenges – job, school, marriage. If you are able to accomplishing something that no one else can accomplish, anything else is easier.”

Last year, McCadden ran the for the entire six-hour period, covering 35.2 miles. For those into mathematics, that’s a pace of 10:13 per mile. When she was done, she made an unexpected discovery about the toll the distance can take.

“I remember I couldn’t sit down to go to the bathroom afterwards. I couldn’t put any pressure on my quads,” McCadden said. “But I healed pretty quickly.”

Housel didn’t have any stories along those lines, but he was looking forward to the competition.

“When you put in a nice long run, all of your stresses go away,” he said.

Race calendar

• 6-Hour Distance Classic, 1615 Amherst Manor Drive, Amherst, 8 a.m. Sunday.

• Saps Run, 10K & 5K, 31 N. Main St. in Franklinville, 9 a.m. Sunday, 676-8060 x3204.

• NCCC Alumni Association’s 5K Run, 3111 Saunders Settlement Road, Sanborn, 6 p.m. Friday, 614-6231.

• Catalyst Fitness Race for a Cause, 5K, 2745 Seneca St. in West Seneca, 6:30 p.m. Friday, 824-4655.

• GBTC Grand Island Half Marathon & 10K, Beaver Island State Park in Grand Island, 9 a.m. Saturday, 380-8954.

• Allegany Adventure Runs, 6K, 13K and 22K Trail Runs, Allegany State Park in Salamanca, 9:30 a.m. Saturday. 574-0888.

• Rivershore 5K, 100 Center St. in Lewiston, 11 a.m. Saturday, 754-7272.

• Terri Krieger Memorial 5K Run, 189 N. Gravel Road, Medina, 2 p.m. Saturday, (585) 798-1676.

• Cinco de Mayo 5K, 383 Davison Road, Lockport, noon on May 3.