It should be a wonderful summer for Jim Figler of Hamburg. For once, there are enough mile races scheduled around town to keep him satisfied.
“It’s my favorite distance,” he said.
That’s because a series of six one-mile races is taking place in Western New York. It’s called “The Runner’s Roost 1 Mile Challenge.” The series began on July 8 in East Aurora, and will run through Sept. 17 in Lockport.
“When I saw that the series was coming up, I was really excited,” Figler said. “You have to run the mile just right.”
Last year there were only two one-mile races on the calendar. One, sponsored by the Greater Buffalo Track Club, was on a track. The other was the Mueller Mile in Tonawanda.
The Checkers Athletic Club has put on some sort of mile race for the past several years. Often it was the only such race at the distance.
“Last fall, after we finished the mile, we noticed that we had hit our number – over 300 people entered,” said Tom Droz, the current president of Checkers. “I had so many people come up to me and ask if we could do another mile race. I thought, maybe we could do it even better. I thought about calling it ‘The Mueller Mulligan.’ ”
But then came a better idea.
“I contacted the Greater Buffalo Track Club and Lancaster Striders and said, why don’t we do a club challenge? The track club was for it, and the Striders agreed to put a race together.
“Then Bob Giardini from Score-This!,” a local racing timing company, “called out of the blue and suggested we put together a mile series. He said, ‘Why don’t all of us get together?’ He came up with three more races, so the series became six races. Then we got some sponsorship.”
It’s not completely fair to say that such cooperation among running organizations locally is rare, but it is a little unusual.
“That’s something Tom Donnelly and I had talked about,” Droz said. “It’s nice. It’s good to work with the different clubs. This is a big small town, and it’s nice to reach out to the clubs, pool our resources, and do a better job.”
The Hump Day Mile in East Aurora started off the series. If local runners didn’t realize that a mile race was much different than a 5-kilometer race, they did when they were finished. All races hurt, but this is a different type of hurt than a 5K or a half-marathon.
“I like to think of it as the roller-coaster of running,” Droz said. “It goes by fast. We have clocks at every quarter-mile. With a 5K, there are mile splits. But here, you see a time at a quarter, half and three quarters.”
Figler added, “I always tell people that you don’t have time to make up for your mistakes. You can’t get boxed in, you can’t go out too slow to conserve energy, and you can’t go out like its a 100-meter dash. ... When we only had one race of a mile, it was tough to get the strategy right. If you made a mistake, you had to wait until next year.”
The field for a mile race is different than most of the other road races in Western New York. It’s smaller and features a higher percentage of good racers than a typical 5-kilometer race.
“You don’t get the people who just sign up to benefit a charity,” Figler said. “It’s as if the back half of a 5K field is missing.”
Scott Anderson of West Falls won the men’s division of the Hump Day Mile in 4 minutes, 43 seconds, while Molly McLaughlin of East Aurora took the women’s division in 5:27.
At 51, Figler acquitted himself quite well while running with the “young people.” He finished in 10th place in 5:06, faster than all but one runner over the age of 30.
Still he’d like to do a little better – break the five-minute mark.
“I hope so,” he said. “I broke five minutes the last four Muellers. I love the course, it’s nice and flat. The East Aurora course was good, but it wasn’t as flat. I’ll break five minutes again this year, hopefully.”
The next race in the series will be Wednesday night, when the West Seneca PBA Blue Mile is held at West Seneca West High School. Starting time is 6 p.m. Visit score-this.com/1milechallenge for additional information on the series.
• 5K Mission Possible, 15 Koenig Circle, Tonawanda, 8 a.m. Sunday, 836-6220.
• Okay 5K Fun Run, Delaware Park, 7 p.m. Tuesday, 884-3256 ext. 200.
• West Seneca PBA Blue Mile, 1 mile, 3330 Seneca St., West Seneca, 6 p.m. Wednesday.
• ESB Engineering Scholarship Run, 5K, 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd., Buffalo, 7 p.m. Wednesday.
• St. John Vianney Kickoff Run, 5K, 2950 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 677-4039.
• Tim Frank Memorial Canal Fest Run, 4 miles, 325 Franklin St., Tonawanda, 7 p.m. Thursday, 510-3971.
• St. John’s Mid-Summer 5K, Belmont and Highland, Town of Tonawanda, 7:30 p.m. Friday, 435-5115.
• St. Amelia’s Amazing Race 5K, 210 St. Amelia Dr., Tonawanda, 9 a.m. Saturday, 491-8269.
• Dash ‘N Splash Family Fun Run, 2.5 miles, 2751 Amsdell Road, Hamburg, 9 a.m. Saturday, 646-5145.
• Wild 5K Trail Run, 1600 Riverside Road, Jamestown, 9 a.m. Saturday, 569-2345.
• EVL-9 and EVL-4 Trail Runs, 9.7 and 4.2 miles, Holiday Valley Mountain Sports Center, Ellicottville, 9:30 a.m. on July 26, 574-0888.
• Lindsay Matthews Scholarship Race, 5K, 6909 Milestrip Road, Orchard Park, 10 a.m. on July 26, 667-3786.
• Greg Stang Memorial 5K, Bassett Park, Williamsville, 5:30 p.m. on July 26, 597-9090.