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Budd Bailey’s Running: Lebro’s likely served up last race Saturday

All races have a finish line, and the Lebro’s Fall Classic has reached it.

The event, acknowledged by many as one of their favorite races on the calendar, staged what looks like its 26th and final running on Saturday.

“There’s some sadness,” said Lee Federiconi, a former owner of Lebro’s Restaurant in Getzville, said as he prepared for the last race earlier this week. “We’ve raised more than $100,000 for charity over the years.”

It would be easy to guess that Federiconi had a connection to running in starting the race back in 1990. And you’d be wrong.

“God, no,” he said. “I don’t think I could do this sort of thing. As you get older, the knees start to go. It happened quickly. I got into cycling instead.”

A race was simply a good way to give something back to the community.

“Lebro’s was a successful company,” he said. “I asked, ‘What can we do as a reward for everyone that supported us? It started with the money going to the American Cancer Society.

“Then I found out about Carly’s Club, which at the time was only located in Western New York. Carly’s family - the mother, father and child - were customers, and they all died of cancer. That’s how that connection started, and eventually Carly’s stepdad got involved.”

Eventually, the race expanded. The number of runners grew to the 400-500 range. The event became of one of the first races to add a kids’ run.

One of the big reasons for that growth was that the event featured quality items like jackets and sweatshirts for participants. Throw in enough food and drink to feed the Buffalo Bills’ defense, and it added up to a bargain.

“I’ve learned that runners want a deal. They want to get something for their money,” Federiconi said. “The food and beverages are donated, so that we can give more money to charity. It’s all gotten more and more expensive, and we’ve had to raise prices over the years, but we’ve always given out a good shirt or jacket.”

After more than a quarter of a century at it, the restaurateur learned plenty about running and the business of putting on races.

“At least once or twice, Mother Nature was our biggest problem,” Federiconi said, remembering the occasional downpour – like Saturday’s - that soaked participants. “Sometimes 75 percent of the runners would sign up on the day of a race. They’d open the window, look outside, see sunshine, and pay $5 or $6 more that day. They knew they’d get a good party and a nice shirt, and they’d come out.”

He also benefited from the consistent support of a couple of companies over the years. Federiconi was quick to credit Lou Panzica of Power Drives and Darlene Mcclay of Summit Health Care Solutions for helping year after year.

As the 30-plus years at Lebro’s piled up, Federiconi started to lose his love for the restaurant business. He was feeling beat up, and had the chance to sell his share of the restaurant in August to his partner and cousin, Carm Paolini. Federiconi took a job with Reeds Jewelers, which still features plenty of hours but a different type of challenge than serving food and drink. He knew with that move that the race was headed for its last running, at least under the current management set-up.

“I know the girls on the committee have been around for 10, 15 years,” he said. “They said, ‘If you aren’t going to do it, we aren’t going to do it.’

“It’s been very rewarding, to look back and see what we did. It all came from nothing. We couldn’t be more proud of the community, more proud of Lebro’s, and more proud of the volunteers who gave something back.”

Race calendar

• Headway Walk, Run & Wheel, 5K, Erie Basin Marina, Buffalo, 9:30 a.m. Sunday, 408-3117.

• 8 in the Rough Trail Run, 8.7 miles, Sprague Brook Park Casino, Glenwood, 10 a.m. Sunday, 574-0888.

• “Flight of Five” Mile, 1 mile, 1 Lock Plaza, Lockport, 7 p.m. Thursday.

• Chautauqua Ultras, various, Mayville Lakeside Park, Mayville, 7 a.m. Saturday, 607-0328.

• Hospice Dash 5K, Porter on the Lake Park, Youngstown, 9 a.m. Saturday, 998-5777.

• Mighty Niagara Half Marathon, Artpark, Lewiston, 9:15 a.m. Saturday, 998-5777.

• Connors Wiener Run 5K, 8934 Old Lakeshore Rd., Angola-on-the-Lake, 10 a.m. Saturday, 926-2218.

• Tails on Trails, 2.5 miles, Birdsong Park, Orchard Park, 10 a.m. Saturday, 662-6450 x2.

• 4 for the Corps, 4 miles, Arcade Village Park, Arcade, 10 a.m. Saturday, 912-8172.

• Derby Snap Fitness 5K Run, 6950 Erie Rd., Derby, 10 a.m. on Sept. 20, 947-9010.

• Niagara Celtic 5K, Krull Park, Olcott, 11 a.m. on Sept. 20, 417-2410.

• 24th annual Shea’s Run for the Arts, 5K, 646 Main St., Buffalo, 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 20, 829-1172.

• Tanya’s Trot for Epilepsy, 5K, Cummings Lodge on Skyline Dr., Akron, 2 p.m. on Sept. 20, 913-3222.