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Running: Headway race takes change of date in stride

Race cancellations are relatively rare in Western New York. Even bad winter weather usually doesn't stop events from being staged. When cancellations do take place in autumn, it can be a bad sign for the future of the race.

So when the Headway Run Walk and Wheel Race announced the postponement of its planned Sept. 10 date, it was natural to wonder what would happen. Spoiler alert: the race will take place at LaSalle Park in Buffalo on Oct. 22.

The drama started a couple of weeks before the original race date. Christine Melchiorre is a funding resource specialist for Headway of Western New York, Inc., which is a support and advocacy agency for individuals with brain injuries and disabilities, and for seniors.

"Basically, we were all set with it," she said. "I don't know if you're aware of the construction at LaSalle Park. When we started planning the event, we were told it would not be an issue."

Wrong.

"At the last minute we found out that part of our route was not going to be accessible," Melchiorre said. "We wanted to make sure for safety reasons for participants not to do it then.

"Plus we had a little bit of a scheduling problem with the City of Buffalo. We realized that there was going to be a shortage of motorcade vehicles. There were tons of events that day. They were trying to make sure everyone was covered, but we didn't want to take chances."

From that point, Headway's employees had to make  decisions and didn't have much time to do it if they wanted to work a race into the fall calendar. Another switch in the location wasn't desirable. After five years at the Marina, the race was staged from Templeton Landing last year.

"The Hatch at the Marina has undergone some construction and change in management," Melchiorre said. "We weren't able to have it at the Hatch last year, so we moved it to Templeton Landing. Our board decided that it might not be the best thing to return. It was a little cost prohibitive. We wanted to look at alternatives."

"We wanted to have the event in Buffalo," Headway director Ronald Fernandez said.

Canalside was a little pricey for this size of an event. LaSalle Park came up as an alternative for a race that has been held on the second weekend in September. Luckily, the park was still available to host a race on Oct. 22. Williams said it was important to announce a new date when spreading the word about the postponement.

"Things happen so fast, like a domino effect," Melchiorre said. "We did a lot of phone calling and emailing. We used our Facebook page. We worked with our marketing department to update the image of the race. We spoke with people who are involved with running, such as buffalorunners.com."

Admittedly, this is a relatively small race. It's not like moving the Turkey Trot to Christmas Eve. Still, many of those who are involved in the race (participating, volunteering, etc.) have  some sort of connection to the organization. When everyone who had registered to run or walk was contacted about the postponement, the number of people who dropped out was surprising.

"We may have lost one," Melchiorre said. "They said, 'We're still open to it.' Registration is still opening, and new names are trickling in. So far no one has really had any negative feedback."

The sponsors, including lead backer Feroleto Law, had no problem with the date change. The other details, such as volunteers, fell into place. Everything should be ready to go next weekend.

The idea of Headway staging a race came from Katie Johnson Hoffman, a former executive director who died in 2011. She thought it would be a good way to publicize Headway's work with those affected by brain injuries. The legacy of that idea lives on in the race, with people running, walking or using a wheelchair to navigate the course. The event is Headway's second-largest fundraiser of the year.

And now that this year's race appears set, Melchiorre can exhale - for a moment.

"I learn something new with this every year," she said. "Now that we've rescheduled, it's every day. There are so many aspects to having a 5K."

Race calendar

* Come Home to the West Side 5K, 161 Vermont St., Buffalo, 8 a.m., Sunday Oct. 9, 884-6616.

* Lucy Town Half Marathon, Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena, 8 a.m.  Sunday Oct. 9, 884-6616.

* Monster Scramble, 5K & 10K, 2900 South Park Ave., Lackawanna, 10 a.m.  Sunday Oct. 9, 634-2573 x70501.

* Homeless Female Veterans 5K, 136 Cazenovia St., Buffalo, 11 a.m. Sunday Oct. 9.

* 5 KAC Challenge, 5K, 175 Bonnett Ave., Tonawanda, 9 a.m.  Saturday Oct. 15, 876-5570.

* Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, 5K, Canalside, Buffalo, 9 a.m. Saturday Oct. 15, 689-6982 x65250.

* St. Mark's Get Set Go! 5K, 61 Payne Ave.,  North Tonawanda, 9:30 a.m., Saturday Oct. 15, 909-8834.

* The Bulldog Dash, 5K, Hamburg High School, 9:30 a.m. Saturday Oct. 15.

* Niagara Falls Firefighters Christmas Toy Fund 5K, LaSalle Waterfront Park, Niagara Falls, 10 a.m.  Saturday Oct. 15, 622-9855.

* Lou Reuter Scholarship Run, 5K, 540 Parkhurst Blvd., Tonawanda, 10 a.m. Sunday Oct. 16, 874-8402.

* Billies on the Run, 5K, Williamsville South High School, 10 a.m. Sunday Oct. 16, 523-8100.

* Niagara County Deputy Sherriff's PBA 5K Run, Widewaters Marine, Lockport, 10:30 a.m. Sunday Oct. 16, 622-6416.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com

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