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Running: Lessons learned every step of the way

Runner's World, the outstanding national magazine on this sport, often contains articles about lessons learned from running.

Let's give that idea a local twist.

I asked several area runners this question: "If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice before your first race, what would it be?"

Let's start with a race director first, because they are constantly learning lessons about the art of staging an annual race and party. John Maddock at Canisius College has been running the Shoes for the Shelter Race for several years.

One of his initial thoughts was to be more careful when it came to language on race applications than he ever imagined.

"Some participants when they see the word 'race' get nervous, because they may not be a competitive person," Maddock said. "You have to be careful how you tell the story to the general public. They may just want to run with their buddies and have a meal afterwards. You really have to play up the enjoyment of running."

In addition, the logistics of staging a race can be a little daunting.

"No. 1, there's the large amount of safety precautions," Maddock said. "You know going in you have to keep the race safe, but there's a lot more to it that you'd think. No. 2, there's the organization of race applications and deadlines, keeping on top of it and getting better at it.

"Then there's the manpower it takes, especially when we moved from the cemetery to the city streets. In the cemetery, we used 35 to 40 volunteers, and now we're at 100. And you have to be organized for the postrace event. When you feed a few hundred people, you have to be ready for their special needs, like allergies and vegetarians."

Maddock is still learning about changing on the fly. This year's race was set to be at the same time and on the same date as the Friends of the Night People's Putting Hunger on the Run race. The two sides worked things out. The Friends of the Night People will be held on Sunday, April 2, while the Shoes for the Shelter run takes place on Sunday, April 23.

Here are some comments from individual runners about what they wish they had known. Some of them come from members of the Lancaster Striders, who always are quick to help out with opinions and comments for columns like this.

* "Right off the bat, I can think of two things. First, keep good records. In my first seven years, I didn't write anything down about my 'accomplishments.' Second, I would have taken more pictures of other runners in those early days. Of course, there was only film back then. But just the same, I don't have pictures of my friends or myself for that matter. Some say I wasn't too bad looking 40 years ago, but that's debatable."

* "The best surprise is you'll meet people through running who will become friends for life."

* "Before I started running, I wish I would have known that you need a separate pair of running sneakers to run in instead of your usual kick-around ones you would wear out and about. Also, the importance of either a warmup stretch or run is important before running any race. Once I started warming up, my times improved greatly."

* "I wish I had known about running groups before I started running. It seemed a very lonely activity. Now I look forward to the days our retiree group gets together during the week and to Saturdays with the group at the Ridge. Everyone encourages each other. When injuries happen there is always someone who experienced the same thing and can offer excellent suggestions on recovery."

* "I wish I'd known how supportive the WNY running community is. As a person who started this journey later in life, my confidence was low. Had I known how many people would be there for me (cheering me, pacing me, helping me), I would have started my journey years ago."

* "Embrace the technology. A good GPS watch or run-mapping app can be very helpful. Finally, my physical therapist will agree: stretch, ice and use a muscle roller (Google it if you don't know what it is)."

* "I wish I would have known how many resources there are for runners. The amount of clubs and organizations for runners is really astounding and it doesn't take much to find a group (or groups) that suit your needs and personality. From the serious to the purely social, you can find a group that will support your every running endeavor whether you're a 15:00/mile novice or a 7:30/mile marathoner. As a new runner, it didn't take me long to find the groups that have made it more fun and have helped me to really build my running experience."

* "I started racing 12 years ago only for fitness reasons. I always thought of running as a solitary activity but over time learned that there are also group dynamics involved. I’ve enjoyed age-group race competition, running friendships of all ages, and running clubs that have motivated me to run hundreds of races since I began. I would have started racing sooner if I had known how much enjoyment and sense of accomplishment I’d receive."

* "You can run for speed and then vomit at the end of a race, or you can run for fun and have a beer at the end of a race."

* "First, there are very few super-competitive types who look down on slow runners. Practically everyone is ready to welcome newcomers to the party, and encourage you to be faster. Second, you can't finish last, no matter how slow you are. There's always someone behind you. So, take a breath and keep your feet moving, and you'll be fine."

Good performance

Kevin Burke was worried about how he would do in the Masters Mile in Boston on Saturday. He was going up against some very tough runners in the competition, which attracts some Olympians and other fine athletes.

The Buffalo runner did just fine. He finished the mile in 4 minutes, 48 seconds. That's about a 10-second improvement over his time in a Rochester meet at the end of 2016. The winner was Peter Brady, who finished in 4:31.02.

Race calendar

* Penguin Run, 5K, 2425 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst, 11 a.m. Sunday Jan. 29, 549-6307.

* Mr. Ed's Super Bowl Warm-Up, 5K, 28 Main St., Middleport, 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 5, (585) 798-3283.

* Lockport Y-10, 5 & 10 miles, 19 East Ave., Lockport, 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, 434-8887.

* Heart & Soul Run, 5K, 701 Seneca St., Buffalo, 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, 440-7507.


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