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South Park football's Tim Delaney briefly trades cleats for running shoes

Tim Delaney is the football coach for South Park High School, the man who guided the Sparks to a memorable state championship in 2015.

He is not usually associated with running. Delaney no doubt has forced his players to do some sprints at times during a practice, but he'd be the one standing and watching instead of participating.

"To be honest, I'm not a runner at all," he said. "I've never been a runner."

Yet there Delaney was a few weeks ago, finishing a half-marathon in Buffalo. Certainly he wasn't the most unlikely finisher of a 13.1-mile run around the city's streets, but it was still surprising to see his name in the official results. The story about he remade himself into someone who could go that far is an impressive one.

Start with the fact that Delaney always has worried about football first.

"I was a football player growing up," he said. "I didn't play basketball, I didn't play a sport that involved running long distances. I wasn't running up stairs all the time. Everything I did, such as weight-lifting, was short, explosive stuff."

It's not uncommon for people who give up football to put on some weight when they put away the shoulder pads and cleats for good. It happened to Delaney, who didn't like what he saw when he jumped on the scale a few years ago.

"I was probably about 250 pounds in 2013," he said. "So I quit drinking, and I started losing weight.

"Then I made it a goal to run a 5K race. I did that in the summer of 2014. I was like, 'OK, I'll run a bit here and there.' I didn't get the running bug. I just did it for the exercise."

During the winter of 2017, the idea of running more than 3.1 miles at a time started to creep into Delaney's mind.

"A good friend had run a couple of marathons and three or four halves," he said. "I thought, I need another goal for myself. I'll try it."

Delaney did what many runners do when they need motivation to train for a long-distance run: Write a check. In this case, he registered for half-marathon for Buffalo in February, and thought to himself, "I guess I'm doing it now."

The football coach then headed to the computer and did a search for a workout plan.

"I ran four miles in the second week," he said. "I trained for a little more than three months. I ran longer runs as I went along - 8, 9, 10 - and I was running 11-minute miles."

Delaney told his family about the project, and the reaction was mixed. His father asked him, "What are you doing?" while his wife was all for it. Delaney also checked with other members of the football coaching community in the area, and found a few of them had run long distances before. Coach Tom Langworthy of Jamestown had run a couple of half-marathons. Hamburg athletic director Pat Cauley is an avid runner who took part in the sport in college.

Finally, race day arrived. Delaney had a plan for arranging some support along the way.

"My wife and parents came down with my son," he said. "They caught me around mile eight. I carry my phone with me when I run, I don't strap it on, and I can receive messages. My wife let me know where she was going to be. I saw a woman from work who cheered for me, but I didn't really advertise it."

Maybe Delaney should have told more people. He finished the distance in 2 hours, 19 minutes and 4 seconds - very respectable under the circumstances. But no, Delaney didn't immediately look up training programs for the full marathon a few days later.

"People ask me about the full, and I have no interest in it," he said. "It's not great for your body. I don't have the time to commit to the training for that long of a race."

Maybe Delaney will take part in the odd 5K run in the future, and maybe he will do some more running just to keep in the shape. But in the meantime, he's gained a new appreciation for a side of athletics he had never seen.

"I just think it's different - there's a whole different type of athlete," he said. "I think as I get older, and am able to see people be successful and different, it's really impressive - especially the people who are running really fast."

Race calendar

* Father's Day 5K, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 9 a.m. on Sunday June 18.

* Father Baker Fathers' Day 5K, 2655 South Park Ave. in Buffalo, 9 a.m. on Sunday June 18, 713-5654.

* Chase the Sun - Summer Solstice 5K , 26 Thorn Ave. in Orchard Park, 7:30 p.m. on Monday June 19, 553-9455.

* Dirt Devil Trail Series #5, 3.5 mile trail run, Sprague Brook Park in Glenwood, 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday June 20, 574-0888.

* West Seneca Community 5K, 50 Legion Parkway in West Seneca, 6:30 p.m. on Thursday June 22, 675-2392.

* Run the Hawk 5K, Cardinal O'Hara High School in Tonawanda, 6:30 p.m. on Friday June 23, 695-2600 x310.

* Seneca Hickory Stick 5K (#1), 4560 Creek Road in Lewiston, 7 p.m. on Friday June 23, 998-5777.

* 50 Yard Finish 5K, New Era Field in Orchard Park, 9 a.m. on Saturday June 24.

* James Metz Memorial Run, 5K, Keysa Park in Lancaster, 10 a.m. on Saturday June 24, 713-0262.

* Bemus Point 10K, Village Park in Bemus Point, 7 p.m. on Saturday June 24.

* BNAC Peace & Love Run, 10K & 5K, Skyline Drive in Akron, 9 a.m. on Sunday June 25, 380-8954.

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