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Running: Giza will be missed at 40th annual race in Lancaster

Tuesday marks the 40th running of the Bob Giza 10K race in Lancaster.

It's the first of them to be held without Bob.

Giza died earlier in the year at the age of 79. Not only was he a former Supervisor of Lancaster, but he headed what could be called the First Family of Running for the municipality.

"Bob always started the race," said Dave Hoch, head of the Boys and Girls Club of Depew-Lancaster. "He worked for the Club then, and he started the race with a couple of others in 1978. It was called something different back then - the Firecracker Run or something."

The loss of Giza adds a bit of poignancy to a race that hits a milestone number this year.

"First of all, he was the nicest person I've ever met," Hoch said. "It was tough when he passed - he and his wife died within a month of each other. We put a huge plaque in his memory in the club in Lancaster. Bob didn't draw attention to himself. As Supervisor, he helped everyone he could. If you were a friend or someone who just had complaints, you could go into his office any time. He'd always listen."

Robert Giza Sr., former Lancaster supervisor, dead at 79

Giza started a 33-year career at the Boys and Girls Club in 1965. He served as a member of the town board for some of those years. Giza ran for supervisor in 1996, and eventually left his job with the Club when he won that office. Hoch says Giza sought the elected post because he thought he could help the club a bit in that role.

A race was a natural idea for a fundraiser for the organization, considering some of the running talent that ran in the Giza family.

"Bob Jr. has been a very good runner in his age group over the years," Hoch said. Grandson "Dan won the race a couple of times. Bob was very proud of that, but he didn't say much about it. A couple of times Dan came close to winning, finishing in the top five when people thought he could win. Then he finally broke through."

In an era when it's difficult to put on a race for more than five years, 40 years of running is an impressive achievement. Even Hoch shakes his head sometimes at the success of the event.

"It's weird," he said. "The race is on the Fourth of July. You'd think you wouldn't get many people to run it. But many people come back to Lancaster for it. For some, it's the only race they run all year.

"We don't do wrist bands at the postrace party. If you bring your kids, we'll feed them. It's a nice get-together. It's not an all-day affair - people have other things to do. So we get them out the door by 1 o'clock."

The timing allows people to go to the big parade in Lancaster, which starts at 2 o'clock. It's all part of the town's big Fourth of July party that's become a tradition over the years. In addition to the race, the Boys and Girls Club runs the beer tent during the festival, which is a good-sized undertaking on its own.

Like every other race involving nonprofit organizations, the event doesn't come off without help. Hoch keeps things relaxed in terms of the workload.

"You change with the times," he said. "We just run the race. I tell the volunteers, if you can't do what you've done for in the past years, let me know and I'll find someone else. Otherwise, I'll see you there.

"All of the fire companies - Depew, Lancaster, Bowmansville - are unbelievable. All they get is t-shirts, and they take care of traffic. They all pitch in. We could never stop traffic on a 6.2-mile route on main thoroughfares without their help. People look forward to this every year."

The success of the race comes at a time when 10-kilometer runs have shrunk in number. Most organizations prefer a 5K run so that more people can participate. The Depew-Lancaster race usually does somewhere around 1,000 people, including relay teams.

That's an impressive number, particularly because the weather always seems to be hot. On one legendary boiling summer morning, a five-minute shower at 8:45 a.m. left steam coming off the roads when the race started at 9.

"I ran it years ago, and it was brutal," Hoch said. "It always seems to be hot and humid. When we first started, the race used to begin at 11 in the morning. We changed it to 9. We have water stops, but others along the route put out hoses and man tables to help out."

Hopefully the tradition of steamy weather won't come into play on Tuesday. But another tradition - a Giza at the starting line - will continue.

"I invited Bob Jr. and Danny, but they'll be at Disney," Hoch said. "Son Ronny and grandson Chris will be there to start the race."

Race calendar

* Ripley's Race to Wellness, 5K, 1 Park Ave. in Ripley, 9 a.m. on Sunday July 2, 736-2631 x1370.

* Lakewood YMCA Firecracker Run, 10K and 2 miles, Lakewood Beach in Lakewood, 9 a.m. on Tuesday July 4, 763-0303.

* Dick Bessel Independence Day Run, 2.3 miles, 2255 Baseline Road in Grand Island, 9 a.m. on Tuesday July 4, 773-9680.

* Depew-Lancaster Boys and Girls Club 10K, 5440 Broadway in Lancaster, 9 a.m. on Tuesday July 4, 683-1485.

* Loughran's Alumni Cup 5K Run, 4543 Main St. in Snyder, 7 p.m. on Thursday July 6, 863-4747.

* Tuscarora Nation 10K Run, 10K and 2.5 miles, 9 a.m. on Saturday July 8, 799-4397.

* Tom Drake Memorial 5K Thunderbird Club Run/Walk, Lakeside Park in Mayville, 9 a.m. on Saturday July 8, 672-7676.

* Kenan Center 5K, 433 Locust St. in Lockport, 9 a.m. on Saturday July 8, 433-2617.

* Glow Your Mind 5K, Northwest Arena in Jamestown, 8:30 p.m. on Saturday July 8.

* The Janeen Kelly Memorial Run, 5K, Mang Park in Kenmore, 10 a.m. on Sunday July 9.

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