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Running: Pair runs through 100-race barrier, with others chasing them

"The Century Club" is open for business for another year.

There's no formal title for people who take part in 100 road races in a given year, but - whatever you call it - the membership ranks are growing. Last Sunday, both Ann More and Heather Burger reached the century mark at the Janine Kelly Memorial Run in Kenmore. That's 100 races in just over half of the year.

"I was actually supposed to hit 100 the day before," Burger said. "But I had run a 50K race and I was tired. I called Ann, and had a rest day. Sunday we were able to celebrate together."

One hundred races in 365 days is a staggering number for most people, yet the two runners don't have a big lead in the number of races finished. MacMcKenzie has done 80 races this year, while Ed Russell is at 71.

In all, nine runners had finished 60 races through the Kelly run, while 14 had reached 50. Since the second half of the year usually has more races than the first (the calendar for January and February is rather barren), it wouldn't take much for almost 20 local runners to hit 100 for the year. That would be a big jump from last year's total of 13.

The person responsible for this interest in the number of races run is Jeff John, who keeps track of all things running - including the standings for The Buffalo News' Runner of the Year series - at his website, buffalorunners.com. He wanted to salute those who participate, as opposed to only the winners.

"In addition to listing race winners and fast times, we created and began publishing the 'Most Active Lists" - run five races and your name goes into 'the list,' " John said. "The list is sorted in descending order by number of races run.

"The lists were an instant hit. People loved seeing their 'name in lights.'"

People started to notice the numbers and set goals. First it was 50 races in a year. Then came a bigger goal - 100 races. Three people hit that number in 2010.

"We felt we had caused this phenomenon and therefore were obligated to somehow recognize these remarkable runners, so we began holding an awards ceremony every year with engraved mementos for those runners that hit 100," John said. "The runners dubbed these highly coveted mementos "The Century Awards.' " 

More has a few of those awards tucked away at her house.

"It started in 2011," she said. "I wanted to get 50 in because I was turning 50 that year. I hit 50 by the end of the July. I didn't know what to do with the rest of the year, so I kept running. I finished officially with 104. The total was actually 110, but the ones out of town don't count."

More did 186 races last year - enough to decide to give herself a push in 2017.

"I said, 'How many races can you run in one day?' The answer is four," she said.

It takes a cooperative family and some other help to meet that sort of test. More plots her strategy ahead of time, carefully figuring out what races she can cram into a day. She's done it twice this year.

"(Husband) Rick is my designated race driver, my DRD," she said. "I'd run through the finish line, and call one of the timers at the next race and say, 'I'm going to be a little late for registration. Can you have my number ready?' They'd say they knew who I was."

More says she's been a little injured since February this year, but she continues to compete while maintaining her enthusiasm. More will climax the effort by taking part in the Dopey Challenge - a full and half marathon, plus a 10K and 5K - at Disney World next January. Then she'll rest.

Buffalo's most active runners have formed something of a club, usually gathering before and after races. It's a diverse group that probably only has running as a common denominator.

"At first, you kind of look at each other," Burger said. "You may not recognize the people on the list of buffalorunners.com. But I'd look over and have the courage to say, 'Are you so-and-so?' and they'd say, 'Are you so-and-so?' You become immediate friends. We completely support each other. We don't even know where each other's home is, or where their jobs are. We just continue the running conversation."

"Everyone thinks I'm crazy," More said. "But it's my social life. Some people go to movies. I go to races."

Both More and Burger point out that many runners take to the streets a few times a week anyway, so participating in so many races doesn't greatly increase their mileage.

"If I need a certain number of miles from my training, why not take it to an area that I might not normally see?" Burger asked. "The road is closed to traffic; everything is there for me. When I run the same race a year later, I see how the scenery has changed. You're seeing Buffalo change right before your eyes."

John looks over the list of active runners with some pride, knowing he's brought some pleasure to local runners. However, he figures the increasing number of very active athletes may have a side-effect.

"I think producing the Century Awards could get real expensive for me if the phenomenon continues to grow," he said.

Race calendar
 * Peaceprints 5K, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 8 a.m. on Sunday July 16, 856-6131.
* 5K Mission Possible, 15 Koenig Circle in Tonawanda, 8:30 a.m. on Sunday July 16, 836-6220.
* Run Jimmy Run Charity 5K, Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo, 10 a.m. on Sunday July 16, 803-2301.
* Okay Fun Run/Wellness Walk, 5K, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 7 p.m. on Tuesday July 18, 884-3256 x200.
* Daemen Athletics Summer Track Series, Sweet Home High School in Amherst, 6:15 p.m. on Thursday July 20.
* St. John Vianney Kickoff Run, 5K, 2950 Southwestern Blvd. in Orchard Park, 6:30 p.m. on Thursday July 20, 674-9133.
* ESB Engineering Scholarship Run 5K, 1111 Fuhrmann Blvd. in Buffalo, 7 p.m. on Thursday July 20.
* Tim Frank Memorial Canal Fest, 4 miles, 325 Franklin St. in Tonawanda, 7 p.m. on Thursday July 20, 510-3971.
* St. Mary's 5K Chowder Chase, 6919 Transit Road in East Amherst, 7 p.m. on Friday July 21, 908-6837.
* Run for Life, 5K, 4928 Seneca St. in West Seneca, 9 a.m. on Saturday July 22, 864-4571.
* Rotondo's Run and Memorial Walk, 5K, 1 Lock Plaza in Lockport, 9 a.m. on Saturday July 22, 504-7418.
* Battle on Buffalo, 5K Delaware Park in Buffalo, 9 a.m. on Saturday July 22, 878-7735.
* EVL-9 and EVL-4 Trail Runs, 9.7 & 4.2 miles, Holiday Valley Mountain Sports Center in Ellicottville, 9:30 a.m. on Sunday July 23, 574-0888.

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