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Running: Ice storm cancels 20th annual Shoes for the Shelter

When John Maddock woke up to the sound of sleet bouncing off the windows, he knew the day was about to change.

The Associate Athletic Director for Canisius College and race director for the Shoes for the Shelter 5K had been following the weather forecast for the weekend and prepared runners and volunteers that the annual race scheduled for April 15th may not happen.

Early Sunday morning, Maddock made the call and canceled what was to be the 20th running of Shoes for the Shelter.

"There was really no handbook for this, so we made it up as we went along," Maddock said.

"At 5:30 Sunday morning after hearing sleet and hail come off the window all night, it was easy to make that call. There was no way to have a race. It looked like you could go out for a jog and go slow, but to race in those conditions with ice on the road would just be foolish. We didn't even want to try it. It was all about safety first."

With no established protocol, Maddock did his best to alert runners, updating the race website around 6 a.m.  and sending out an email to registered runners before 8 a.m. Still a few runners who had a distance to drive started out to Canisius and some did not provide an email address, making it difficult to communicate the cancellation.

Then, well, there was what to do with 110-pounds of hot dogs and sausages on hand for the post-race party and all the t-shirts already printed and on site.

The food was donated to two charities – Friends of Night People and the WNY Food Bank. The t-shirts were made available for runners to pick up at Canisius College with extras to be used as giveaways during t-shirt tosses at the college's basketball and hockey games next academic year.

Rescheduling the race was not a viable option for Maddock, who relies heavily on student-athletes as volunteers. With finals about to start and the semester ending at the beginning of May, it would be too difficult to find another date, including getting approval of the route again and contracting the help of the Buffalo Police Department.

"I just didn't think it was realistic on our end," Maddock said, who added that refunds are available for runners. They can receive a full refund if they do not pick up their t-shirt. If they pick up the shirt, they will get a refund minus $10 for the cost of the shirt.

While this was supposed to be the 20th anniversary of the annual race, which garners its name from the collection of used shoes for the St. Vincent DePaul Society, next year may be deemed the 20th with an asterisk. After all, it will be the 20th running of the event in its 21st year.

Runner of the Year impact

The Shoes for the Shelter 5K was the second race in the Buffalo News Runner of the Year series. After some consultations, the decision has been made to continue the series this year without the race. That means the series will be based on 10 races, not 11.

The first race was the Shamrock Run 8K.

The remainder of the series is:  GBTC Half Marathon (May 5), St. Gregory the Great Great Race 5K (June 15), Depew-Lancaster Boys and Girls Club 10K (July 4), Subaru Buffalo 4-Mile Chase (July 13), Ronald McDonald House 5K (July 25), Checker's Mueller Mile (Aug. 9), Linda Yalem Safety Run 5K (Sept. 23), Strider Gilder ¼ Marathon (Oct. 20), and the YMCA Turkey Trot 8K (Nov. 22).

Built in Buffalo

Nick Dipirro won the Charlottesville (Virginia) Marathon on April 7, finishing the course in 2:49.14.

A Buffalo native, the 29-year old Dipirro is a supervisor of the UVa Specialty Pharmacy and lives in Charlottesville. Race conditions were, well, basically miserable with cold conditions and a forecast of a wintry precipitation mix. Which is why Dipirro may have had an advantage.

"Although I am a proud Charlottesvillian now, I am equally proud of having grown up in Buffalo," he told The Daily Progress. "Having spent years high-kneeing it through the snow before the plows passed through on my 5 a.m. runs before going to school and then wrestling practice makes Charlottesville’s inclement weather, including today’s race conditions, seem quite tolerable."

Race calendar

Saturday April 21

  • Health Fair 5K , 9 a.m., North Tonawanda Middle School, 1500 Vanderbilt Ave.
  • Tortoise and the Hare 5K, 9 a.m., MacKinnon Lodge, Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park.
  • Home Run 4 Recovery 5K, 9 a.m., Jamestown Cycle Shop, 10 Harrison St, Jamestown.
  • Envirun 5K, 10:30 a.m.,  Whirlpool State Park, Robert Moses Parkway.

Sunday, April 22

  • Laps for Limbs, one-hour run, 9 a.m., St. Francis High School track, 4129 Lake Shore Rd., Athol Springs.
  • Purple Ribbon Warrior 5K, 10 a.m., Say Cheese Pizza Co., 1771 Love Road, Grand Island.

Wednesday, April 25

  • Flatliner Series No. 2, 3 Miles, 6:15 p.m.,  Chestnut Ridge Park, Newton Road Entrance.

Thursday, April 26

  • NFCSD Healthy Family Fun Run 5K, 5 p.m., Niagara Falls High School, 4455 Porter Road.

Saturday, April 28

  • 6th Annual Mathletes Cindy Frank Memorial 5K, 9 a.m., Fourteen Holy Helpers, 1339 Indian Church Rd, West Seneca.
  • Buffalo Undy Run 5k, 9 a.m., Delaware Park- Amherst/Colvin entrance.
  • Teacher Chase 5K, 9:30 a.m.,  Newfane Elementary School, 2909 Transit Rd., Newfane.
  • Appleseed 5K, 10 a.m., Welch Field, Elm St and 3rd St, Westfield.
  • The 716 Mile, Track Mile, 11 a.m.,  University at Buffalo Stadium Track, Amherst.

Sunday, April 29

  • 22nd Annual Buffalo Runners 6-Hour Distance Classic, 6-Hour Ultra, 8 a.m., North of the The Northtown Center, 1615 Amherst Manor Drive, Williamsville.
  • WNY Maple Festival SAPS Race, 5K and 10K, 9 a.m., Franklinville Central Central School District, 31 N. Main St., Franklinville.
  • Strides Diabetes Awareness 5K, 9 a.m., Lewiston Fire Hall #1, 145 N 6th St, Lewiston.
  • 1891 Run 5K, 9 a.m., 1891 Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia.
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