It started when Matt Lozar’s daughter participated in a fun run.
The 5-year-old ran on the University at Buffalo’s track as part of the school’s Early Childhood Research Center. She enjoyed the experience, and Lozar tried to teach her a few simple things, like pacing, but his daughter’s competitive nature came out and she kept passing people.
But when he looked around for opportunities for her to continue running, the options were limited.
A few fun runs were attached to traditional 5Ks, but not many. Programs such as Girls on the Run and Boys on the Right Track are geared toward kids in older grades. What about the little kids?
The search for something for his daughter continued in a conversation with one of his best friends in Cleveland whose son participated in that city’s Healthy Kids Running Series. Lozar started doing some research and this spring is bringing the national organization to kids in Western New York.
“My hope is to create a fun weekly environment where the kids want to go running, where they show up every week not because mom or dad signed them up but because they are excited to run,” Lozar said. “I want us to provide a fun experience every week, to provide that foundation and baseline that because it was a fun experience, running and exercise is something they look forward to do and want to do not only now but throughout their life.”
Here’s how it works – the running series is for kids ages 2-14 and will have weekly races beginning at 3 p.m., Sunday, April 19 at Maple East Elementary School in Amherst. (The other dates are April 26, May 3, May 10 and May 17.) Participants can register for the full series ($35 early bird through March 29, $40 after that) or $10 per race.
Distances are based on ages. Pre-K (2-3 year olds) run a 50-yard dash. The 75-yard dash is for 4- and 5-year-olds and the Challenger Division. Kindergarten and first graders run a quarter mile; second and third graders run a half-mile; and fourth through eighth graders run a mile. All races will be the same distances each week.
All runners will receive finisher’s medals on the final week along with T-shirts. Points will be awarded based on finish, and runners with the most points in the final race will win trophies.
“We believe that sports, particularly running, teaches lifelong values such as confidence and accomplishment," said Jeff Long, the founder of Healthy Kids Running Series. “We teach effort, perseverance, persistence, sportsmanship, independence and grit to our participants and their families, as together, we are building a healthier generation of active kids.”
The Healthy Kids Running Series is a national nonprofit in more than 300 communities across the United States impacting more than 60,000 youth runners.
The Western New York Running Hall of Fame is seeking nominations for the next class of inductees. Know a runner, coach or contributor who would be worthy of consideration? Send your nomination information by April 18. Nomination forms are online and available at wnyrunninghof.com.
Finalists are selected based on their contributions and merits. The 2019 class included Jack Meegan, Fred Gordon and Lewis “Deerfoot” Bennett. The WNY Running Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 2011. The inductees are honored at the Tom Donnelly Hall of Fame 5K held in late August.
April 1 — Flatliner Series No. 1, 3 miles, 6:15 p.m., Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park
April 4 — Feel the Spirit 5K, 11 a.m., Infant of Prague Church, 921 Cleveland Drive, Cheektowaga