On the Run … Virtually

WNY takes road racing to virtual level that actually involves actual racing with a flexible schedule

By Catherine Miller

Western New York has a love affair with outdoor foot races.

Whether you are running a 5K race to support a great cause, or are an avid collector of event T-shirts and swag, or just enjoy a hotdog in a beer tent when you are thoroughly exhausted, it’s something that many Buffalonians have missed since the onset of this great COVID-19 pandemic.

Well, miss it no more.

Several organizations have stepped up and gotten onboard the virtual race game, and they are taking it to the streets — any streets. Virtual races promote all the goodness of the traditional 5Ks and similar races. You are donating to a great cause; you will get a great workout, and likely end up with some cool items in your packet bag.

The difference is that you pick your own route and can invite your friends to join you on an un-crowded course.

Coming up, we have “Miles for Mercy” to support Mercy Hospital on Sept. 11-19; Run Across America scheduled for Oct. 3 which supports a variety of non-profits; and the Glen Iris in Letchworth State Park on Sept. 13 supporting the local library in Castile.

If you are looking for a bit longer trek than the 5K (3.1 miles), you can join the Mighty Niagara Hospice Dash 5K and Half-Marathon to benefit Niagara Hospice.

“We understand that this is a tough year for everybody, financially and otherwise,” said Elizabeth Deeks, special events specialist at Niagara Hospice, Inc. “We appreciate all the runners that are participating in the virtual event. You will notice that our cost is reduced from previous years. Your running date is flexible and packet pick up is scheduled for Sept. 19. That’s when you can drive through and pick up your medal, T-shirt and Mighty discount card that can be used throughout the year for discounted items locally.”

The Mighty Niagara Hospice Dash allows participants to choose a date anytime before Sept. 20 and run in isolation or with a few friends on your own course.

Formerly the Scrub Run, Miles for Mercy also changed to a flexible date and pick-your-own-course format. In addition, race organizers changed race packets to include COVID-19-friendly items such as a neck gaiter that can be used as a mask and a touch tool used for keypads at stores and banks.

They are hoping they will see some new faces at the eight-day event with the format changes.

“We normally see upwards of 300 runners in Cazenovia Park each year,” states Laura Nutty, development specialist for Mercy Hospital Foundation. “This year, we are hopeful that allowing people to run, walk, rollerblade or bike on their own course will engage new people.”

Turkey Trot featured event

The Buffalo Turkey Trot has also joined in the virtual race game. While it brags to be the longest held footrace in America and is going into its 125th year, it has opened the event up to the entire Thanksgiving weekend, allowing plenty of time to digest your dinner if you prefer to run after the turkey and football are over.

The Turkey Trot benefits services for youth at the YMCA, so again, you feel good about the wobbly legs at the end of the run.

Want to join the largest footrace in the country? The Run Across America race on Oct. 3 is when you can join thousands of others and your proceeds can be put toward the benefit of your choosing.

Without the virtual races, many of these organizations would lose funding necessary to continue their efforts. The Mighty Niagara Hospice Dash event accounts for a large portion of yearly donations which Niagara Hospice counts on to afford hospice services in the area.

Proceeds from the Miles for Mercy event help program development at Mercy Hospital, which includes COVID-19 relief efforts this year. Each runner participating in any of the races will make a difference to the area and get a great workout — two reasons to feel fabulous about partaking in the events.

Information on many of the area’s virtual races can be found at www.itsyourrace.com.

While you are there, check out the suggested routes in your local area. You can also check out www.ymcabuffaloniagara.org for information on the 125th Turkey Trot, and www.nationwiderun.org for information on the Run Across America race.

Whichever race you choose, you are sure to enjoy the fresh air and knowledge that you are contributing to many great causes in the Western New York area. And don’t forget to grill up a hotdog when your run is over. You’ve earned it.