The Laurel Run relay will feature a new wrinkle this year, with three people attempting to jog the entire 30-mile route.
The flag relay is the traditional kickoff to Laurel Run weekend, with runners starting in Jamestown and transporting a Laurel Run flag to Dunkirk. Employees of The Resource Center, representatives from area school districts and community volunteers run the various sections of the relay. Each section of the relay is between 1 mile and 3 miles in length, with some runners opting to do more than one section.
This year, three people will attempt to run the entire 30-mile relay, which begins at The Resource Center's facility at 75 Jones & Gifford Ave. in Jamestown and ends at Washington Park in Dunkirk.
Steve Waterson of West Ellicott is one of the three people trying to cover the 30 miles of the relay. Waterson, a member of the Laurel Run planning committee, said he decided to give the "Laurel-thon" a try in order to show support for event founders Wayne, Elaine and Laurel Hotelling, as well as to try to raise money for Laurel Run.
"Due to some unfortunate things that have happened in the business community, we've lost two of our sponsors," said Waterson, referring to NRG and Petri. Waterson, who's raised money for Laurel Run the past three years by doing the Laurel Run flag relay, participating in obstacle course races and running a half-marathon dressed as Peter Pan, set a goal of raising $5,000 this year, which would cover the amount of money he raised in 2012 as well as the lost sponsorship money. He figured he'd have to do something extra-ordinary if he wanted more people to support his fundraising effort this year, so he decided to try to jog the entire 30 miles of the relay run, running alongside the other relay participants.
Meanwhile, two other Western New York men also plan to run the 30-mile relay route. Paul Gavin of Dunkirk and Keith Gregoire of Williamsville will be tackling the route together. Gavin - a driving force behind the creation of the Tri Dunkirk triathlon - and Gregoire have plenty of experience competing in marathons, ultra-marathons and triathlons, and they said they're taking on the Laurel-thon for fun and because they want to support a great cause. Gavin had entertained thoughts of doing the Laurel-thon last year, and this year he and Gregoire are ready to follow through on that plan.
Waterson, noting that the three runners will face significant heat and humidity, said he's grateful Gavin and Gregoire also will be running the Laurel-thon, as that increases the likelihood someone will make it to the finish.
"I ran a marathon once, in 1999, and it was miserable - I struggled the last 10 miles, and my knees hurt for weeks afterward," Waterson said. Noting that "my legs were 14 years younger then," he anticipates that the 30-mile run will be difficult and painful, and he's not sure he has the stamina to complete it. But he hopes an oft-repeated phrase from Wayne Hotelling will keep him going.
"People complain that the Laurel Run 8K course, which is hilly, is a tough run," Waterson said, "and Wayne always counters by saying, 'People with disabilities have to live with their challenges every day of their lives; you only have to run this 8K course one day a year.' I'm hoping that perspective will help carry me to Dunkirk."
For those who would like to come out to support the three long-distance runners, Gavin and Gergoire plan to leave TRC's Michael Raymond Center on Jones & Gifford Avenue at about 6 a.m. They hope to arrive in Washington Park at about noon, when a victory celebration hosted by the city of Dunkirk will begin. Waterson will leave The Resource Center with the first group of relay runners at about 9 a.m., following a kickoff ceremony that the public is invited to attend.
The relay runners will follow a route taking them from Jones & Gifford Ave. to Eighth Street, then along Eighth Street to Main Street. Runners will then follow Route 60 north to Laona, then go through downtown Fredonia and out Central Avenue to Dunkirk. Police cruisers from various law enforcement agencies will escort the runners along the way.
The 17th annual Laurel Run continues Saturday in Silver Creek with a 5-kilometer walk, a 1K walk, an 8K run, children's fun runs, and "Laurel's Lap" (for anyone with a disability), followed by a party in the Village Square. In the afternoon there will be a motorcycle dice run.
Money raised through Laurel Run goes to Filling the Gap Inc., which works with The Resource Center to improve the lives of people with disabilities. For more information about the event, visit www.laurel-run.com.
To make a donation in support of Waterson, Gavin and Gregoire, visit firstgiving.com/fundraiser/steven-waterson/laurel-run-relay-run-2013, or send a check made payable to "FTG/Laurel Run" to Filling the Gap, 92 Fairmount Ave., Jamestown, NY 14701.