Sweltering start

Three Western New York natives took on a challenging feat Friday morning – to run 30 miles from Jamestown to Dunkirk – for a good cause.

The annual Laurel Run weekend was kicked off by the 30-mile relay leaving from The Resource Center in Jamestown carrying the Laurel Run flags to Washington Park in Dunkirk. Community members, high school teams, staff of TRC and others all took part in the relay – running either one or three miles- and took turns carrying the flag. Paul Gavin of Dunkirk, Keith Gregoire of Amherst and Steve Waterson of TRC all set out to run the entire 30-mile distance. Gavin and Gregoire did run the entire distance, while Waterson split up the journey between running and biking.

“We thought it would be a challenge and we knew nobody had done it (before),” said Gavin. “We thought it’d be a good thing to do for the Laurel Run and the Hotelling (family).”

It took Gregoire 6 hours and 45 minutes to run while Gavin completed the run in about 7 hours and 15 minutes. Gavin said the heat was a battle, forcing the pair to walk in between running. Both men used Waterson’s fundraising page and all three raised $1,500 combined. Waterson ran the very beginning of the journey, rode his bike for over 20 miles and then ran the final leg.

“It was hot and humid. I kept up with the relay runners for the first 5 miles. I took a break in the car in the air conditioning to cool off and didn’t see them again,” Waterson said.

Waterson said he now has incentive to try to complete the full 30-mile run next year. Waterson has been raising money over the last few years in various ways. He said the relay race is a “great way to kick off Laurel Run weekend.”

“The last three years I’ve tried to do some different things to raise money. The last year I ran a half marathon dressed as Peter Pan,” Waterson said.

Running the last leg of the relay were members of the Drill Instruction team for the Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility. Scott Rauch, drill instructor, said employees from the correctional facility have been participating in the relay run for many years but this year the temperatures were hotter than most.

“It was very hot out today. The breeze was good though,” said Rauch. “We’ve been doing it for a while. It’s getting bigger, the groups are getting bigger.”

The runners came into Washington Park bearing the flags which were handed off to Laurel Hotelling at the finish. Rauch said he enjoys passing the flags on to Laurel and to see her excitement.

“It’s a great experience to see Laurel with a smile on her face when we hand her the flags. It’s very emotional for everybody. It’s great to see,” he said.

Laurel Run founder and Laurel’s father, Wayne Hotelling, said the event Friday was one of the most successful they’ve had, even in the scorching heat. Dunkirk Mayor Anthony J. Dolce was unable to attend the annual event due to illness, according to his secretary Carol Oliveira.

“(Mayor Dolce) was disappointed he couldn’t come today due to illness,” she said.

Oliveira said the event is a great cause and wanted to express thanks to G&E Tents, Fieldbrook Farms and American Legion Post 62 for their help with the event and added the city looks forward to the annual event each year.

The Laurel Run will continue today with a 5k walk and 1K fun walk both starting at 8:30 a.m. An 8k run will start at 9 a.m. and a children’s fun run will start at 10:15 a.m. with Laurel’s lap starting at 10:25 a.m. Registration will start at 7 a.m. For more information, visit www.laurel-run.com.

Comments on this article may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com.