As part of this year's Laurel Run, three men are preparing to embark on a journey that will test their physical and mental toughness they will attempt to complete the 30-mile "Laurel-thon" on Friday.
Paul Gavin, Keith Gregoire and Joseph Kolinsky are the three hardy souls who intend to run from Jamestown to Dunkirk. Gavin and Gregoire conquered the Laurel-thon last year, while this will be Kolinsky's first attempt.
The idea for the Laurel-thon came from the annual Laurel Run Flag Relay, in which area students and other volunteers take turns transporting Laurel Run flags from Jamestown to Dunkirk. The flag relay always takes place the day before the main Laurel Run events in Silver Creek.
Keith Gregoire, left, and Paul Gavin pose before setting off on the inaugural Laurel-thon last year.
"I had heard of Laurel Run for years and wondered if anyone had ever tried to run the whole distance from Jamestown to Dunkirk," said Gavin. "I thought it would be a challenge and would raise awareness to the effort behind the run and the race."
"I love the challenge of doing marathons and ultra-marathons," said Gregoire. "And if I can do a long training run and possibly bring some attention to a worthwhile cause, then that's even better."
Gregoire is from Amherst and is a civil engineer with the New York State Department of Transportation, while Gavin is from Dunkirk and also works for the state DOT. Both men recall experiencing miserable conditions during last year's Laurel-thon.
"It was in the upper 80s, warm, humid and sunny. We just took it slow and did a lot of hydrating, and we made it," said Gregoire.
"Last year was extremely hot and humid. I lost 15 pounds during the run. The course is hilly. We did great the first 15 miles into Cassadaga. From there to Fredonia was the most difficult," said Gavin. "I called my wife and asked if she could bring me a frozen slushy, but she was not able to. I had to break into the beer cooler and I had to drink one down just to bring my body temperature down. From there, it turned into a long day. Once we got to Dunkirk, it was great to know we were almost done."
Unlike last year, the pair will have company this time, as Bronx native Kolinsky will be joining the pack.
"My friend Amy Pease participated in Laurel Run last year and raved about it and asked me if I had any interest in running the Laurel-thon," said Kolinsky. "I said 'absolutely' and then thought to ask how far it is."
Kolinsky is a compliance officer for an investment adviser in New York City and currently lives in Manhattan. He's flying out to western New York the day before the Laurel-thon, and if running 30 miles doesn't sap all of his energy, he intends to participate in the Laurel Run 8-kilometer race the following day.
"I've only attempted one ultra-marathon distance before and I failed, so this run gives me a chance to redeem myself a bit," said Kolinsky of the Laurel-thon. "After reading about Laurel Run's genesis and how all the charitable donations go to help improve the lives of people with disabilities, I feel like the meaning of the run will help keep my legs going on race day. I just want to help raise money and awareness for a good cause."
The trio has spent countless hours preparing for the challenging run from Chautauqua County's only southern city to its only northern one.
"We run three or four times a week and bike as well. Both of us have kids, and it's hard to do as much training as we should," said Gavin of himself and Gregoire. "I have a saying 'You can take all of the pain in little training sessions, or you can take it all in one day.'"
"Just do a long run (14 to 18 miles) and a semi-long run (10 to 13 miles) once or twice per month," said Gregoire of his training regimen.
"I try to find some time each day to train, as I usually am working toward one goal or another. I am not fast by any stretch of the imagination," said Kolinsky. "I am really built for comfort, not speed. But I am stubborn, and that's an attribute that I rely on to get me through events like this. "
All three men agree that Laurel Run plays an important role in the community.
"The Laurel-thon, the relay, and all of the Saturday events combine not only to raise needed funds but raise awareness that there are facilities and organizations for people that need assistance, and there are a lot of people who want to help out," said Gregoire.
"I think it highlights the efforts that The Resource Center, and Laurel's family and families like theirs, go through each day and with each issue they face," said Gavin. "There are challenges and there are achievements. The challenges may be harder, and in that achievement, they may be more rewarding."
"I think it's important for communities to rally around events like Laurel Run, mainly because of the positive message that Saturday's events send. Events like this serve as evidence to the fact that a person can do anything that he or she sets their mind to," said Kolinsky.
Despite the challenge, the runners remain hopeful they can keep up with one another. They invite others to lace up their sneakers and take part.
"We would love to have more people join us this year and be able to raise more funds for The Resource Center," said Gavin.
If you're interested in joining them for all or part of the run, or if you just want to wish them luck, the trio will set off at about 6 a.m. from The Resource Center's Michael J. Raymond Center, 75 Jones & Gifford Avenue. They'll leave Jamestown and follow Route 60 to Laona, then come through downtown Fredonia and out Central Avenue to Dunkirk before finishing at Washington Park, where a victory celebration will be held to congratulate them and the main relay. Based on weather conditions, the runners should arrive at Washington Park between noon and 1 p.m.
The main relay run will begin at about 9 a.m., following an informal kickoff breakfast at The Resource Center (anyone from the community is invited to attend). The highlight of the relay occurs once the flags reach Fredonia, as from there, employees of the Lakeview Shock Incarceration Facility will lead a large group of runners to the finish line, jogging in cadence. This last group of relay runners likely will arrive at Washington Park at about 1:30 p.m.
If you'd like to take part in the relay or simply want to know more about it, contact Steve Waterson at 661-4735.
The Laurel Run planning committee has created a fund-raising web page to collect donations in support of the three men who will undertake the Laurel-thon. To make an online donation, go to www.firstgiving.com/trcfoundation and click on the "Team Laurel-thon" link. If you'd prefer to mail a donation, send a check made payable to Filling the Gap, Inc., to Filling the Gap, 92 Fairmount Ave., Jamestown 14701.