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JUNE 16 - JUNE 24, 2015

It's Official: Run for the Rapids 5K Race Invalidated,
Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association Faulted

By James Hufnagel

JUNE 16, 2015

For those who want to wear their medals proudly on their chest, please consider chiseling off the 5K and make that a 4.9k race.
Fleet of foot: When they saw his blazingly fast time, Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo was likened to a laser beam on the 5K course, but who wouldn't be, given its three football field-plus shortened length?
Speed Demon: City Council Chairman Andy Touma leads the entire pack in the Run for the Rapids. His elation at setting a breathtakingly fast time for the 5k race may have been dampened somewhat when he found out that he ran a 4.9k race.

The Niagara Falls Reporter has obtained confirmation from a representative of USA Track and Field, Inc., the national governing body for track & field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States, that the May 16 Run for the Rapids 5K race in Niagara Falls, sponsored by the Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association (DNFBA), fell short of its advertised distance, thus invalidating all times posted by competitors in the race.

A communication from Jeff John, a national race course certifier for USA Track and Field’s Road Running Technical Council (RRTC), makes clear that not only was the race course inadequate, but race organizers at the DNFBA erred badly in changing the route without informing either the sanctioning group or prospective runners.

Although a 5K circuit through downtown Niagara Falls had been measured and certified in previous years, the construction upgrade of the south Robert Moses Parkway necessitated a change in this year's route and the DNFBA redrew a new course, meandering through city streets, and neglected to update race materials and websites as to the change.

"We were unaware of the new, uncertified course used this year. Consequently, I was made an unwitting participant in this major foul-up," stated USATF's John. "We are alarmed to discover that on the 2015 registration form (created and distributed by the DNFBA) there is a USATF Sanction logo deliberately placed in the upper left corner of the course map," he continues, "This may be innocent, but it is effectively misleading."

"One thing that used to occur often and we fought it, was when race directors, either intentionally or inadvertently, would mislead the runners by asserting that they had a 'USATF Sanctioned Course'... This verbiage was used when a race had acquired the inexpensive and easy to acquire USATF Sanction, but did not bother to have an accurate USATF certified course. When BuffaloRunners (the local affiliate of USATF) sees that, we overtly brand the race as "NOT CERTIFIED" on the calendar."

That's exactly what the Business Association did, claiming "sanction", which implies a validly-measured and certified course. An official brochure for the 2015 Run for the Rapids, available at its website, promotes the race as a "USA Track & Field Sanctioned Event which benefits the Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association".

In response, and what may be regarded as the closest it will come to a punitive action, BuffaloRunners has changed the Run for the Rapids entry in its list of Western New York road races. Sticking out like a sore thumb on the web page, frequently visited by thousands of runners in the region and beyond, the Niagara Falls race entry now bears the large scarlet letter, "NOT CERTIFIED".

The Reporter first became suspicious of the race when several runners turned in stellar times, far surpassing those of a previous race a mere three weeks earlier along the Niagara Gorge (see May 26 Reporter, "Dreadful 5K Race Features Carbon Monoxide, Gay Slur, Politician").

The Reporter estimated that the race was 100 yards short of its advertised 5k distance.

According to USATF/RRTC, the course was even shorter than we estimated.

"We conducted a virtual measure with our GIS and we believe the actual distance is 2.87 miles (4.62 km), so we agree with your assessment that it is very short," Jeff John wrote. "It appears to be 380 meters short... It has become unusual in our region for races to fail to use a properly measured course."

Ninety-two runners from Western New York, Canada, Ohio, and elsewhere, paid a $25 entry fee, and got up early on a Saturday morning to journey to Niagara Falls to participate in what was in reality a falsely advertised “sanctioned” 5k race.

This race was sponsored by an organization that claims to represent the downtown Niagara Falls business community.

While the race was held for fundraising for that organization, and some runners may wish to let their entry fee remain with DNFBA to serve the purpose for which it was elicited, other runners may wish for a full refund.

The Reporter suggests that the DNFBA, which lists on its website as members the Aquarium of Niagara, the Hard Rock Cafe, the NCCC Culinary Institute, USA Niagara Development Corp., the City of Niagara Falls, the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation and the Niagara Falls Conference and Convention Center, among others, should promptly issue refunds to those who request it and issue a written apology and an assurance that safeguards will be put in place next year in order that the mistakes made this year will not reoccur.





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©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina