Running Club wants to improve fitness in community

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 November 2014 at 12:00 am

Group plans 3 races for 2015, including 10-mile “Metro” race pitting Rochester vs. Buffalo

Photo by Tom Rivers – Thom Jennings, left, and Brian Krieger, leaders of the Albion Running Club, are planning several races and programs to improve the fitness in the community. They are pictured at last month’s 5-kilometer race at Brown’s Berry Patch in Waterport.

ALBION – They have seen the statistics and cringed. Brian Krieger and Thom Jennings want to unleash a force to raise the county’s dismal health stats, among the worst of all 62 counties in the state.

The annual County Health Rankings ranks Orleans as the 52nd healthiest county out of 62. Orleans ranked 52nd in health outcomes, 57th in health factors, and 58th in health behaviors. In Orleans, 66 percent of adults are overweight, 41 percent in that group are obese, and 55 percent say they don’t engage in daily exercise.

Krieger and Jennings are both leaders of the Albion Running Club. They believe the non-profit organization can make an impact in the county by offering fitness programs and three races that provide goals to motivate walkers and runners.

“We want to use the sport of running to build a healthier community,” said Krieger, executive director for the Running Club.

Krieger has seen the community respond to a running program.

He teamed with Wayne Burlison and Jack Burris to spearhead a 5K “Run for God” program that took people from the couch to a 5K race in about three months. The Run for God drew nearly 100 participants in its first three years, with the runners and walkers completing the 5K Strawberry Festival course.

“There have been some unbelievable changes in people,” Krieger said.

File photo – Sheila Lemcke of Albion lost more than 100 pounds through exercise and better nutrition. She was the honorary “Strawberry” in last June’s Strawberry Festival race. She has participated in the Run for God programs.

The Albion Running Club is a 501c3 tax-exempt organization. It has organized the Strawberry Festival race recently, including the record crowd of nearly 300 runners last June.

It wants to add another race this March 28 as a memorial for Wayne Burlison, one of the founders of the Running Club. He was 36 when he died from colon cancer on March 26. Burlison was a music teacher at the Ronald L. Sodoma Elementary School.

A 5K is 3.1 miles, but the “Run for Wayne” race will be different. That run/walk will be 3.17 miles. Burlison battled cancer for 3 months and 17 days. Proceeds from the race will be used for a scholarship in Burlison’s name.

The Running Club will continue to organize the Strawberry Festival 5K/8K on the second Saturday in June. With nearly 300 runners, it’s one of the most successful small town races around. About $2,000 in profits from the race are distributed to local charities and agencies.

Krieger and Jennings, the Orleans County YMCA executive director, believe the race could grow to 500 participants. That would mean more money to share with local causes and more people working on their fitness goals. Jennings has experience promoting concerts and events. He is the communications director for the Running Club.

Krieger and Jennings connected in May after Krieger read an article on the Orleans Hub about Jennings running a marathon with his son. Jennings took up running about three years ago and lost more than 100 pounds.

Krieger and Burlison were running partners. They trained for a marathon together. Burlison lost more than 150 pounds through exercise and nutrition. Krieger saw similarities between Burlison and Jennings.

Provided photo – Wayne Burlison started running in 2008 and completed a marathon and several half marathons. He was one of the founders of the Albion Running Club.

Krieger was also intrigued by a comment that Jennings made in the Orleans Hub article. Jennings saw Albion as an ideal host for a mega-race, a long distance run that would draw Buffalo and Rochester runners.

The two had coffee and together they brainstormed the “Metro 10,” a 10-mile race planned for Aug. 22. They expect at least 1,000 runners. Each runner will pick a side: either Rochester or Buffalo. Finishers will score points for either metro area and overall winner will be named with Buffalo or Rochester taking home a trophy.

The Running Club has a promotional video (click here) for the race and is working on more video vignettes to promote the event. (There will be one featuring chicken wings vs. Garbage Plates.)

Many races typically present medals to the top finisher or the top three in each age group. That leaves a lot of people unrecognized. With the Metro 10, every runner will have an impact on their community’s overall score.

“Even if you’re not an elite runner, you can feel part of the competition,” Jennings said. “Albion makes sense as the host for the race. We’re centrally located.”

The Metro 10 course is tentatively laid out to showcase the historic Courthouse Square, the downtown, some of the fruit orchards, the canal towpath and the rural landscapes. The race will end at Bullard Park in a festival-like atmosphere with bands.

Jennings believes the Metro 10 will show off Albion’s assets to the running community. Some of them may like what they see and move to the Albion area, Jennings said.

File photo – Runners take off at the start of the Strawberry Festival Race last June, when about 300 people completed the course.

“These marathons and events can turn a community around,” Jennings said. “They will see our great real estate that is low-priced. They will see people in a friendly environment. It’s an opportunity in my mind for Albion to be a host community. We can be ambassadors of the county.”

Krieger and Jennings know a 10-mile race can be a big draw, and be the foundation to build other fitness programs. Krieger has met the leader of the Crim Fitness Foundation, which organizes a festival of races every August in Flint, Mich. The races started in 1977 to promote fitness in the community. (Click here for more on the Crim Foundation.)

The event draws 50,000 people to Flint, and has led to several year-round programs. Krieger sees the Crim Fitness Foundation as the ultimate model for Albion and Orleans County.

The Running Club plans to offer a “Fit in 50” program throughout the year. The Running Club has applied for grants to help pay for some of the fitness initiatives. It already has secured some sponsors for the Metro 10.

Krieger works in regional sales for the hydraulic fluid industry. He wants to engage more community partners to promote health and wellness in the community.

“if you want to change the community, which is in desperate need, then people must step up and do something,” he said.

For more information about sponsoring, volunteering or teaming with the Albion Running Club, contact Krieger at585-590-0955 or email

For more on the Albion Running Club, click here.

Editor’s Note: Tom Rivers is on the board of directors for the Running Club.