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ON THE SCENE: Lake Placid Classic celebrates 50 years of running

Lake Placid Classic runner Sylvia Hodel receives a medal from Cole, left, and Narayan. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

One of the late Dr. Robert “Doc” Lopez’s most enduring legacies is getting people in the North Country to run for the sheer joy and health benefits. The results of that effort were on full display Saturday, Oct. 9, when more than 400 people took to the streets to run in the Lake Placid Classic, a combination half-marathon and 10K run founded by Lopez 50 years ago.

Lopez, who had veterinary hospitals in Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Westport and, with his wife Marjorie founded the North Country SPCA, was out jogging the roads and byways of his three communities when few, if any others, did as well. He ran daily, completing between five and 15 miles as his busy schedule allowed.

Lopez also competed in more than 65 marathons, including the 50-mile JFK Maryland Marathon, and was one of the 52 torchbearers for the 1980 Winter Olympics. Initially, the Lake Placid Classic began as a full and a half-marathon with the full starting in Paul Smiths and the half in Saranac Lake, finishing in Lake Placid. In 1983, Butch Martin and the North Elba Park District took over organizing the race with the course laid out in and around the village.

In 2012, leadership was passed on to a group of volunteers who renamed it the Lake Placid Classic Half Marathon and 10K, shifting the focus to raising funds to benefit local youth programs such as CYC, Connecting Youth and Community of Lake Placid and Wilmington.

“The Classic benefits local youth organizations, which includes CYC for the last nine years,” said race coordinator Rick Preston. “We’ve donated over $60,000 to CYC. What do I get out of the Classic? Fatigue, anxiety, really nothing monetarily in that this is a 100% volunteer effort. I love watching everybody smile. Out on the course, everybody is waving and having a great time.”

These volunteers are Clara Boutelle, Kai McKinnon, Parker Scanio, Lake Placid Middle-High School librarian Kaitlin, Calvin Branchaud and Aidan Fay. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

“The Classic is huge for CYC,” said Tina Clark, CYC coordinator. “Without them, we couldn’t do anything. The proceeds of this race fund our programs pretty much for the year. We put the money right back into the community through our after-school program at the middle-high school as well as our mini-grants that supports groups of students trying to make this community a better place.”

The result of the race being an all-volunteer organized event to benefit youth programs and inspire people to stay healthy through running is that the Classic has a community spirit that few others can match outside school athletic competitions. Activities like the Rotary Club’s Dam Duck Race and the annual spring cleanup certainly have that community engagement, but in terms of athletic events, the Classic is unique.

“This the first time two of my three daughters have raced in the Classic,” said Cheryl Megliore. “The first time they participated in any race was last month; the Lake Placid Marathon. They did the half marathon. For this race, because they both have to work this afternoon, they are only doing the 10K. They are both athletic. They both hike and play sports. I don’t know why they run, but I’m here cheering them on; that’s what I do.”

“We did the half marathon last month,” said daughter Melanie. “So, I made Alexis do this one as well.”

“Melanie forced me,” said her sister Alexis. “I agreed because she said we could do the 10K and not the half. I liked it, so I’ll probably run again.

Cheryl Megliore poses with her daughters Melanie, left, and Alexis. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

People run for a variety of reasons.

“I run because I have four children, and I need to keep myself sane,” said Jeanine Staples. “After running, I can go back and be a better mom. Also, after running, my mind is clearer. It improves my fitness, and I feel happy. We like to race here because Lake Placid is beautiful in the fall.”

Longtime runner Laura Holmes, who volunteered this year with her daughter Kairiss, said she runs as a means of staying in shape. She feels that it clears her mind, and, for her, it’s fun. She also likes the simplicity; all she needs is a pair of sneakers. She loves that it’s a form of exercise one can do throughout one’s life.

Sylvia Hodel, of Honeoye Falls, loved being greeted by two young boys who handed her a medal after crossing the finish line.

“They are cuties,” Hodel said. “Their beautiful smiles brighten my day.”

Laura Holmes and daughter Kairiss volunteer at the Lake Placid Classic. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

“Puppies are also cuties,” said Cole, one of the two boys. “We’re volunteering because we like volunteering. We volunteer at Ironman and all kinds of races.”

“I like giving them a medal because since they finished, they deserve an award,” said his friend Narayan.

“We like supporting the runners and the community,” said Narayan’s mom Jessica Bosco. “I like having the children involved because I think it keeps them active and showing support for all the work people put into the race whether they’re running for the first done or have been in a million races.”

Volunteers help for a multitude of reasons. Volunteers at one aid station were members of a new organization, Sober Active Recovery Adirondacks (SARA), founded four months ago by longtime CYC board member and Prevention Team Executive Director Doug Terbeek. SARA is an outdoor fitness program based in Essex County that provides alternatives to people in recovery. Outdoor activities include hiking, biking, yoga, gym fitness programs and field trips.

“We connect the rooms to the real world, so to speak, to the natural environment,” said SARA coordinator Casey King, who is also in recovery.

SARA volunteers supported the participants and cheered on one of their members, Molly Wisser, who won her 10K age division.

Others giving support were Lake Placid Middle-High School librarian Kaitlin Patenaude and Lake Placid Central students Clara Boutelle, Kai McKinnon, Parker Scanio, Calvin Branchaud and Aidan Fay.

“I’m volunteering because I like to help out with races, and I like to see people run, people who love the sport of running,” said Fay. “Plus, I love running.”

“I love seeing everyone in the community,” said Patenaude. “As this race benefits the school, we’re here helping out and supporting future trips by the class of 2025 as well as the many things we do for each class.”

(Naj Wikoff lives in Keene Valley. He has been covering events for the News for more than 15 years.)