finnmccoolBy Alicia Dziak 

Now that ski season has ended and spring is finally making an appearance, everyone is looking for snow-free ways to enjoy the outdoors.

Even if you’re not a runner in the traditional sense of the word, you can enjoy the diverse lineup of races scheduled around Ellicottville throughout the next few months.

One of the most anticipated races is the Irish-themed Finn McCool, boasting a slogan of “Every Day is St. Patrick’s Day.” This party race takes place June 1 at Griffis Sculpture Park in Ashford. The park has teamed with Eclipse Multi Sport to present a four-mile course loaded with challenging obstacles, difficult terrain and a mud pit at the finish.

“A couple years ago, we noticed the industry changing to these ‘fun runs’ and wanted to do something locally,” said Dan Horan, 44, from Eclipse Multi Sport, who, along with his wife Anne and his late father, came up with the idea for the Finn McCool.

Horan’s father was born and raised in Ireland where he learned about Finn McCool, a popular character in Irish folklore. He recalls many conversations with his father about creating an Irish-themed race and it seemed natural to incorporate the character. Horan and his father bounced around ideas about the obstacles, and before long, the Finn McCool 4 Mile Odyssey was born.

Now in its third year in Western New York, the race has moved from its 2012 location of Cazenovia Park to Griffis Sculpture Park.

“My family attended the annual snowshoe hike at Griffis this winter, and after we trekked the property, we thought it would make a great new location for the race,” Horan said. “We were looking for a bigger venue that held more people, and it was a great fit because we are both community-minded organizations.”

With 2,000 participants last year, the organizers hope for 2,500-3,000 this year.

Obstacles include the Celtic Climb, Slip ‘n Slide, Cargo Chaos, Monkey Bars, Terrible Tubes, Leprechaun Leap, Pond Scum, Hay Pyramid, Run The Plank and Mud Madness, plus two new ones, which won’t be revealed until race day.

“I love the element of surprise!” said Horan.

This is the first race of its kind held at Griffis.

“The unique setting of the park regularly attracts art lovers and nature lovers, and we’re hoping this event will also bring in those who enjoy physical activity, so they can experience the park and all it has to offer,” said Nila Griffis, executive director of Griffis Sculpture Park. “We’re looking forward to a great turnout and hope to continue these kinds of events in the future.”

The $70 registration fee includes a variety of Finn McCool goodies including a T-shirt and a custom finisher glass, plus food and beverages post-race, and the all-important hose down after the event.  There’s also a Lil’ Finn Kids Run that begins at 8:30 a.m. and includes 5-7 obstacles over a one-mile span. Registration fee for the kids’ race is $20 pre-registration ($25 race day) and includes a finisher medal and T-shirt.

Although the race is timed, it’s not highly competitive, so it’s a great way to get some exercise and have fun.

“What I love about this race is that you can be a good runner or just a weekend runner, and you still have the same experience,” Horan said. “Whereas in a traditional 5K, runners train and have a general idea of what their final time will be, in the Finn McCool, you have no idea of how well you’ll do since you don’t know what to expect from the obstacles. This takes out the competitive nature of it and brings out the camaraderie. Runners are helping other runners though the obstacles, and everyone is having a blast.”

Still not sure if this race is for you? Unlike other national companies that bring races in and then distribute the proceeds in other cities and states, Eclipse Multi Sport is a local company that stays focused on Western New York. This year’s charitable partners include Griffis Sculpture Park and The Essex Street Arts Center (an art complex located on Buffalo’s West Side that was started by Larry Griffis, Jr. in 1969).

The race begins on the Mill Valley Road site, and overflow parking will be available on the Rohr Hill site, with shuttles running between the two. Carpooling is encouraged.

Serious runners and casual runners alike can appreciate a fun time for a great cause, and since Griffis Sculpture Park is located off Route 219 between Ellicottville and Springville, this unique event is happening practically in our own backyard.

To get in on the fun, visit or

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