Disclosure: I received a free entry to the Buffalo Marathon because I am a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. It’s a great way to help race directors see what is working and what needs improvement, and to help other runners find out what a race is really like.
Flying to Buffalo from California takes ALL DAY. I finally landed in Buffalo at 4ish, met Dad at the airport, and the adventure began! I wish I’d taken a picture of the injured butterfly I attempted to help (by moving it from laying in the middle of the sidewalk to resting in a patch of tall grass). We headed to the Hyatt, the host hotel for the Buffalo Marathon races, and I promptly took a nap. Side note, the Hyatt was pretty great! They were totally ready for the deluge of runners, and really friendly.
VIP Reception. When I woke up, Dad and I went down to the VIP reception, where I finally met race director Greg Weber in person. I also got to meet Liam, who was one of the race team members that facilitated the interview with Meb. I was otherwise a little too exhausted–why does flying make me soooo tired??–to be social, and since so many of the guests seemed to be catching up with each other, I didn’t want to intrude. (Translation: rats! Missed a selfie with Bart Yasso!) Dad enjoyed the Mile 27, a beer brewed only for the Buffalo Marathon, and I had a glass of wine, before we headed out to dinner. (There were snacks at the reception, but nothing grabbed me as dinner.)
Dinner. I fixated on the idea of getting a burrito, and Dad and I set out to walk over to the burrito joint. I somehow missed the turn, and we ended up walking through the historic theatre district where just a few of Buffalo’s gorgeous building live. Once I realized my mistake we circled back, and as soon as I saw Prima Pizza Pasta I wanted pizza. I had a more than sufficiently large calzone. Dad ordered “two tacos” which was really like “two burritos.” Basically we weren’t carb-loading, we were everything-loading.
Crashing. After the somewhat obligatory “flat me” photo and otherwise setting out race stuff, Dad and I were both asleep at record speed. This is what happens when I get up for a 6:20 a.m. flight on the west coast.
Morning came to early, as it always does on race day. We aimed to be picking up bibs before 7, so we would have plenty of time to walk back to the hotel, stash our shirts, and eat a little (and drink another bottle of Nuun) before the race. It was already heating up, and I started to sweat on the barely-two-blocks walk to the convention center. The pre-race emails had warned that Buffalo was expecting unusually hot weather for race weekend, and since heat knocks me down pretty quickly, I was worried about overheating and dehydration.
Pre-race. There was a single corral, with runners self-seeding into what seemed to be the appropriate areas. I saw a lot of kids, which made me happy–not only do I love the idea that a kid could find out they love running early in life, but pretty much all the kids running were there with their parents. There seemed to be a good mix of newer runners, walkers, Team RWB, marathon and half-marathon runners doing a shake-out run, families, and charity teams.
Race! The race started at 8:30. While the lack of corrals meant we all started in a clump, because the runners were pretty good at self-seeding, there wasn’t a lot of shuffling or down time after crossing the starting line.
For those familiar with Buffalo, the course started on the Pearl Street side of the Convention Center, eventually crossed to Franklin Street, went to Barker St., and turned down Delaware, eventually cutting through Niagara Square and finishing on the Franklin Street side of the Convention Center. There were plenty of people out cheering, and a crowd of volunteers directing traffic and doing the usual race day things.
For those NOT familiar with Buffalo, the course makes a big ol’ box around a portion of downtown. The course runs by a bunch of the beautiful buildings in Buffalo, the kind that make you look at the architecture and think, “Wow, they do not build buildings like this anymore.” The trees are lush and green, too!
There was very little elevation. Basically there was a low-grade up-hill on the way out, and a low-grade downhill on the way back. The course was suitable for even the most non-technical runner. The 5k also provided a nice preview of the marathon finish, as the downhill piece leading to the finish line was the same for both races.
Like most 5k races, there was one aid station. Given the unusually hot weather, it would have been nice to have two, but it was only a 5k so it wasn’t a big deal. When I finished the race, everything I was wearing was drenched, and it wasn’t from dumping water on myself!
Breakfast/Brunch at the Hyatt. A shower was NOT optional prior to eating. (Seriously, I could smell the other runners at the finish line. It was gross hot.) My room rate included breakfast (though not all do), which was either from the menu or the buffet. The buffet had the usual buffet-type breakfast foods–cold cereal, yogurt and Greek yogurt with toppings, pastries and bread, fruit, cheese, eggs, potatoes, bacon, waffles, sausage–and also included cooked-to-order omelets, pancakes, and hot oatmeal (with toppings!). Despite having only run 5k I was really, really hungry and made full use of the buffet, plus an omelet!
Expo. Packet pickup was a breeze. The layout had bibs and shirts behind one set of registration tables, with several stations (sorted by bib number) staffed by volunteers. I love that each race has a different shirt, and that the half marathon shirt says “half marathon” on it. (As a mostly half-marathoner, I love it when the race treats the half marathon as its own event. Most of the time the shirts say “race series” or “marathon and half marathon” or sometimes just “marathon.”) Race bibs had attached timing chips, and the ID sticker indicated whether the volunteer should hand over a wooden nickel which served as the pasta party ticket.
Given the size of the race and the venue, the expo was a decent size. I’d estimate there were 40 booths covering race sponsors, other races, and running-related products. There were also multiple tables with information on upcoming races in the area which made me a little jealous since I can’t exactly fly across the country for races all the time–plus there were multiple races over the border in Canada! I’m sure the opportunities dry up in winter, but I could easily have planned an entire summer and fall of races based just on the booths and flyers.
While I always look at the shoes (you never know when you might score a deal on your favorites), sadly there were no Brooks waiting for me to find them. I picked up an extra tube of Nuun, since I had started slurping it on Friday and only had a few tablets left. I was glad to find HB Tune, as I was well on the way to wearing out my second HB Tune, plus my new iPhone was a tight fit. Turns out there is an updated design that can switch between right and left hands AND has a quick release so you can whip out your phone and snap pictures. Win! New to me is the TreadBand, a non-slip sweatwicking headband that ties (kind of like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle headband, only not intended to go on your eyes). TreadBands have a strip of yoga-mat-like material firmly attached, positioned so you tie that piece on your forehead before you tie the band. Since I always run with a hat and a half-Buff this won’t be a running accessory for me, but I’m excited to see if that strip also helps keep sweat out of my eyes during hot yoga!
Oh, and the Expo also had a stellar speakers line-up! Appearing live at the expo were Bart Yasso (Chief Running Officer, Runners’ World); DeAnna Bennett (an MMA fighter!), Misy Diaz (a Spartan Race runner whose cause is spina bifida), Molly Barker (Founder of Girls on the Run), and Lisa Howard (an ultra runner who is also a coach with Team RWB). The one and only Meb Keflezighi also appeared by livestream, complete with Q&A! If you have any doubt this was a world-class event, that should banish it!
Tour. One of the neat things the Buffalo Marathon has to offer is an open-bus tour of the course. I had hoped to do this but it didn’t work out–in part because I didn’t figure out how to get tickets until the day of, and in part because they only had one bus so it sold out! I’m hoping that next year there will either be two buses or two time options. One of the things that is so cool about Buffalo is that all sorts of history happened there–the War of 1812 (which, it turns out, was really fought in 1813), the assassination of president McKinley–and there are monuments and historic sites everywhere. That’s in addition to the magnificent architecture in every style (a little Victorian here, a little Beaux-Arts there, some Art Deco here, classic brick work over there). Next year, I’m on that bus.
In lieu of the bus tour, Dad and I took the streetcar down to Canalside, along with John (co-host of the Runner of a Certain Age podcast). Canalside is a newer development in the Buffalo scene, and includes the Liberty Hound brew pub and restaurant, a military museum, and three museum ships. There is a place to rent pedal-boats and remote controlled model boats, and a large park that was filled with a carnival while we were there. It was super hot, as I think I’ve mentioned, so we took a quick look around and then headed back.
Pasta Dinner. For most races I skip the pasta dinner. I’m really glad I didn’t skip this one! Dinner was at the convention center and consisted of food service catered salad mix, pasta, meatballs or chicken, rolls, and cookies. The pasta sauce had a nice zing to it without being overly spicy, and since I don’t eat meat I was able to talk them into a slightly bigger pasta serving. The meal also included beverages (various soft drinks, ice water with citrus slices, and Mile 27 beer). There were 600 seats, and Team RWB was out in full force.
The evening also included a welcome by race director Greg Weber (one of our guests on the Runner of a Certain Age), a raffle to win a Buffalo Bills jersey signed by Meb (proceeds to Meb’s charitable foundation), and a course preview.
The course preview was reason alone to attend. Steve Gonser, physical therapist and founder of RunSmartOnline.com, gave the presentation. (If you tuned in for any of the pre-race webinars on training and injury prevention, Steve hosted those too.) Most course previews are just a quick-speed film of the course with a few comments on the elevation. Not this one. While Steve did show video, he really focused on giving