Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Buffalo Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews! All opinions are my own.
The Buffalo Marathon was my first destination race and one that I had marked on my calendar for quite some time. Buffalo was a 3.5 hour drive and provided many options for additional sightseeing if that is your thing. How could you not want to partake in seeing one of the seven wonders of the world, Niagara Falls? The race falls on Memorial Day so allows for families or runners to make a long weekend out of it and enjoy all that Buffalo has to offer. I will dive into the extras that all races offer, which sometimes can be the deciding factor when registering. Therefore, stealing from The Buffalo Marathon, “The Race Awaits!!!“
I felt that the expo was very well organized and provided an equal amount of race gear and race promoters. The packet pick up was easily identified, where awesome volunteers were handing out your race swag. This is where you picked up your token to the Pasta Party if optioned. Throughout the expo you could find several photo ops were with the Buffalo Marathon logo to show off that race bib. This was the first time that I spent an extra amount of time at an expo and was mainly in part to the star-studded line up of speakers. Anywhere from self-motivators to past Olympians!
• Bart Yasso
• Melissa Kahn
• Fitz Koehler
• Jeff Galloway
• Tim Kaufman
Unfortunately due to a late start in my travels I missed fellow BibRavePro Melissa Kahn speaking, bummer. The highlights of the day where listening to Bart Yasso speak about running the Bare Buns 5k!!! Joking aside Bart has been an inspiration to many runners, including myself! Next it was to listen to Fitz speak about strength training for runners. Talk about a segment that I needed to hear, as strength training is one aspect of my running that is non-existent! I look forward to embarking on a new journey that will have me looking at faster times and a BQ. I finished up the evening at the Pasta party where we were treated to Pasta, with a variety of sauces, meatballs or chicken, rolls or fresh bread, and a salad that was better than any salad bar I’ve seen. A wide variety of beverages were served, including Mile 27 the beer and brewed for the marathon. To finish it off coffee and desserts were on hand! Great way to spend pre-race day!
Swag: The swag in my opinion was top notch. I particularly like the 1/4 zip race shirt. The colors just stood out and one that I could find myself wearing outside of racing. The medals across the board were amazing looking and featured a Buffalo holding an American Flag (see picture). An additional swag item for those running the marathon was a key chain (Buffalo head) symbolizing your achievement of conquering 26.2 miles.
Parking Access: Parking was not an issue for the Expo or on Race Day from what I could tell. I purchased a race weekend parking pass for $25, as my hotel was about 1.5 miles from the start and finish lines. I did not feel like having to walk after running the full. I was a bit concerned as race guide mentioned roads closing at 5am, but arrived at my parking spot, less than a .25 mile and was surprised to see the lot not full. Free parking was also offered in a parking deck about .5 miles away. No issues here.
Race Management: Talk about knocking your socks off. Race Management by far was the most organized I’ve seen in a while. Greg Weber and team seemed to have all the details planned for any surprises that possibly could have been encountered. Additionally, I felt informed over the five months while waiting for race day. The social media team was very engaging and posted about the race frequently!
Now on to what you all have been waiting to hear about….The Race!
Another thing I like about the race is the start time…6:30am! Allows a start with cooler weather and most of all me finishing without feeling it took a good part of the day. Even only with starting 30 mins prior to most races. I arrived as runners started converging on downtown Buffalo for a Sunday morning race. Cool temps and sunny skies. The music was rocking and race announced Fitz Koehler was interacting with the crowd! 6:30 approached and the corrals started to fill. Sooner before you knew it the National Anthem was being sang and ended with a firework display! Racers were off…
Course Scenery: I truly enjoyed this course as you started off leaving downtown Buffalo into a residential area. Crowd support lined the streets and were very energetic. You made a turn at mile 3 and headed back downtown to once again a large crowd. Around mile 6 you headed out towards the run along the lake. A cool breeze and if you didn’t pay attention could catch yourself gazing off into the water. Once again around mile 11 you headed back towards the downtown area, running by Key Bank arena, home of the Buffalo Sabers. Next you headed back towards the half marathon finish, where is marathoners headed back out towards Delaware Park. Finally finishing up you turned and made your way back to the finish downtown. The scenery was a variety of landmarks in Buffalo, upscale residential areas and the Lakefront. The crowd support was wild and one that I expected after reading previous reviews and know why this race sells out on a regular basis!
Aid Stations: The aid stations were staffed by volunteers who were amazing. For me volunteers can give you an added lift when you are struggling and needing a pick me up. Water stations for the first 13 miles were spaced out every two miles and offered water and Gatorade. You knew exactly what you were getting as a volunteer was positioned before you hit the station providing instructions for what to expect first. Multiple volunteers were staffing each station and don’t believe I ever had to slow down or wait for liquids. Energy gels were offered at mile 8, 12, 15, 18 if my memory serves me correctly. Hands down awesome job on the aid stations. After mile 13, aid stations were stationed every mile. I saw medical staff at several of the stations just in case there was a need for it.
Elevation Difficulty: Looking for a fast race??? This is it…the elevation was non-existent. Well not really. There were a few hills but nothing that would bring you to your knees. Total elevation gain was 473 feet. Definitely a course I enjoyed running.
Overall: If you haven’t registered for 2018, something is wrong. Hands down this race is a must run. The crowds alone have me registering for next year. A well laid out race providing something for every distance! The expo was great, especially the speakers as I felt I left a more educated runner! So, don’t hesitate any longer and Run Buffalo in 2018!!!
Race weekend had arrived so I packed up all of my race gear, spent some time with the family and headed out the door. I hadn’t been to downtown Buffalo before and the three and a half hour drive seemed to fly by. As I mentioned before I had a late start and ended up missing a few of the speakers. To pass some of the time between the last speaker and the pasta party I headed down to the start line, which was actually just steps outside of the convention center doors. Crews were preparing for the marathon race day.
So I headed back in to the Pasta Party to carb load up and listen to speaker Jeff Galloway. Here I met a few other marathon runners and where the conversation was enjoyable. Actually had the opportunity to meet a 79 year old who would be running in his 246th marathon at Buffalo. Talk about amazing and hopefully something I will be able to say at that age. Well not the number of marathons, but being healthy enough to continue running at that age.
It was then off to check into my hotel and get prepared for the race. I laid out my race gear and decided it would be a good idea to do a little 5k shake out run. This allowed me to see more of downtown Buffalo and a sneak peak of the course. The legs felt great and I returned back to the hotel and did a little reading. Ultimately I had my race goal on my mind of running it in 3:30 and drifted off to sleep.
The alarm went off, I jumped out of bed and headed off to the race. I headed to the BibRavePro meet up spot and met fellow Bibrave pro Samantha. It is always great meeting other BibravePro’s at races! We talked about our goals and wished each other and headed to our corral placements. The weather looked like it was going to be stellar and at race start was in the upper 50’s with expected temperatures around mid 60’s at finish.
Miles 0 – 3: The National Anthem finished and the fireworks began. As the corrals started to empty, I reminded myself to take the start and first mile slower. It is always tough trying to contain the excitement of kicking off a marathon. The crowds, the runners and the sheer thrill of running can sometimes get the best of you. The first mile is a tad bit uphill and I kept exactly to my target and ran a first mile split in 8:15. Miles 1-3 were an out and back and you could see the pack thinning out a bit. My target was to stay around a 8:05 pace per mile, but actually averaged 7:50/mile. Something that I was not expecting and wonder if that had any impact on what would come. That part of the race started in the city and then headed into a residential area. The crowd support was very energetic and a surprise with it only being 6:30am.
Miles 4-7: This section of the course had us heading through residential neighborhoods down Linwood Ave back towards North St. North street was the high point on the course so this was a gradual uphill climb. We mad a turn on to Delaware St and headed back into the city and then out towards the lake. I was feeling exceptionally good and felt like I was hydrating at each aid station, which on a cool day can have you feeling like you don’t need it. So far so good.
Miles 8-11: The water section of the course. I enjoyed this part of the course running along the waterway in buffalo. Crowd support was sporadic, and by this time the streets had thinned out considerably. I took this section of the course to evaluate my performance through the first third. I was running faster than what I had set my pace to be and tried to slow down a tad, not to mention the need to find a port-a-potty to empty the bladder. Something I hate doing as I feel it destroys my pace and rhythm.
Miles 12 – 15: At this point the course turned back towards downtown and the split where the half marathoners finished and marathoners continued onward. This can be a demoralizing moment, depending how you feel as you can hear the cheers from the finish line. However on this day I had no thoughts of finishing just yet and pushed on. My halfway split was roughly 1:45, with what felt like a 2 minute bathroom break, however had me just where I intended to be. We headed back out towards Delaware Park, but first would need to navigate back through residential areas.
Miles 16 – 22: THE UNTHINKABLE – This is the part of the race where it all seemed to go sideways and downhill fast. Around mile 17 I took another gel, and for some reason began to feel a tad nauseous. I continued to push on and then my hamstrings and right calf muscle began to cramp. I struggled through Delaware Park and watched my pace drop from 8:00 min miles to down to 13:00 min miles in the later half. Talk about feeling defeated to run 3/4 of my race at my target pace to watch it all slip away. Luckily I had my wife to keep me in good spirits as I received a text, “How do you go from running 8 min miles to a 12:00 min mile that quick??” You just have to smile and push on. I kept my spirits high and just kept on shuffling. The support from other runners and spectators was amazing which pushed me on.
Miles 23 -2.2: At this point I had changed my stride to manage the cramping, which threw another wrench my way…a blister on my left foot. Come on!!!! Guess it was time to crawl my way to the finish! We made our way back towards North St, and that climb felt like I was trying to summit Mt. Everest. At this point I told my wife I was picking up the pace no matter how I was feeling. I searched deep inside, found the motivation and pushed it towards the finish line. As I headed back downtown the energy from the crowd and early finishers was amazing. By this point I knew I would not cross the finish line completing my goal, but told myself there would be another day. I rounded that last turn, saw the finish line and sprinted off. I heard Fitz Koehler call out my name and remembered that she said you better raise your arms in celebration or Ill make you do it all over again. I did just that and cross the finish line in 4:10 took a deep breath and just collapsed to my knees. I sat there for quite some time just reflecting on the fact that I just completed my 6th marathon and should not feel defeated. The marathon by far is a multitude of emotions and requires strength and commitment. I finally stood up, looked at my medal and the other runners and screamed out, “I just conquered BUFFALO!!!!”
I headed off to have my finisher photos taken, grabbed some snacks, and then took advantage of a post race massage. I have to say that massage made the difference in me staying another night in Buffalo versus driving 3.5 hours back to Cleveland. The post race party was awesome, but did not stay to long as I knew my family was waiting back home.
Buffalo, you out did yourself with this race. You lived up to the hype and put on a show that will have me talking about to other runners for some time. If you ever have the chance and want to run a great all around race, then the Buffalo Marathon is it. Well done!!!!
You can read about my review also on Bibrave.com here. Remember to review your races so other runners have the best information at the tips of their fingers!!!