Having never been to Buffalo before, I was excited to check out a new city and even better run a marathon in a new location. It’s always a great way to check out a city by running a race there as you get the opportunity to see different sites, neighborhoods and the faces of a city that you otherwise might not be able to see. The folks at the Buffalo Marathon put on a remarkable race that featured an amazing course, excellent race support along the marathon route, fans cheering in the various neighborhoods we ran through and an all around great marathon experience.
On Saturday it was off to the race expo which was hosted at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. The expo featured the bib number pickup and with a number of 123 on my bib perhaps it was a sign that the marathon was going to go well. The expo featured some charity tables, some local business tables, a section selling racing gear and other booths for runners to check out. I was lucky enough to be able to get a stretch and ART introduction from Zelasko Soft Tissue & Spine where the doctor focused on trying to loosen up my hip flexors to allow for better mobility.
After the expo we made our way over to Pearl Street Grill and Brewery where we had lunch which for me featured a ham sandwich on a big, bulky roll coupled with a pint of their Belgian white style microbrew. The rest of Saturday we spent over at Walden Galleria which was a large mall area where we also grabbed a great pasta dinner at Bravo and watched the first period of the Bruins playoff game before heading back to the hotel to watch the rest of the game and falling asleep nice and early to get a good rest for the marathon.
On Marathon morning it was up early to head to Starbucks and grab a croissant and a black coffee along with a group of other runners before we made our way over to the starting corral. The security at the starting line was well-done as runners only were allowed into the starting area. My wife took my coat and the rest of my belongings and headed out onto the course to be able to catch me at various parts along the race.
The first 5k of the race made its way out of the downtown area out toward an area near the Peace Bridge. It was pretty cool to see a sign while running that said “Canada: Next Right” and as we passed the 5k point it was running along the Niagara River which is off of Great Lake Erie. It was a really nice stretch of flat running along the water with an area called Lasalle Park on the left hand side of runners, as well.
The next stretch of the race was through a marina section that also hugged the water and through a residential area that looked like condos and townhouses. Right around the 10k mark there was a great crowd of supporters cheering runners on and I saw my wife here as it was a strategic point to watch the race since it also was at the 20k mark.
I then made my way past the First Niagara Center, home of the Buffalo Sabres. This area was slightly under construction for just a bit but then runners made their way out to a relatively older, industrial section of town. There were a handful of up and down hills mixed in during these miles as you climbed uphill over some bridged roads. After making a loop, runners traversed back toward the First Niagara Center and back toward the 20k mark where I was able to see my wife amongst the fans once again. There was a slight uphill into the 13 mile marker where half-marathons split to the left and hearty marathoners such as myself headed right. Just past the half-marathon mark was some of the most amazing watermelon I have ever had; not sure if it was just because I needed some fuel or if it was in fact really that good.
The second half of the marathon was by far my favorite part. We made our way past Forest Lawn Cemetery, which on Memorial Day weekend certainly seemed apropos as flags marking headstones waved in the small breeze that helped to cool runners as we made our way past.
The Delaware Park section of the race was a nice loop around a public park that featured plenty of people running, walking, playing golf and just enjoying the beautiful weather that Buffalo ordered up for marathon weekend. At Mile 17 I took a preventative Tylenol along with my water and Gatorade which seemed to be a good idea and helped some twinges I felt in my ankle and just above my knees.
The next stretch of the race was in an area of residential streets and one of the fans was welcoming runners to “North Buffalo” as we made our way past. The support in this section was really nice with a lot of families out clapping and cheering runners along. The support was really sincere and much appreciated.
Another excellent stretch of running was around the Albright-Knox Art Gallery where the volunteers from Team Neurofibromatosis staffed the water station and cheered us along. After passing that water stop it was onto a parkway stretch of road where an idyllic tree belt separated residential street made for some really enjoyable running. There were plenty of cool houses to look at, plenty of people clapping you on and kudos to the combination of Buffalo Police officers and volunteers who controlled the traffic at busy intersections to allow runners to pass through with ease.
After a rather nice uphill mixed in to keep runners honest between miles 24 and 25, as soon as I saw the Walgreens on the corner of Delaware Avenue I knew I was home free as my hotel was directly next to the Walgreens and I had walked to the starting area earlier that morning. A final water station managed by Team RWB gave me a final cup of water I needed to make it the final 1.2 miles. The road started to descend downhill as I made my way back into the downtown area. After a little loop around Niagara Square, the mile 26 marker was seen and I knew it was time to make that final last little push. The final .2 miles seemed like a blur and as I crossed the finish line I couldn’t help but feel the emotion of joy coupled with a certain sense of exhaustion come over me. I knew I had run well, just didn’t think I did that well.
I finished the Buffalo Marathon with a time of 4:11:10 (9:35/miles), which is close to 40 minutes better than my PR for marathons. I have been training a lot and as goes the saying, “Hard work pays off.” The training regimen coupled with a great course and the encouraging fans made the Buffalo Marathon one of the best races I have ever done.
I can’t thank the people of Buffalo enough for welcoming me to their city and to the race directors of the Buffalo Marathon for putting on an amazingly well-organized and well-orchestrated marathon. I hope to be back in the future and hope you might consider joining me!