Another great Memorial Day weekend in Buffalo, New York for my second running of the Buffalo Marathon. I ran this race two years ago and had a great time in the City of Wings and this year headed back to Buffalo for another running of the race. This winter in Boston didn’t allow for optimal marathon training but I got to the starting line with a rather good feeling as to how the race would go.
The weekend’s activities started on Saturday with a 5K taking runners on some of the same roads that the next day the marathon and half-marathon would be run on. Fortunately for us we had an early flight out of Boston on JetBlue and were able to get to our hotel just in time to see the 5K runners go racing by. We walked down the final stretch of the 5K and made our way to the race expo to pick up our numbers and race schwag. The expo this year was much larger than two years ago and had a nice assortment of different vendor tables available.
With a need to carbo-load upon us, we hit up Cafe 59 right around the corner from our hotel and had an amazing meal of chicken parm with penne for me and parsley pesto cheese tortellini for Mrs. Running Griffin. The portions were huge and the entrees were $12 each and for scratch made food you really couldn’t beat it! If in the area next year for the Buffalo Marathon or if just checking out Buffalo, get to this spot.
The Buffalo Marathon and Half-Marathon starts bright and early at 7AM and for the first 13.1 miles the two race’s runners stay together on the same course. Mrs. Running Griffin ran the half-marathon and enjoyed her first Buffalo running experience while I tackled the full. The course was changed a bit from two years ago but definitely was for the better. The first six miles took runners out of the downtown area and through a residential section of Buffalo where both the fans and volunteers were absolutely top-notch. Runners made their way back into downtown around Mile 6 and then headed out toward the International Peace Bridge and along the water for a nice stretch. Running past the Buffalo Sabres Arena a momentary pause of how awful it must be to be a Sabres fan and not a Bruins fan rushed over me but I kept on trucking. In the last mile of the half-marathon, a lone police bagpiper played Amazing Grace which to most Irishmen causes biologically response of getting goosebumps immediately upon hearing it.
The first half-marathon for me went really well and in-fact I would have been on pace to likely PR the half-marathon if I hadn’t signed up to run another 13.1 miles after that. Up until Mile 16 I was running ahead of the 4:00 marathon pace and was feeling pretty good but the legs definitely started getting sore. One of my favorite parts of the race was running in Olmstead Park in Buffalo which is a beautiful section of parkland complete with walking paths, a golf-course and a zoo. There was one decent incline in the 17th mile that when you crested you were greeted by two Buffalonians playing a violin which was an eery mix of beauty and also feeling like it may be God calling you to the pearly gates all at the same time.
The one thing I can’t emphasize enough is the fact that Buffalo has some of the greatest race fans and volunteers you can find. The people out on the course are genuinely happy to see you, want to be out there cheering for you and encourage you along the way when you need it the most. The 24th mile waterstop has its own Twitter handle and the 25th mile waterstop is manned by Team RWB and the energy that these two stops give is exceptional and provided when it is needed the most. The last mile of the run is a great downhill finish down Delaware Avenue and back toward the central downtown area. The crowd at the 26 mile mark begins to really thicken up to several rows deep and the fans cheer your number and wave you into the finish line. It’s a great finish to a great race!
Handing out race medals this year were members of the military and players from the Buffalo Bandits (professional lacrosse team) and the Buffalo Bills. Jeremy Towne of the Buffalo Bills was one of the stars of the finish line and one person most marathoners likely from the area hobbled their way to for their medal.
Post-race, we made our way to Dinosaur BBQ to devour some some great wings, an awesome pulled pork sandwich and enjoyed a flight of local beers (along with about 3.5 gallons of water it seemed).
I finished the Buffalo Marathon this year with a time of 4:29:10. Buffalo is an amazing city that puts on a great marathon weekend and this race is one I would gladly recommend to anyone looking to run a great race. The race price is kept low but the amenities and fanfare is that of much larger races. If you are considering running a marathon or half-marathon next year, make your way to Buffalo and you won’t be disappointed. For more information about the Buffalo Marathon, check out their website by clicking here and be sure to Like them on Facebook by clicking here.