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Friday, June 8, 2018

Buffalo Marathon: Race review

The Buffalo Marathon is a runner's race: the race director MUST be a runner. There are so many little details that make this race easy for competitors!
Registration and cost: Registration prices go up over time, but the race was surprisingly affordable. It's $85 for early registration, and you can find coupon codes, too. When I registered, I chickened out at first and didn't complete the process. The next day, I received an email with a coupon for $5 and a link back to my incomplete registration.
Swag: Runners get this great technical half-zip, with thumbholes. I've always wanted thumbholes! Finishers also get this gigantic plaque of a medal, and the marathoners get a keychain bottle-opener, too.

Expo: I didn't go, except for early morning-of packet pickup and bag drop, but it's very conveniently located steps from the starting line.
Course: I liked the race course a lot. It's a point-to-point course that ends just a few hundred feet from where it starts. It has hills, yes, but even for someone like me - who NEVER runs on any hills and comes from an extremely flat area - they weren't bad. Nothing steep; nothing too long. Garmin connect tells me that there was under 400 feet of elevation gain, with only a few feet net gain. The course is quite pretty, covering neighborhoods, parks, downtown, and along the lake; it was a scenic race for sure. Two mild drawbacks are the twists and turns, which are plentiful, and the lack of shade on the second half. Keep in mind that, since it's late May, it can get rather hot - which is mitigated by the early (6:30 am) start. Overall, it's pretty, there is good crowd support, and it's fairly fast.
Bright sun on the course! 
Course support: Gatorade and water on the course with two spots for gels (I honestly don't remember which gel. I think it was Cliff??). Some of the volunteers hadn't really set up well, and were tightly bunched, making it tough to get water at some of the earlier, more crowded stops.
Post race: The after party is actually held indoors, at the convention center right at the finish. There were some vendors with giveaways, plus a massage tent and stretching area. The race provided more snack-y options, plus pizza and a very good beer by Flying Bison Brewing, brewed specially for the race. It was unusual to be indoors, but since it was getting hot and sunny, it was actually a relief to get inside.
Awards: Cash awards to the top five, ranging from $1000 to $80. Age group awards were mailed out promptly after the race, and since I'm old, I won my age group, so I got this cool hat:
Vented with UPF 50!
I appreciate a good USEFUL award!
Communications and convenience: This race, and trip, was a breeze start to finish. Race social media is good - responsive Twitter, Instagram, Facebook - and emails have useful content, not just sales pitches for merchandise like Rock 'n Roll race emails. The race was easy as can be:
  • The early start kept temperatures cool(er)
  • Packet pickup is day before or race day, which is so nice for a big marathon; it's also right at the start/finish area so if you're traveling, you really only have one destination to think about.
  • Several hotels are within walking distance of the start, and the race offers a hotel booking service. I actually used this, since I registered really late, and the nearby hotels were all booked. Rooms that the race had booked were still available, so I used them to book a room in the Best Western less than a mile from the start. 
  • There are plenty of restaurants near the race for dinner the night before or lunch after.
  • The airport is close - it was a $16 Uber ride for me.
Etc.: The race might fill up, so register in a timely fashion. I think the half sold out and the full was at 95%+ filled. I noticed good security at the start, including bomb-sniffing dogs and sand-filled garbage trucks, which is nice to see in a race, but also means that you need to be aware of security requirements for bag drop (their clear bag only). Hotels near the start do fill up, although I think a further hotel and a quick Uber would be fine.

Overall, I had a very positive experience, and I'd even consider doing this race again, even though it's hardly nearby. If you get bitten by the Boston bug in the spring, or if your winter race didn't go as planned, it's a good choice to fit in a BQ race before it's too hot to marathon. 


  1. Ooh, cool shirt! I like it when you get something a little different. Congrats on the win! :)

  2. That's a great review, which I will probably refer back to next Spring. Greg is from upstate NY so Buffalo is on his list! I feel like all marathons should have early starts (8:00am is too late IMO).