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A QUICK CHECK OF THE 2001 RACING CALENDAR WILL PUT A SPRING IN YOUR STEP

Click on the new Web site of the Greater Buffalo Track Club (BuffaloRunners.com) and you'll find a countdown timer at the top of the page.

As of today, only 76 days and counting to GBTC's Grand Island Half Marathon on April 21.

Spend a moment with the timer. You're watching this ever so long winter slowly tick away. Every second gone is another second before green grass, warm breezes, and a winning ticket in the lottery come your way. Well, at least two of the three.

When you watch time disappear like that, you start thinking that 76 days is really not all that long a time. And then imagine the timer is set for the Shamrock Run on March 3. That's only 28 days away. We're already three days into the shortest month.

See what this winter has done to us -- watching a timer -- after running through drifts, icy roads, and last week, ugh, rain? Is there anything worse than running through a winter rain? I could have spent four hours in a sauna afterward. I'm still cold thinking about it.

But relief is on the way. We all know Shamrock isn't really spring, or even warm weather usually, but it's the promise that keeps us going, the start of the racing season.

It's also, as always, the first race of the Buffalo News Runner of the Year series, 13 races this year that will determine the area's best overall runners as well as the top in each age group. But before we move on to determine this year's winners, we need to reward the best runners in the year 2000.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Athletic Club, again, has been generous enough to include the Runner of the Year awards at its Runners Medical Forum. It will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 28 at D'Youville College.

Besides a panel of medical professionals from the Buffalo Sports Medicine Institute, and UB's assistant track coach Vicki Mitchell, the forum will include Todd Reeser of Rochester, the country's 20K champion, a 2:12 marathoner, and a member of Team Brownstone, along with his coach and team founder.

Jesse Kregel said the Philharmonic will also recognize the area's three world-ranked masters runners, Ed Whitlock from Milton, Ont., the 69-year-old recognized this year by Runner's World as the world's top master; Cheektowaga's Henry Sypniewski and Buffalo's Tony Napoli.

What's in a name?

It's a good thing the new Buffalo marathon is being held in the spring, May 27, and not this fall. The way race director John Beishline is adding sponsors, we're not sure there would be room on the T-shirt for the name of the race.

The race is now called Buffalo-Erie Buick Marathon, after Beishline finished up the legal details and added Buick last week as the newest major sponsor.

Buick? The makers of the big black cars that bishops drive because driving a Cadillac or Mercedes presents the wrong image?

Quick, name a hot new car Buick has. Still thinking of one? That's why Buick is getting into sports advertising big time, with Tiger Woods its biggest name, and with smaller events like our new three-named marathon. With an average age of its car owner at 67, Buick doesn't want to go the way of its soon-to-depart sister, Oldsmobile.

So we're the beneficiary and we're going to help Buick's image by wearing its name on the marathon T-shirts. (And with all this sponsor money from New York State, Erie County, Buffalo and now Buick, wouldn't it be nice to have just the marathon name and logo on the front and not have the Western New York cluster of ads littering the back?)

More important, Buick is a sign that future marathons may not have to rely on the $80,000 in public money put up this year by the state, county and city.

National attention

Good news for two local triathletes. Warren Elvers of the Town of Tonawanda is ranked No. 1 in the country for the 45-49 age group by USAT, the sport's sanctioning body, and Curt Eggers, who now lives in Rochester, is No. 2 in the 40-44 age group. Both were also named USAT All Americans.

Upcoming races

Lockport Y-10, 10 miles, Lockport, 11 a.m., Sat., 434-8887 or www.MyLockport.com.; Olmsted Winterfest 2 or 3 mile race (depending on weather), Delaware Park, noon, Feb. 17, 851-5806; Polar Bear Run, 5K, Olcott, 11 a.m., Feb. 25, 434-8887 or www.MyLockport.com.; Old First Ward Shamrock Run, 8K, Buffalo, noon, March 3, 856-8613.

2001 BUFFALO NEWS RUNNER OF THE YEAR RACES
1. Shamrock Run, 8K, noon, Mar. 3, 856-8613.

2. Greater Buffalo Track Club Half Marathon, 9 a.m., Apr. 21, 816-RACE.

3. Checkers' A.C. Buffalo Mile 2000, 9 a.m., May 19, 692-4115.

4. Buffalo-Erie Buick Marathon, 8 a.m., May 27, TBA.

5. Connors Kait Harrity Memorial Race, 4 miles, 11 a.m., June 2, 648-6989.

6. Depew-Lancaster Boys and Girls Club 10K, Lancaster, 9 a.m., July 4, 683-6755.

7. Subaru Buffalo 4-Mile Chase, Elmwood Avenue, 6 p.m., July 14, 881-1652.

8. Buffalo Police Chase, 5K, Aug. 7 p.m., Aug. 3, 851-4590.

9. Nickel City Road Runners Aid to Athletes, 5K, 7 p.m., Aug. 31, 694-5154.

10. Linda Yalem Memorial Run, 5K, 10 a.m., Sept. 23, 645-6435.

11. Greater Buffalo Track Club 10K, 11 a.m., Oct. 13, 816-RACE.

12. Jack O'Lantern Fall Classic, 5K, 10 a.m., Oct. 27, 282-1228.

13. Turkey Trot 8K, 9 a.m., Nov. 22, 875-1283.

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