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News Runner of Year series taken in for alterations

Here we go again.

The Buffalo News Runner of the Year series has been going on since 1987. As the series enters its 20th year it's time to review the rules.

As a rookie at this in 2005, I heard some good advice from a top runner who said, "You'll never make everyone happy with the rules." So I've tried to learn from experience, give the matter considerable thought, talk about the series with some veterans, and make the best guess possible . . . and then plan to try all over again in 2007.

The 2005 season had worthy winners in Matt Glynn and Allison Carr. Here's how the series looks in 2006:

I liked the way the points worked out in 2005. First place overall is worth 12 points, second is worth 9, third is worth 8, and so on down to one point for 10th. The idea is to reward victories.

The tough part always has been with the once-in-a-while runners. My concept is that you race against anyone who is at the starting line on a given day, and therefore anyone should be allowed to earn points. So last year, anyone who finished in the top 10 was given points.

The problem came at the end of the year. Women who won one race, good for 12 points, cracked the top 10 on that performance alone. If you show up for only one area race, chances are you couldn't care less about a top-10 overall finish in the series.

Therefore, here's the new catch: In order to receive an overall award, a runner has to finish two races in the series. That will only affect the final standings slightly, but it will better reward those who show up regularly.

That means, for example, that several of the points awarded to the top finishers in the Subaru Four-Mile Chase may not matter in the standings. However, it's important to encourage Western New York's best to take part in the strongest field of the year.

Besides, any points earned by local runners in the Subaru are liable to be valuable. And there are plenty of age groups in the Subaru in which out-of-town runners are not a factor, so it will be business as usual there.

The Greater Buffalo Track Club's Half-Marathon is undergoing a face-lift this spring, and it's caused some problems here. The race was moved from mid-April to early May, only a relatively short time away from the Buffalo Half-Marathon on Memorial Day weekend. It's probably not fair to have two half-marathons in the series within three weeks of each other. Certainly good runners could do both, but I worried about the possibility of weakened fields.

Since the GBTC's race is on a new course this year with fresh logistical challenges, it gets to wait a year before counting in the official standings. It's always good to see if everything works smoothly after a major alteration of a long race.

With that half-marathon coming out, I needed a replacement so that there would be a race between the Shamrock Run (March 4) and the Half-Marathon (May 28). I opted for the Envirun in Niagara Falls.

If you've run around Goat Island over the years, you know that it's a world-class location. The Runner of the Year series should have a race there, and the Envirun has been a fixture on the calendar for more than a decade. It's a good fit, except that it's another 5-kilometer run in a series that has a lot of them. But in looking over the schedule, there weren't any alternatives.

In 2007, assuming the BTRC half-marathon is back on the series schedule, I'll try to get another Niagara Falls run slated.

There is some concern about having a half-marathon and a mile sprint within two weeks of each other, but I'll have to live with it for now.

Otherwise, it's business as usual on the schedule, starting with the Shamrock and ending with the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.

It sure would be nice to have a few more distances represented during the course of the racing year. The only 10K race on the RoY calendar is the one in Lancaster on July 4; the few others in the area don't fit in well with the schedule.

Therefore, race directors who want to be included in the series should think about distances other than 5 kilometers.

For those who won a prize in the 2005 competition, the awards will be handed out at the annual medical forum. It will be held 7 p.m. Thursday in Butler Auditorium in Farber Hall at the University at Buffalo's South Campus, and sponsored by the Buffalo Philharmonic Athletic Club. The overall and age-group winners get trophies, while finishers 2-10 in the overall race and 2-3 in age-group races receive certificates.


Upcoming races

Polar Bear Run, 5K, 1691 Lockport Olcott Road (Rt. 78), Olcott, 11 a.m today, 434-8887.

Chilly Challenge, 5K, Canisius High School, 1180 Delaware Ave., noon today, 675-9400.

Artvoice Big Fat Race, 7K, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 5 p.m. Tuesday, 881-6604.

Shamrock Run (Buffalo News Runner of the Year race), 8K, 62 Republic St., noon Saturday, 856-8613.


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