The Subaru Buffalo 4-Mile Chase has another deep field with an international flavor for its annual trip around the Elmwood Village on Friday night.
This year's open men's division features four runners from Kenya and a teenager from Ethiopia while the masters men's division is shaping up to be a photo finish.
"This year we have probably one of the most interesting and deepest fields," race director Jim Nowicki said. "The masters men is particularly a very strong field."
Among those vying in the masters division, for runners over 40, are Scott Gill, 45, of Ashtabula, Ohio; Eric Morse, 42, of Berlin, Vt.; and Steve Boyd of Canada.
Gill was the 2006 Run Ohio Grand Prix Masters Champion. Morse has won three masters events this year -- the Slattery (Mass.) Turkey Trot, the New England 5K and the Holyoke (Mass.) 5K. Boyd holds two masters records for the 5K and the half-marathon and he's a 12-time national medalist in track, cross-country and road racing. He won the masters division of the 2005 Bloomsday 10K in Spokane, Wash.
The local favorite is David O'Keefe, 48, of Orchard Park. O'Keefe leads the Buffalo News Runner of the Year series.
Meanwhile, in the open division, 19-year-old Belainesh Zemedkun of Ethiopia will make his Buffalo debut. He placed fourth at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Beijing and fifth in the World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.
Four Kenyans will compete for the top money spot -- which pays the winner $1,000 and gives out $1,000 among the next three finishers. Henry Githuka, 23, took first place in the Calgary 10K, setting a course record with 28:31; Simon Njorge, 26, won the Around the Bay 30K with a course record 1:32.49; Simon Wangai, 29, won the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tenn.; and John Guandaru Gathoga, 28, placed second in the Kenya half marathon.
"This is a great course and a lot of runners know about it," Nowicki said. "It's fast and hot and a few years ago, several runners used this as a final tune-up before the Barcelona Olympics."
In the women's field, 19-year-old Ethiopian Wegayehu Ferera took second in both the Champs d'Elysees 15K in Paris and the Addis Abeba 10K in Ethiopia while 23-year-old Pauline Githuka of Kenya won the Emiles Women's Only 5K and took second at the Toronto 5K.
American women of note in the field include Melissa Converse, 29, of Blacklick, Ohio, who was the first U.S. female at the Subaru 4-Mile Chase.
Debbi Kilpatrick, 43, of Strongville, Ohio, is the only returning winner from 2006 in the field. She won the masters division last year with a time of 23:16. This year, she placed second at the Cleveland Marathon.
Also in the women's masters field is Terry McClusky, 58, of Vienna, Ohio, who has been named the Ohio Grand Master of the Year by Run Ohio Magazine the last three years.
Local runners in the field include Matt Glynn, Allison Carr (West Seneca) and Judy Arlington (Lockport).
Among the highlights of the race are monetary prizes for the top four American finishers in the male and female open divisions as a way to "level the playing field with so many international runners," Nowicki said.
The race will also feature a race for kids, called "Do the Dash." The race, for children 5-13, will feature distances of 50, 75 and 100 yards.
In keeping with the event's tradition as "one of the social running events of the summer," live music will begin at Bidwell and Elmwood at 3 p.m., with a happy hour scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. The race starts at 7 p.m.
This year also marks the beginning of a transition for the Subaru event. The race, which enters its 27th year, will soon leave the auspices of Nowicki and be administered by the Buffalo Police Athletic League.
"I can't do this forever," Nowicki said. "The Turkey Trot is the nation's oldest road race, going on for over 100 years. I think the next is the Shamrock at 30 and the Subaru is right there at 27. We want to maintain the tradition of the race and keep it going for many years, but I can't do it by myself anymore. We're starting the transition and for our 30th anniversary in three years, the Buffalo Police Athletic League will take over. I will still be the race director."