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Miss the marathon? Not a chance for Schiavone

The Buffalo Marathon has become something of a tradition, as it has been held for 22 years in its current format.

Running it has become something of a tradition for Michael Schiavone, too.

According to research by buffalorunners.com, Schiavone is the only runner who has gone 22 for 22 when it comes to the event, which has been run in Buffalo each year from 1989 to 1999 and from 2001 through now.

"I didn't realize I've done them all. I've been very fortunate," he said. "The injuries seem to have gone between them [the marathons]."

Schiavone will make it 23 for 23 on Sunday, when the annual race winds through the streets of Buffalo. It starts on Pearl Street and finishes in front of the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

The Lewiston runner can't wait to do it again.

"I've done 134 marathons or ultras. I haven't dropped out of any of them," he said. "I don't take it for granted. I've seen a lot of things over the years."

Many marathoners like to do different races, since they usually only run a couple of them each year. Schiavone, though, has kept returning, in part because of hometown pride.

"It's kind of a combination of a lot of things," he said. "I used to do Boston every year. I did what I called the the B-B-C -- Boston, Buffalo and Cleveland. I'd recover after one and do another one. I did that for a number of years. I haven't run in Boston since they changed the qualifying times."

The 56-year-old runner can look back at his times at the Buffalo Marathon over the years and watch himself slowly age. It happens to everyone.

"Age is a factor," said Schiavone, who works for the health department of Niagara County. "I have ruptured disks now. I do it more for the enjoyment of finishing. I'm not concerned with PRs any more. That's gone by the wayside because of my back.

"I broke three hours twice, and I never thought I'd do it once. In Boston, I ran a sub-3:10, and I never thought I'd do that."

One of the best parts of doing 22 straight marathons is the chance to watch the race grow and develop over the years. It's become a good-sized part of the annual local sports calendar.

"It has developed from a struggling race to a great race," Schiavone said. "They've done a great deal with it. It's come into its own. The numbers keep increasing.

"It's interesting now that I'm in the middle of the pack and talking to different people. I've met people doing their first race. Last year I talked with someone from Rochester, doing his first race. I have friends from Pittsburgh coming in this year. They treat everyone fairly here. It's over the top with the prerace shirts, and the medals are spectacular. They've done a great job."

Schiavone's 23rd Buffalo marathon will be his first on this particular course. The route for both the full and half marathons will now go along Outer Harbor Drive, which is more scenic because of its waterfront areas and has a reduced need for traffic volunteers.

"I'm anxious to see the new course," Schiavone said.

Otherwise, it's more or less business as usual for the race:

An expo will be held on Saturday at the Convention Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A pre-race pasta dinner will take place at St. Anthony's Church Hall at 160 Court St. from 4 to 7 p.m. The meal is free to runners and $5 to guests.

The post-race party and awards ceremony will be held at the Convention Center.

The male and female winners of the marathon will earn $2,000. Other prizes for top finishers in both events will be handed out, with bonuses available for record-setting performances.

Last year's winners were Jynocel Basweti of Kenya and Veronika Lopatina of Russia. Basweti will be back to try to win a third title here, while Lopatina has not registered.

A free 26.2-yard fun run will be held on Saturday at 2 p.m. for children aged 2 to 12. Finishers will receive ribbons and refreshments.

In 2011, the marathon had 863 finishers, while 2,555 completed the half-marathon.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com