Yasso spreads the word as ambassador for the sport - The Buffalo News
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Yasso spreads the word as ambassador for the sport

Bart Yasso will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of his last running-related visit to Buffalo by returning here later this month.

“The last time I remember being there was in 1984 for the Olympic Marathon trials,” said Yasso, who is one of the speakers at the May 24 Expo for the Buffalo Marathon. “I was not a participant. I had some friends running, and I came up to cheer them on.

“They did an incredible job. There was good weather and a great course.”

Yasso brings all sorts of running experiences into his personal appearances. He has run marathons, the Ironman Triathlon and the Badwater 146, and competed on all seven continents.

In 1987, Yasso joined Runner’s World magazine to work on a Race Sponsorship Program. That’s led to his current title for the publication as “Chief Running Officer,” in which he’s something of the Johnny Appleseed of the running shoe set.

Yasso makes several appearances per year to promote the sport at races. He was at the Big Sur and Tacoma marathons earlier this month, and will be in Calgary the week after Buffalo’s race.

“I never go in with a canned speech. I tweak things based on the audience,” he said. “Sometimes there are experienced runners, or new runners. Sometimes I’ll talk to a spouse or a friend of a runner.

“But I always mention two points. There’s the power of the sport of running, which has changed so many people’s lives. They reach goals they never thought they could accomplish, whether it’s a 13.1- or 26.2-mile run. The other part is on the power of the running community. They come together every weekend, and it’s pretty powerful. They have amazing stories to tell, and I love finding them.”

Two of them turned up in Tacoma while Yasso was running.

“I ran 2 miles with a gentleman who has ALS. His arms are shutting down, but his legs are all right. I covered 2 miles with him,” he said. “Then a guy came up to me who wanted a picture. He said last year he had stage four pancreatic cancer and survived it. He said he read my book when he was in the hospital.

“That’s why I’m out there. That goes on every weekend.”

Yasso doesn’t usually run a marathon during his appearances at races. He often leads something of a “shakeout” run the day before, along the lines of 3 miles. Since it’s not a race, he can take the time to chat with runners.

In his travels, Yasso has noticed how quickly the half-marathon is growing. Last year more than 3,000 runners took part in the 13.1-mile event in Buffalo, compared with 1,234 finishers in the marathon.

“I think in today’s world, everyone is pulled in so many different directions,” he said. “The half-marathon doesn’t consume your world. You can do 8 or 10 miles in the morning and do other things. It’s not like a 20-mile run, where you are worn out for the rest of the day. That takes a lot out of you.”

Oddly, Yasso has become best-known in running for a training technique, to the point where some people don’t even realize the connection. He discovered that if he was in good enough shape to run 10 straight 800-meter dashes in, say, 2 minutes and 50 seconds each (with a short break between them), he could run a marathon in 2 hours, 50 minutes. The concept caught on, thanks in part to an article written by former Boston Marathon champion Amby Burfoot.The subject is sure to come up at the Expo here, because it comes up everywhere.

“When I first get the question, I joke and say, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’ Then I come clean,” he said. “It is fun when people say the workout has helped them get to Boston or reach some other goal.”

Yasso is one of several speakers taking part in the Buffalo Marathon Expo, which will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Buffalo Convention Center. Check buffalomarathon.com for the full schedule of speakers and their times as well as other information about the event.

Race calendar

• Elephant Run, 4 miles, Marcy Casino, Delaware Park, 9:30 a.m. today, 836-7045.

• Buffalo Greek Fest 5K, 146 W. Utica St., 6:30 p.m. Friday, 796-3381.

• Run with the Rapids 5K, Old Falls Street, Niagara Falls, 9 a.m. Saturday, 278-2111.

• Chris Griswold 5K, Como Park, Lancaster, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 685-2640.

• Unity Run, 5K, 80 Main St., Lockport, 10 a.m. Saturday, 531-5437.

• SSPP’s Charge of the Knights, 5K, 5480 Main St., Williamsville, 6 p.m. Saturday, 440-8003.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com

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