You may think the 2017 running season started this past week - 60-degree temperature in February can make quite an argument - but most people say the Shamrock Run is actually the beginning of the racing year.
It takes place on Saturday, March 4, in South Buffalo, and organizers have some good news for the runners this time around.
"The course is the same as last year," said Bill Conway of the race committee.
For the past decade or so, participants in the Shamrock Run never have been too sure where the race would take them. There have been six or seven different routes in that span, including the time when a windstorm knocked down a lamp post that forced the course to be shortened at the last minute.
It's all been quite a change from the old days, when the course never changed and went along the waterfront.
"We used to run out there every year, but all the construction that's taken place there has made it impossible," Conway said. "The race has gotten bigger in the last several years."
Meanwhile, the streets in the Ohio Street/Fuhrmann Boulevard area have narrowed, so it's not a good place for a race with a few thousand runners.
Shamrock runners were divided on whether they liked running over the metal bridge on Ohio Street that gave them a chance to look down on the water/ice below as they passed over it. But opinions about dealing with some chilly early March winds coming off the lake were more uniform.
"Most runners never liked running into the wind going out there," Conway said. "It was like running face-first into a snowbank."
Once that part of the course was ruled out, organizers mostly have kept the course on South Park and Seneca. The challenge is to have the 8-kilometer course go around the Old First Ward so that it starts and ends at its traditional location on Louisiana Street.
"We don't have too much of a choice," Conway said. "We're locked in with the lake, rivers and railroad tracks. We looked at going down Exchange Street, but that didn't work out."
Picking a course isn't the biggest part of staging the Shamrock Run, naturally. Imagine having a party with a few thousand guests once a year, and you get an idea of the scope of the job taken on by the Old First Ward Community Association.
Even so, once a new course is picked out, it has to be measured and certified. Then comes the task of telling people on the route that they will have thousands of people run by their house on a Saturday.
"We always get people saying, 'You mean I can't park there for four hours?' " Conway said.
The race preparations always get done, thanks to the efforts of volunteers who start working on the event in October. The money raised by the race makes up a good-sized share of the Community Association's budget.
"The proceeds go to the programs for kids and seniors," Conway said. "The center would be hard-pressed to keep providing those services without the race."
And maybe the current course will last a while - unless something else gets in the way.
"If they put a new football stadium downtown, we might have to start over," Conway said.
* Slush Rush, 5K, Steele Hall, SUNY-Fredonia, 9 a.m. Sunday March 5, 673-3451.
* Fight for Air Stair Climb, Main Place Tower, Buffalo, 8:30 a.m. Saturday March 11, (585) 666-1402.
* St. Patrick's Dash, 3 miles, 319 West Third St., Jamestown, 9:15 a.m. Saturday March 18, 489-3489.