There will be a slight drop in the number of runners taking part in Sunday's Buffalo Marathon. The half-marathon sold out, but the full marathon closed last weekend with the number of entrants down.
"It's the first year they've declined," race director Greg Weber said. "It's a nationwide trend. The numbers for individual races have been down overall for a couple of years. I think it's because of the number of races in the country. There are so many races now."
"Look at our area, and look at the competition. There's the Canton Hall of Fame race. We've got Cleveland. ... There's a race in Canada. The Syracuse half-marathon eight weeks ago drew 7,000; a few years ago it was only 3,000."
That doesn't include the relay division, which was dropped this year. The race committee decided not to make a last-minute push to raise the entry levels. They plan to put on a first-class race and take a little breather.
Figuring out the top contenders in the marathon is always a challenge. The defending champions, Senbeto Geneti-Guteta and Hirut Guangul, are not scheduled to run. But there is one former champion in the field; Kiplangat Tisia won the race in 2014 and figures to contend.
Other male elites are: Dadi Tesfaye Beyene of Ethiopia, who ran a marathon in 2 hours, 17 minutes last year; Suleman Shifa, who has a 2:19 to his credit; Tewodros Asfaw of Ethiopia, who had a 2:17 in 2013. Scott Reamer of West Newton, Pa., ran a 2:51 in Buffalo last year to finish eighth.
The leading woman in the field is Bizuwork Kasaye, who ran a 2:37 in Richmond in 2016. All of the runners will be looking to earn a share of more than $15,000 in prize money, with bonus funds available for course records.
The activities start at 8:30 on Saturday morning with the John Beishline 5K. That will be followed by the opening of the race expo, which runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Jeff Galloway and Bart Yasso, two nationally popular running experts and speakers, will be among the attractions. A pasta party will be held at the Convention Center from 4 to 6 p.m. On Sunday, starting time for both the marathon and half-marathon is 6:30 a.m.
Weber comes up with a few new wrinkles every year, and he's done so again. Catholic Health will be a major sponsor, and provide medical support on the course. That means almost all of the aid stations will have a trained medical professional on hand.
Anyone who has a picture taken during the race, and has it tweeted using #buffalomarathon, will have a print of that picture waiting at a tent at the finish line. And the fireworks display at the start of the race will be bigger than ever.
As usual, people driving in the City of Buffalo on Sunday morning should be prepared for road closures. Check buffalomarathon.com for details.