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FORD'S EXIT COULD DOOM MARATHON IN BUFFALO

The Buffalo Marathon, already limping along from the resignation of its race director and committee following last May's race, appears to have hit the wall.

The Ford Dealers of Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania announced last week they plan to spend their money to help bring the national Race for the Cure to Buffalo, a development that will end the dealers' sponsorship of the marathon.

"We are very proud of our long relationship with the Ford Buffalo Marathon and its race committee, staff and other sponsors," said James J. Doyle II, the dealers' chairman. "We are hopeful that another entity will come in and sponsor this event."

A longtime official of the race, after hearing of the vote, said simply: "It's dead."

Last May's race drew 479 entries for the marathon; 387 finished. Relay racers, as always, pushed the number to a little more than 1,000, but it's a meager showing when you consider that the city shuts down for a morning.

Dan Loncto, who tried for three years as race director to raise its numbers against bigger and better funded marathons on the same day in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, resigned after this year's race and the marathon committee disbanded.

It appears the Casino Niagara Marathon on Oct. 24 will be the sole remaining local marathon. It starts in Buffalo and heads over the Peace Bridge.

Ford is already a national sponsor of the Race for the Cure, a fund-raiser put on by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Dallas. It's the largest series of 5K races in the country. This year, 98 cities are putting on the races, expecting to draw more than 700,000 runners.

Buffalo's connection developed through Laurie Moser, founder and race director of the Race for the Cure in Pittsburgh. Her race in May this year drew 25,000 runners. It raised $900,000 for cancer research. Her son Alex works for the Buffalo Bisons.

The Race for the Cure started as a women's-only race, but the Pittsburgh run and a number of others also have men running. In Pittsburgh, the field is about two-thirds women.

"For the most part, these are not killer runners," she said. "They are the runners you see coming across the finish line with pink bibs, saying they are running in the memory of someone, or wearing pink hats that say 'I'm A Survivor.' "

After her son came to town, he started asking why there wasn't a Race for the Cure in Buffalo. A committee was formed, and race plans are moving along. This coming May is the hoped for date for the first race.

That's also the month an existing race for cancer research, the Women's Race, is held in Delaware Park. Nothing has been decided, but those involved in the planning are at least talking to each other.

His mother, a breast cancer survivor, started the Pittsburgh race eight years ago and spends all year planning it. But she also makes sure she runs it herself.

"I cry the whole 30 minutes," she said. "I say thank God I'm alive, and thank God all these people want to help."

Cashing their chips

There was a ChampionChip race last week, so the Turkey Trot won't be the first local race to use the computer technology that gives you your time from a computer chip tied to your shoe lace.

After the committee planning the Turkey Trot voted to go ahead with the chip and announced its intention to seek bids, Don Mitchell of Runtime Services went to work to protect his biggest contract in Buffalo. Mitchell scores bigger races for the Race for the Cure in Pittsburgh and the Utica Boilermaker, and has used the chip before.

Mitchell and a partner, David Katz, surprised the folks at the Lebros 5K last Saturday by giving them chip technology for the cost of Mitchell's regular services. A field of 237 runners, small enough to be easily handled by any scoring method, was there for the chip's local debut.

Mitchell later met with Loncto, race director for the Turkey Trot, and Anne Scinta, a YMCA executive, underbid a competitor and Runtime Services was awarded the job.

Emery Fisher's veteran crew of officials were paid for their services at Lebros, but had little to do but collect the computer chips afterward. There will be no finish line crew at the Turkey Trot.

"I'm going to stay home for the first time in 48 years," Fisher said, laughing when asked his plans. "I think I deserve to stay home on Thanksgiving Day."

Cheering section

Fisher's partner on the finish line crew, John Beishline, the guy with the bullhorn, is recovering from major surgery at Kenmore Mercy Hospital. He's been cheering us on for years. It's time to return the favor. Send a card to him in Room 2115D, Kenmore Mercy Hospital, 2950 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore 14217.

Upcoming races

Linda Yalem Memorial Run, 5K, (Buffalo News Runner of the Year race), UB North Campus, 9:30 a.m., today, 645-3141; United Way Northtowns 5K Run, Williamsville, 6:30 p.m., Thurs., 843-2937; Nickel City Duathlon, (2 1/2 -mile run, 15 mile bike, 2 1/2 -mile run) and 2 1/2 -mile road race, Beaver Island State Park, 10 a.m., Sat., 689-2493; Erie County Salute to Autumn, 5K European style run, Sprague Brook Park, 10:30 a.m., Sat., 858-8355; Thundering Herd Distance Run, 12K (7.44 miles), downtown Buffalo, 10:30 a.m., Oct. 3, 893-6269; Bemus Point Fall 15K, 5K, 10 a.m., Oct. 9, 386-3130; Ellicottville Fall Festival, 4 1/2 miles, 10 a.m., Oct. 9, 834-9028.

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