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BUFFALO MARATHON WAITS ON FIELD, CHANGES COURSE

The field is weak, the course has been rerouted and the weather forecast shows a good chance of rain.

Other than that, Sunday morning's Nissan Buffalo Marathon is shaping up rather well.

As of Wednesday night, race organizers were looking at a field that appeared incapable of approaching even last year's mediocre results, much less record times.

Neither the men's nor the women's reigning champion will return to defend. Many of the best local runners haven't registered.

Event organizers are hoping Shingirai Badza will enter. The Zimbabwe native now living in Burlington, Ont., won the Casino Niagara International Marathon last October in 2 hours, 27 minutes, 53 seconds.

Badza would be the hands-down favorite if he enters Sunday's race, even though he ran the competitive Alcatel Ottawa National Capital Marathon only two weeks ago. He finished fifth in 2:25:03.

It's no surprise Steve Wilson isn't returning to defend his men's title. Wilson was livid about the poor race conditions last year. He claimed he was nearly hit by multiple cars and he made at least five wrong turns because of inadequate course markings.

Race director John Beishline has asserted those problems will be rectified -- despite not finalizing the course until recently.

The course hasn't exactly been embraced by the citizens who live in the neighborhoods involved.

The Town of Tonawanda blockaded the marathon from entering town boundaries this year because of concerns from church-going residents. Several times last year motorists, attempting to back out of their driveways, were stuck as a stream of runners passed by. Drivers were further delayed as runners clogged key streets.

The race committee wasn't made aware of the Town of Tonawanda's feelings until a few weeks ago. The committee scrambled to reroute the course, tracing it through Kenmore and LaSalle Park, among other points.

The full marathon and relays will start on Pearl Street behind the Buffalo Convention Center. The course will meander through LaSalle Park and the Erie Basin Marina before heading north on Franklin Street and Linwood Avenue.

Runners will encircle the outer road of Forest Lawn Cemetery and then briefly jog through Delaware Park. The route will head north into Kenmore via Colvin Boulevard and Kenmore Avenue before snaking its way back to Delaware Park (the half-marathon starting point).

The course will travel south on Elmwood Avenue, Bidwell Parkway and Richmond Avenue. After an eastward turn on Summer Street, runners will hit the home stretch with a southerly right onto Delaware Avenue. The race will conclude in front of City Hall.

The cost for the marathon and half-marathon is $30 in advance, $35 the day of the race from 6-7 a.m. The relay fee is $100 per team in advance, $110 Sunday morning.

Pre-registered runners can pick up their race packets Saturday at the Nissan Buffalo Marathon Expo in the Hyatt Regency.
e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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