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Turkey Trot surged; some races rested

The year in running at a glance:

Most significant development: The Turkey Trot's sudden increase in popularity. The jump in finishers from 5,539 to 7,584 is very impressive. It would be easy to credit the good weather, but registrations were brisk well before race day.

The challenge for 2007 will be to keep that level of participation up, or even expand on it. If race directors can do that, the Trot would be on its way to becoming the area's "signature event." It also would be a great sign about the health of the sport in the region.

"Age is just a number" department: Ron Fancher won a point in the 65-69 age group of the Runner of the Year competition (which turned out to be good enough for third place), turned 70, and then ran away from his new running mates. He'll receive awards in both categories.

Most impressive performance, mom's division: The 2005 Runner of the Year, Allison Carr, gave birth this summer, then finished fifth among women in the Turkey Trot and won the Medaille College race in early December.

Best new races: The Greater Buffalo Track Club did a fine job on its half-marathon, so it probably will turn up on the Runner of the Year race schedule for 2007. The Run for Hope in Tonawanda had a nice, warm feel to it, and featured one of the flattest/fastest courses of the year.

The Bunny Hop in East Aurora received fabulous reviews after an April debut. The Hop's hats have turned up on the heads of local runners ever since. The chocolate bunny awards, though, disappeared shortly after distribution. Authorities investigated and found the evidence delicious.

Gone but not forgotten: The Erie County Fair 5K passed away this year, saddening runners who liked the finish on Buffalo Raceway's track and the free fair admission passes.

We also lost the Brushes 3K. The Hamlin Park race had a few dozen children run in it, and it was fun to watch them take off at the start with their youthful enthusiasm . . . and then one-by-one run out of gas after several blocks.

Going and not forgotten: The Jingle Bell Run had its 19th and final running this month, as the local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation is closing as part of a regional consolidation. The race was usually cold outside but warm and friendly inside.

Gone but coming back: The Resolution Run, usually held on Jan. 1, is taking a year off. Local race official John Beishline said the new owners of the Village Glen had too much on their plate to hold the race properly this year. The Moonlight Run will go on as planned this summer, and the Resolution Run will be back in 2008.

The St. Mary's School for the Deaf race and the McDougald run hopefully will return this fall after taking a year off because of the October storm.

Best tip for race directors: If you are going to take preregistrations, be sure to put premium items aside ahead of time. There's not much joy in an extra-large person signing up early, only to arrive at the race and receive a small T-shirt.

Best reader response, bandit division: In reply to a comment on bandits, someone wrote: "I am going to run a 5K this weekend as a bandit. I have just paid $80 to run a marathon this week. I can't justify $20 to run a local 5K. I have enough long-sleeve T-shirts, I am not interested in beer, hot dogs, or pizza at 10 a.m. I am sending in a $10 donation to the 5K organizers for the [charity]."

Biggest late-season lesson: With sickness keeping me on the sidelines of the Medaille College run, I actually saw the finish of the race -- a rare treat. What struck me was that more than half of the first 10 runners across the line were wearing shorts . . . on a windy, 30-degree day. One of them wasn't wearing a shirt at all.

I may like to be warm when I run -- long pants, please -- but I'm obviously not dressed for success.

Best sign of advance planning: The first two entries for late May's Buffalo Marathon are in. They are from London, England.

Unsung heroes: Diane Sardes, Joan Crouse and their cameras are a constant presence at local races. They snap a few dozen photos and have them posted at Checkersac.org within hours of a race's completion. It's thankless work, so here's one big thank you to them.

Happy New Year.

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Race calendar

January Jog 5K, Barker Fire Hall, 1660 Quaker Road, 10:30 a.m., Jan. 13; 795-3775.

e-mail: bbailey@buffnews.com

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