There's always some unexpected wrinkle when it comes to The Buffalo News Runner of the Year series.
You'd think that all of the various contingencies would be covered after 22 years, but every year something comes up that tests the rules.
For example, last year three runners tied at the top of the men's 40-44 age-group. Chris Mattingly, John McMahon and Kevin Patterson each had eight points.
There's never been any contingency for a tiebreaker, so first-place trophies were handed out to all of them -- although the thought of having the three of them run a special 10-kilometer match race somewhere did sound appealing.
The scoring remains the same for the series. Winners of each race receive 12 points in the overall standings, second place earns nine, third place gets eight, and so on down to one point for the 10th-place finisher. In the age-group division, the winner receives three points, second gets two and third is awarded one.
Add the totals at the end of the year and winners are declared, with one exception. Any runner must participate in two events in the series in order to receive a prize (trophies for overall and age-group winners, certificates for second through 10th place overall and second and third in age-groups).
Last year's winners were worthy ones, as usual. Mike Heitzenrater not only won the overall title for the fifth time but also was first in the 25-29 age-group and second in the 30-34 bracket thanks to a well-timed birthday. He'll need a pickup truck to get all his awards. Aileen Hoak pulled out the women's championship with a dramatic showing in the series' last race, the Turkey Trot. (All-time winners on C12)
The toughest part of staging the series probably involves picking the races. The goal is to have as many race distances covered as possible, with a reasonable amount of time between events. This year, the Police Chase dropped off the schedule.
It was a tough decision to pick a replacement, but I went with the Ronald McDonald 5K. I ran this race for the first time last year, and it has to be one of the best-organized races in the area. It handles a big field nicely, and the party is first-rate. The McDonald's run also has been on the same course for a long time, and stability is valued in this series.
There are two other matters up for discussion. First, we have a big question mark around the Checkers Mile. It doesn't look as if the race will be scheduled this year, although the club's new board of directors will be taking office soon and discussing the matter. I'm determined to include a mile run in the series if at all possible.
I'll keep the space open for a while. If the race falls off the calendar, another event in June will be substituted.
Then there's the Shamrock Run. Due to construction down by the waterfront, the Shamrock will be held on a different course this year. The catch is that organizers did not have time to get the course certified.
The track has been measured, and I've been told that it will be only a few feet off at most. But certified distances are definitely preferred in this series -- ask Henry Sypniewski about the value of them, as he tries to set national age-group records -- and hopefully this won't turn into a habit.
I have mailed out most of the award certificates, but I still have almost all of the age-group trophies. The problem is that due to an injury I won't be attending many races in the next several weeks.
Therefore, either send me an e-mail or call my voice-mail (849-4149), and we'll figure out a way to get your trophy or certificate to you.
*Polar Bear 5K, 1691 Lockport Olcott Road, Olcott, 11 a.m. today, 434-8887.
*Chilly Challenge, 5K, 1180 Delaware Ave., noon today, 675-9403.
*Slush Rush 3K, SUNY Fredonia International Education Center in the Williams Center, 11 a.m. Mar. 1, 673-3451.