The first women's-only half marathon in Buffalo will make its debut on Sunday. The inaugural Queen City Women's Half Marathon will run through downtown and the outer harbor beginning at 7:30 a.m.
The event, produced by Eclipse Multisport, has partnered with the Buffalo Bisons to offer the first women's-only 13.1-mile road race in Western New York. It is just the 55th women's only half marathon in the United States.
"We've received such great feedback from the community for this event and are just thrilled about the possibilities of what the future will hold," said Anne Horan, vice president of Eclipse MultiSport. "It's going to be a destination race. People are going to come from all over the country because there are only 55," women's-only half marathons. "As we know women love to do women's-only events."
Next year the half marathon will partner with Girls on the Run, a non-profit organization that works with 8-13 year old girls to get them active through running. While the girls train for a non-competitive 5K at the end of the program, Katie Joyce has seen mothers and teachers find a love of running through helping their daughters and students.
"What's nice about the women's only events is our girls start running with their moms on the weekends and then their moms start training for a 5K and then the moms realize they love running and they graduate to a half marathon," said Joyce, director of Girls on the Run in Western New York. "This is a great way to build up their running. ... We need to get our girls moving and running is a great way to do it."
Why women's only? First, it's a popular market with women's-only road races, obstacle races and triathlons growing across the country. Second, while it's a competitive environment on the one hand (it is a race after all) it's a more welcoming, comfortable and supportive environment for women finding their own stride.
It's something Vicki Mitchell, head track and field and cross country coach at the University at Buffalo and herself a former elite marathoner, has seen up close as a coach and an athlete.
"Having an opportunity like this half marathon for women to showcase themselves, to go out, be confident, explore, for many of them it could be their first half marathon ever, to be able to explore that in a non-intimidating environment is very exciting," Mitchell said. "I think this is going to be an event that's going to snowball in future years as more people become aware of it."
The course begins on Washington Street near the Buffalo News building. The 13.1-mile course goes through Canalside, to the Buffalo Lighthouse, through Buffalo's Outer Harbor and finishing on Exchange Street near the outfield entrance of Coca-Cola Field.
Registration is $55 and includes a finisher medal (which doubles as a wine stopper), a custom wine glass and a high-tech performance t-shirt. Age group winners will receive a bottle of wine.
A children's 1K race will take place around 11 a.m. The start time is fluid to allow any moms who are running the half marathon time to finish to watch their children run around the warning track of Coca-Cola Field.
The post-race party will be held in the Coca-Cola Field Pavilion area including complimentary food and wine as well as live music.
Online registration is open through Friday afternoon. Race-day registration is also available in The Buffalo News lobby from 5 a.m. to 7:15 a.m.
Packet pick-up is Saturday from 12:30-2 o.m. at Cabela's near the Galleria Mall or Sunday morning in The Buffalo News lobby from 5 a.m. to 7:15 a.m.