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Running: Burke will be on same stage as world's best

Several Olympians will be taking part in the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix track meet in Boston on Jan. 28. That includes Matt Centrowitz, the 2016 gold medalist in the 1,500-meter run, and Jenn Suhr, a 2012 gold medalist in the women's pole vault.

Kevin Burke will be there too.

The Buffalo runner received an invitation to take part in the Masters Mile at the competition, which takes place at the Reggie Lewis Center. Burke already is calling this the highlight of his athletic career, and he hasn't even arrived in Boston yet.

"I would have to say it is," he said. "I've run the Boston Marathon, but this has to be on top."

The journey to Boston has been an unconventional one, and its origins date about a quarter of a century.

"It's kind of a funny story," Burke said. "I went to Georgetown in the early '90s. John Trautman was there, and he was in the pantheon of running gods at the time, training for Barcelona in 1992. I was a walk-on with modestly good times. The coach let me on, partly for my grit and partly because I had a good GPA. He let me have a shirt but no scholarship."

Burke became friends with Trautman, and they stayed in touch over the years. Burke continue to run after he came back to Buffalo, and could stay with most of the area's top runners.

But as the years went by, Burke's priorities changed. He was putting together a career as a lawyer, and not exercising enough.

"I was about 40 pounds over my fighting weight" in 2015, "what with client dinners, entertainment, and so on," Burke said. "I was not exactly being lean and clean. I stumbled across an article that said John had broken a world record in January 2015 by running a 4:12 mile at the age of 45. I saw him years before, and he was in no condition to run a mile."

Trautman lost 60 pounds on his way to competing again. Burke contacted Trautman again, and Trautman offered to send Burke a workout schedule.

"I said sure, why not?" Burke said. "I started with easy jogging, but pretty soon I was doing workouts that got tougher and tough. I ran 18:12 at the Shoes for the Shelter race last April, and I got better and better."

He won the Strider Glider Quarter-Marathon in October, and then finished eighth in the country in the USA Track and Field cross country championship. Trautman asked about running a mile, and Burke decided to enter a race at RIT in Rochester on Dec. 31. He won in a time of 4:58. Trautman then offered to make a couple of phone calls on Burke's behalf for the Boston meet, and Burke found himself with a spot in the field.

"I've been running 400s and 600s, and that's been a whole lot of fun," said Burke, a lawyer for Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP. "Most of the credit goes to John and his coaching.

"I've been getting support from my wife. She gets up at 6 a.m. to hold a stop watch. I do some cross training, I've been doing an active yoga flow. ... It's pretty amazing - I've lost 40 pounds."

Burke's wife comes from the Boston area, so they'll have a place to say. His other expenses will be covered by the meet. Burke won't receive any money for participating, unlike the top competitors in the field.

He says he's hoping to have a nice cheering section, including family members and Georgetown alumni, at the event. Burke knows that a 4:20 time for the mile will be needed to win the race, but he's more concerned with 4:40 or so.

"I'm determined not to be last," Burke said with a laugh.

He says he won't be too nervous well before the race. Burke will put on his Checkers Athletic Club running shirt ("They'll get a kick out of that," he said) and head for the starting line for the first race of the meet at 3:30 p.m. When Burke lines up for the race and looks around at the superb athletes around him, he figures there will be a few butterflies inside.

"I'll know what I'm in for in that moment between the time when runners get set and the pistol fires, when the crowd gets quiet," Burke said.

Race directors meeting

If it's January, it must be time for the annual race directors meeting. It's a chance for people to get together to talk about a variety of issues covering how to put on a running competition - especially those who are in the planning stage of their first race.

This year's event will be held at the Knights of Columbus Hall at 1530 Kenmore Ave. in Buffalo, starting at 6:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served; organizers will be seeking donations from participants to cover those costs.

Questions should be directed to Sal Teresi (310-7201), Bob Kaminski (510-0116) or John Grandits (634-5052).

Race calendar

* Frozen Chosen 5K, 4536 South Buffalo St., Orchard Park, 10 a.m.  Saturday Jan. 21, 662-4747.

* Beast of Burden, 100/50/25 miles, 718 Market St., Lockport, 10 a.m. Saturday Jan. 28, 609-9000.

* Penguin Run, 5K, 2425 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst, 11 a.m.  Sunday Jan. 29, 549-6307.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com

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