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Running: Podcast finds niche with average Buffalo running Joes

It started the way these things usually do -- a bunch of guys talking at a race, sharing their running stories and laughing a lot.

Brothers Bill and Glen Zdon met Sean Johnson at the Grand Island Half Marathon and had a blast talking about their training. Johnson had experience in the podcasting realm and so the trio decided to create their own show featuring their friendship and running stories.

The Buffalo natives created the first episode of "The Negative Splits" in May 2016 and 70 episodes later are enjoying a healthy following.

"We were hoping we'd get as many 20 listeners for that first show, basically friends and family," Glen said. "We cracked the 100 mark and were like 'holy cow.' Now we have 10,000 downloads a week."

"I think what helped us with the success of the show is we're just normal guys with families who work 40 hours a week and we all just love running," Johnson said. "Aside from that we have three different outlooks on how we approach our running. Bill is very data driven and follows his training plan to a T. You can't get him to alter it to meet you for a long run. Glen, I think last year has struggled with the consistency and had some setbacks with injuries and had a promotion at work that's been demanding on him. Myself, I'm the opposite of Bill. I don't mind looking at the numbers, but I don't concern myself with the numbers. I train hard, but I do it my own way.

"So you have three different personalities on the show that are relatable to a lot of our listeners."

The show's format varies from show to show. Some episodes feature the guys telling their running stories, embarrassing tales included, while others include interviews with athletes, coaches, and others in the running world. They found an early traction with listeners thanks to some big-name interviews, including Bart Yasso, the recently retired chief running officers for Runner's World and generally accepted "mayor of running."

While they talk about Buffalo, it's not a Buffalo-centric podcast. They did their first deep-dive into Buffalo running on a recent episode when they interviewed Allie Kieffer, the Williamsville resident who finished fifth at the 2017 New York City Marathon, and Greg Weber, the race director of the Buffalo Marathon.

And speaking of the Buffalo Marathon, that is Glen and Sean's favorite race.

"The finish line crowd at the Buffalo Marathon is incredible," Glen said. "The Average Joe runner doesn't get to live that. You don't get to have a thousand people cheer you on to do something. I love that feeling of community. You've got kids out on the course with orange slices and cups of water and a sense of community for the Buffalo Marathon, the finish can't be beat. For hometown guy, it's everything Buffalo."

All three share a love of distance running -- from the marathon to ultras. And all three picked up running within the last six years.

For the Zdon brothers, it was Bill who started first, running at the urging of his father-in-law. Glen saw his brother lose a ton of weight. "Put us side-by-side and we looked like a before and after picture," he said. So Glen picked up running. And found it made more than just a physical difference.

"I really noticed the mental health benefits of it," Glen said. "I struggled and had been super anxiety ridden and running was one of the few things that helped me just feel content in my life."

As they share their stories, they've also enjoyed interacting with their audience through a variety of social media, including a Facebook group where listeners can share their stories.

"Our No. 1 goal is to create unique content, entertaining content and that's evolved for me into the community that we've built," Bill said. "We interact with them daily. It's something I didn't really expect at the beginning, but it's meant a lot to be growing in the community and be a part of that. I don't know what the end game is in terms of the podcast other than to keep providing different content in our own way. We want to keep marching to the beat of our own drum."

Race Calendar

Saturday, Feb. 10

  • Lockport 10, 10-mile, 10-mile relay, 5-mile, 10 a.m., The Historic Lockport Palace Theatre, 2 East Avenue Lockport.
  • Chautauqua Striders Winter 5K Series No. 3, 10 a.m., Lakewood Rod & Gun Club, 433 E Terrace Ave, Lakewood
  • Heart & Soul Run, 5K, 10 a.m., The Mahony Bar and Eatery, 199 Scott St, Buffalo

Saturday, Feb. 17

  • Chautauqua Striders Winter 5K Series No. 4, 10 a.m., Lakewood Rod & Gun Club, 433 E Terrace Ave, Lakewood
  • Beast of Burden 100 Miles, 50 Miles, 25 Miles, 10 a.m., The Nelson C. Goehle Widewaters Marina, 718 Market Street, Lockport
  • Checkers A.C. Come In From The Cold Indoor Track Meet, 200, 400, 800, 1600 meters, 3 p.m., Buffalo State College, 1300 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo

Sunday, Feb. 18

  • Sprague Brook Scramble Snowshoe Race, 2.5 or 5 miles, 10 a.m., Sprague Brook Park’s XC Ski Warming Hut, Glenwood

Saturday, Feb. 24

  • Chautauqua Striders Winter 5K Series No. 5, 10 a.m., Lakewood Rod & Gun Club, 433 E Terrace Ave, Lakewood

Sunday, Feb. 25

  • Polar Bear 5K, 10 a.m., Olcott Fire Company, 1691 Lockport-Olcott Road (Rt. 78), Olcott


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