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The emails start to arrive around the first of the year and dribble in for the next six to eight weeks. They all have a variation of the same question:

“How do I get my race to be part of the Runner of the Year series?”

This is the 27th year for the series, and the standards for inclusion have stayed more or less the same since Mike Beebe started the series way back when. Still, it’s good to review them as runners and race directors come and go over the years:

• The schedule starts with the Shamrock Run, which was held Saturday, and ends with the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. There’s a certain amount of tradition with those events that signifies the start and end of the racing season. There are obviously well-run events in December, January and February, but I’m always afraid of bad weather influencing a race. In other words, people shouldn’t drive through a snowstorm just for the chance to earn Runner of the Year points.

• The races should be spread out a bit; something close to once a month is the ideal. I do make exceptions for the Subaru Buffalo 4-Mile Chase and the Checkers Mile, because they tend to attract an elite field.

• It’s good to have a variety of distances. That’s a little tough in an age when 5-kilometer races tend to dominate the calendar, but the current list does have everything from one mile to a half-marathon. The system usually comes up with worthy champions, which is the goal.

By the way, some wonder why the Buffalo Marathon doesn’t make the list.

It’s mostly because elite runners come in from out of town to dominate the overall results, so including it wouldn’t influence the series standings very much.

• Experience counts. In other words, races need to show they can put on a well-run event a few times before they are seriously considered for the series. Sticking to this rule has helped the series avoid a couple of disasters.

The scoring rules remain the same. Winning a race earns 12 points, second place gets nine, third earns eight, and so on down through 10th place. Age-group points go 3-2-1 for first-second-third.

The results are faithfully updated by Jeff John of Buffalorunners.com, where you can find the complete standings at the website.

Jeff also has proved to be very helpful when it comes to providing points of view on the rules of the series. We’ve had some bizarre circumstances come up over the years. I always know I’ll get an honest opinion on what to do from Jeff, and it’s always appreciated.

Chris Walters and Jennifer Koeppel-Acker were the 2012 champions.

By Thanksgiving, or perhaps a bit sooner, we’ll know who takes this year’s titles.

Race numbers rise

Fritz Van Leaven remains the ultimate source for statistical information on races throughout the region. The local running official charts participation of events in Western New York, Southern Ontario and Northwest Pennsylvania.

The news concerning 2012 for the sport was almost all good – again.

The number of races was up to 286, up from 271 the year before. The number of participants went from 97,993 to 113,878, an impressive jump of almost 16,000 entries.

The most popular race, as usual, was the Turkey Trot at 12,510 finishers.

Longer races dominate the top 10, but a couple of 5Ks showed amazing growth. The “It’s a Wonderful Run” in Seneca Falls had 2,711 finishers – entries went above 3,000. The race has become the major part of a weekend-long festival and thus is generating some good-sized tourism dollars. The Lindsay’s Legacy 5K was up to 1,762 finishers, and thus can claim the title of Western New York’s biggest 5K.

A few other noteworthy stats from Van Leaven’s report:

• The Girls on the Run 5K went from 453 finishers to 788 in a year. The growth of that very worthy program has been astonishing.

• The NCCC Thunderwolves 5K increased from 53 runners to 171, a jump of 223 percent. That was the biggest increase by percentage.

• The biggest debut race was the Sarah Johnson Memorial 5K in Wilson, which drew 508 runners. Both the Buffalo Undy 5000 and 50-Yard Finish Half-Marathon drew 503 finishers to tie for second.

• The News’ Runner of the Year series drew 12,510 runners in its 12 races, a jump of 5.3 percent over 2011.

Race calendar

• Slush Rush 5K, Williams Center at SUNY Fredonia, 9 a.m. today, 673-3451.

• Flight for Air Stairs Climb, 38 flights, One HSBC Center, 10 a..m. Saturday, (585) 666-1394.

• Olean YMCA Polar Bear Half-Marathon, 1101 Wayne St., Olean, 1 p.m. on March 10, 373-2400.

• St. Patrick’s Day Dash, 3 miles, 319 W. Third St., Jamestown, 9:15 a.m. on March 16, 488-2203, ext. 230.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com