It’s never easy to predict the winners of the Buffalo Marathon.
That’s true of any race that goes over 26.2 miles of pavement. Anyone can have a good or bad day at a given race. In addition, quality runners can register at the last minute and add a bit of surprise to the race.
This year’s race looks to be particularly wide-open. On the men’s side, four elite runners are expected to be on the starting line. Two top women also will be ready to run at 7 a.m. Sunday.
As usual, the East African men figure to be among the leaders. Fikadu Lemma of Ethiopia broke 2 hours, 10 minutes at the distance about a year ago in Hamburg, Germany.
Zerihun Ambaye of Ethiopia ran a 2:21 in Pittsburgh just three weeks ago. Jason Lokwatom of Kenya won here in 2009 in 2:24 and should be fresh for this year’s run.
Another contender is from closer to home. Bryan Morseman is from Addison (near Corning), and ran a 2:23 marathon in Louisville last month.
All will be going after the course record of 2:17:55, set by Jacob Chamar in 2007.
On the women’s side, Muliye Gurmu of Ethiopia has a victory in a marathon, in 2012 at Manchester, N.H., to her credit. She is expected to be challenged by Masters runner Lori Kingsley of Wysox, Pa., who ran a 2:46 marathon in Boston in 2010.
Neither defending champion, Josephat Ongeri of Kenya and Elena Orlova of Russia, is expected to run here this year.
In the half-marathon, also set to start at 7 a.m., both 2012 champions are coming back. Kiplangat Tisia of Kenya won in 1:05:08. Fred Joslyn of East Syracuse already has broken 1:08 this year.
Andrew Foxenberg of Chittenango ran a 1:07:11 in New Orleans in February. Sam Morse of Camden, Chris Raulli of North Syracuse and Leo Kormanik of Peninsula, Pa., also could be among the leaders.
Among women, Natasha Yaremczuk of Paris, Ont., won last year in 1:21:30. She’ll be chased by Karen Blodgett of Fairport and Neely Spence Gracey of Lake Orion, Mich.
More than $10,000 in prize money will be at stake.
The marathon winners receive $2,000, and there are bonuses available for winners who break course records. Half-marathon victors earn $500 each.
The race weekend has several new touches this year. On Saturday, an open-air bus will tour the course and allow riders to learn about the city along the way. It will leave every two hours from the Hyatt, starting at 8 a.m., with the last tour beginning at 2 p.m.
Speakers will address runners at Buffalo Marathon Expo, which will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. One, Owen Anderson, has written four books on running. Also on the schedule are Gracey, Glenn Kaifas and Steve Gonser.
Food trucks will be present near the finish line for the first time.
Runners will hear some extra noise on the course as 500 cowbells have been distributed to volunteers.
Details are available at buffalomarathon.com.