Tom Donnelly learned a lot in his first time as race director of the Buffalo Marathon. For starters, there’s a lot of talking to be done.
Donnelly, who was rather hoarse but hardly speechless when the race was completed, found he had some new duties this time compared with his days as an assistant.
“It complicates a lot,” said Donnelly, who moved up when race director John Beishline died last year. “It adds elements that otherwise would not have been there.”
Marathons are large, unwieldy events that have a life of their own. The comparison is often made to a large wedding – not everything goes according to plan, but usually there’s a happy ending.
“There were wrinkles today and curve balls that nobody would ever know about or care about, but they drive me nuts,” Donnelly said. “It gives you ulcers.”
For example, a couple of runners reported some traffic issues on Niagara Street. “That’s part of the equation. Those things sometimes happen,” Donnelly said. “You have redundancies in place, but you have to figure that something will be miscommunicated. We survived, but it made it a little panicky at times.”
While the final registration numbers hadn’t been added up by Sunday morning, the total numbers for all events – marathon, half-marathon, marathon relay and 5-kilometer run – broke records. As Donnelly looked out on the large crowd in a portion of the main Convention Center floor for the postrace party, he could foresee a day when the entire area would be needed.
“Someday we’re going to fill it. There will be a day when, if we keep growing to 10-, 12-thousand, it’s going to happen,” he said.
Dr. Jack Daniels had a simple message for Buffalo’s runners when he spoke to them at the Marathon Expo this weekend.
“It’s consistency of training,” he said. “If you want to improve at anything, you want to do it consistently, and not just do it real hard for a month or so. It can be studies, singing, art, whatever. You have to make a commitment to do it with some regularity.” Daniels knows something about making a long-term commitment. He’s been involved in running all his life, as an athlete (two Olympic medals in the modern pentathlon), coach and teacher.
“I like coaching a lot. That’s my primary interest,” he said. “I’ve taught exercise physiology over the years at a bunch of universities. If I could get the same income and just coach, I’d do that. But I don’t. I don’t mind teaching, but it’s different. You see more immediate rewards from coaching than you do from teaching.”
Daniels coached at SUNY Cortland State for 17 years, where he guided 30 NCAA Division III champions and 130 All-Americans. One of his athletes was Vicki Mitchell, currently a coach at the University at Buffalo. Daniels was named the cross-country coach at Wells College in Central New York a little more than a year ago – just before he turned 80.
He’s worked with such famous runners as Jim Ryan, Alberto Salazar and Joan Benoit Samuelsson. What’s more, Daniels also has coached runners that he’s never even met. “I coached a guy for five years who was in prison,” Daniels said. “He ran 40 miles a week in the yard. Now I couldn’t do that online, so I did it through the mail. He talked his sister into training, so when he got out they could run the New York City Marathon together.
“I coached another guy online who was 72 years old. When I first conversed with him, he had just finished his 14th week in a row of running more than 100 miles. He did it all between 2 and 5 a.m. I thought he lived in some place like Phoenix and was trying to avoid the heat. No, he lives in Michigan.”
Daniels certainly displayed his knowledge of the subject of running during his speech in Buffalo. His book, “Daniels’ Running Formula,” has received critical acclaim as a scientific look at training that is easy for the layman to understand. He does a variety of public appearances over the course of the year, including running camps for high school athletes.
Races such as this usually keep the attending medical staff somewhat busy. This year’s race had its usual share of finish-line collapses and dehydration cases. No serious injuries had been reported immediately following the event.
Roger Roll of Williamsville looked like he had survived the half-marathon instead of merely running it.
“At mile 1, there was a water shut-off cover, sticking out of the ground. I tripped over that,” he said. “It stopped bleeding on its own, and then I got some first aid when I finished. They wrapped up my leg with a bandage, and gave me an ice pack for my elbow.”
Roll looked worse than he felt at the end of the race, thanks to the blood stains on his legs and socks. He got some stares on the course but was proud to complete the run.