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Ultrarunning on the Niagara Frontier
Nickel City 50 (1980-1995)
The Inaugural Race. Dave Broad organized the first Nickel City 50 in 1980 so he would have a local ultra to run. The 50-mile race used a 1.75 mile road loop around Buffalo's Delaware Park. Eighteen runners started the inaugural race with 14 completing the distance. Ed Cohn won in 6:16:09; Carl Pegels was the top Masters runner in 7:45:48 and Joan Zirkelbach was the top woman finisher in 8:58:32.
TAC National Championship. The Nickel City 50 hit the big time in its second year by being designated the TAC National 50 Mile Road Championship. Entries for the race included some of the top men in the country. Frank Bozanich from Seattle, WA took his fifth national ultramarathon championship with his strong 5:17:09 finish. He led four additional men under 6 hours. Ed Cohn was the top local runner, finishing 3rd overall in 5:40:49, more than 35 minutes faster than the year before. The top Masters runner was John Sullivan from Massachusetts in 5:42:19, a very strong time for a 49-year-old man. Lennie Tucker, well known to this day for her work in the Syracuse running community, was the 1981 women's national champion with her 7:41:23 finish.
Race Reports. Ultrarunning magazine published full results along with a brief stories for most of the 16 years the race was held. The report on the 1981 race is especially worth a read. Click here for a 12-page compilation of the Ultrarunning race reports.
Top Times. The following list was compiled from available race results. If we have overlooked anyone with a fast time, please send a note with the addition.
|1||1981||Frank Bozanich||37||WA||5:17:09||1986-1992||Jerry Moss|
|2||1985||Robert Perez||37||TX||5:23:13||1993-1995||Carl Pegels|
|1985||Mary Hanudel||25||OH||7:15:00||Women 18-39|
|2||1983||Nedra Weaver-Osborne||36||7:58:08||Women 18-39|
|3||1981||Lennie Tucker||43||7:41:23||Women 40-49|
Top Local Runner. Ed Cohn deserves special recognition as the region's top road ultramarathoner in the past 30 years. In common with many of the best ultrarunners of his era, he moved up to the challenge of ultras from the marathon... in his case, he ran his first ultra after completing 23 marathons with times consistently in the 2:29 to 2:35 range. He won the Nickel City 50 twice (1980 & 1983) and placed third overall against top national competition in 1982. His 1981 and 1983 marks both ranked in the top five times and he is the only New York State resident to finish under 6 hours in the 16 year history of the race.
Women in the Nickel City 50. Relatively few women ran ultras in that era (1980-1995). Most years only had one or two women finishers and some years had none... not surprising considering that women had only recently begun running marathons, e.g., it was not until 1972 that the Boston Marathon officially permitted women to enter. The fastest women's time in the Nickel City 50 was set by Mary Hanudel in 1985. She went on to considerable fame two years later. Ultrarunning magazine named her Runner of the Year for her American six-day best (486+ miles) set en route to a second-place finish (8 days, 13 hours) at Australia's 1987 Sydney-to-Melbourne 658-mile run. She also won the 1987 Sri Chinmoy 24 Hour with 122+ miles.
North Coast Hundred & 24 Hour (1985-1989)
With the Nickel City 50 well established on the fall calendar, Dave Broad organized a spring ultra using the same Delaware Park course. The inaugural race was won by Dan Brannen (a top ultrarunner in the 1980's and now Executive Director of the American Ultrarunning Association) in 15:09:30 with race director Dave Broad finishing second in 18:44:49.
After two years as a 100-miler, the race format shifted to a timed 24-hour run. The new format proved to be much more popular with entries more than doubling. Dick Sitter from Pennsylvania ran 122.6 miles in 1987 for a mark that proved to be the best over the three years the event was held. Marshal Ulrich, now best known for having completed Badwater ultra 15 times, came closest with a 122.3 mile effort in 1988.
Race Reports. Ultrarunning magazine published full results along with a brief stories for all five years the race was held. Click here for a 5-page compilation of the Ultrarunning race reports.
Top Times & Distances. The following list was compiled from the available race results.
|1||1985||Dan Brannen||32||PA||15:09:30||Men 18-39||1988-1989||Jerry Moss|
|2||1985||Dave Broad||38||18:44:49||Men 18-39|
|3||1986||Dick Sanders||37||18:48:12||Men 18-39|
|4||1986||Tom Jewiss||37||ON||20:23:36||Men 18-39|
|5||1985||Dick Sanders||35||21:28:04||Men 18-39|
|6||1986||Jerry Moss||50||23:14:18||Men 50-59|
|1||1987||Dick Sitter||48||PA||122.6||Men 40-49|
|2||1988||Marshall Ulrich||39||CO||122.3||Men 18-39|
|3||1988||Dick Sanders||41||119.8||Men 40-49|
|4||1987||Dick Sanders||36||119.6||Men 18-39|
|5||1987||Bob McGee||46||ON||112.1||Men 40-49|
|6||1989||Dick Sanders||42||111.1||Men 40-49|
|7||1988||Kevin Magin||41||MI||110||Men 40-49|
|8||1988||Dick Sitter||49||PA||109||Men 40-49|
|9||1987||Michel Careau||46||ON||107.8||Men 40-49|
|10||1989||Michel Careau||48||PQ||106.8||Men 40-49|
|11||1988||John Sholeen||43||106.5||Men 40-49|
|13||1987||Greg Buhuslawsky||35||ON||103.3||Men 18-39|
|15||1989||Greg Buhuslawsky||37||ON||100.6||Men 18-39|
|16||1988||Carl Pegels||55||100.2||Men 50-59|
|17||1988||Stanley Paccione||41||100.2||Men 40-49|
|18||1988||Ronald Johnstone||47||100.2||Men 40-49|
|19||1988||Joseph Dabes||49||100.2||Men 40-49|
|20||1988||Greg Helbig||49||100.2||Men 40-49|
BPAC 6 Hour (1996-2009)
The Transition: 50 Miles to 6 Hours. In its last three years the Nickel City 50 had experienced a continued decline in entries. After the November 1995 race, Race Director Carl Pegels and the sponsoring Buffalo Philharmonic Athletic Club announced their intention to change the race format and move it to a different time.
The race was reborn in April 1997 as the BPAC 6 Hour Distance Classic. Still using the same Delaware Park loop, the change brought immediate improvement... where the last Nickel City 50 had only 14 entrants, the new 6 Hour had 41 entrants with 26 of them running more than a marathon distance. Most importantly for the future of the race, there was much improved participation from the Buffalo running community.
Delaware Park to the Amherst Bike Path. By 2002 the race management began considering other venues for the race. The City of Buffalo had imposed steep park usage fees and reduced the level of park service, e.g., closed bathrooms. In 2006 race management finally moved the race to the Amherst bike paths. The new longer loop course proved to be immediately popular with entries nearly doubling.
Race Reports. Ultrarunning magazine published results listing all runners completing more than the marathon distance for 1996 to 2008. Most results include brief stories. Click here for a 17-page compilation of BPAC results from 1996-2009.
Top Times & Distances. The following list was compiled from results the the 1996-2009 races.
|1||1998||Michael Kichty||37||PA||51.59||Delaware Park||2007||Peggy Hillery|
|2||2000||Ryne Melcher||31||ON||49.57||Delaware Park||2008||Peggy Hillery &|
|3||1997||Len Fetterly||31||48.21||Delaware Park||Sue Devlin|
|4||2005||Ryne Melcher||26||ON||46.03||Delaware Park||2009||Sue Devlin|
|5||2000||John Culhane||36||ON||45.44||Delaware Park|
|2||2001||Mark Bomhower||43||ON||46.03||Delaware Park|
|4||1999||Mark Bomhower||41||ON||44.81||Delaware Park|
|2||1998||Ron Gehl||50||ON||44.94||Delaware Park|
|4||2001||Tom Perry||55||42.24||Delaware Park|
|5||2002||Doug Barber||55||ON||41.44||Delaware Park|
|1||1999||Richard Sitter||60||PA||38.81||Delaware Park|
|1||1997||Odino Soligo||76||ON||33.64||Delaware Park|
|1||1999||Deanna Lindsay||39||ON||43.99||Delaware Park|
|3||2001||Karin Westfahl||29||ON||42.35||Delaware Park|
|2||2005||Patricia Sommers||51||ON||35.40||Delaware Park|
|3||2002||Jean Gerstein||51||OH||34.88||Delaware Park|
Performance Trend: Men Down. Note that only one man has completed 50 miles or more in the 13-year history of the six hour format while there were nine men who completed the Nickel City 50 in under six hours. While some of the difference may be due to the greater motivational difficulties inherent in the timed format (e.g., running harder doesn't make the race end sooner), most of the difference is probably due to the general decline in the level of road ultrarunning that has accompanied the rise of participation in trail ultras.
Performance Trend: Women Up. Women's participation and race times are much improved over the earlier Nickel City 50 years when some races had no female finishers. Note especially how many of the top women's marks were set on the Amherst course which only came into use in 2006, indicating the trend toward increasingly competitive women's fields continues.
Western New York Ultra Series. Before the Ultra Series started in 2004, the average number of runners going beyond the marathon distance at BPAC was in the 20-25 range. Over the six years of the Series, that number has grown to 40-45 runners despite a wide-spread loss of Canadian runners to competing races in Ontario Province. While most of those runners do not go on to contest the other races in the Series, at least some of the recent BPAC growth can be attributed to the greater regional awareness that has come with being in the Series.
The Man Who Kept Ultrarunning Alive in Buffalo. The hero of this narrative is Carl Pegels. He was there at the start in 1980, winning the Masters division in the first Nickel City 50. He ran all three North Coast 24 Hour runs, completing over 100 miles once. In 1993 he took over directing the Nickel City 50 and then guided its successful transition to the timed format as the BPAC 6 Hour Distance Classic in 1997. When continued use of the Delaware Park venue became problematic, he guided the highly successful shift to the Amherst course in 2006. And, now that he is no longer the race director and is able to run BPAC, he has posted two of the top three times for the Men 70+ age category.
Submitted by Tom Perry
March 27, 2010