Celebrating its 20th year since its rebirth in 1998
The First Annual Buffalo to Niagara Skylon International Marathon took place on Saturday, October 26th , 1974. It was a great success right away. The organizers were very excited about the number of participants and the publicity that the sponsor Skylon Tower got.
The Marathon quickly became a favorite and by 1976 it attracted more than 3,000 runners, surpassing the New York and Boston marathons in that same year.
In 1977 the race was renamed the Skylon International Marathon until 1985 when the name was changed to the Buffalo / Niagara Falls International Marathon.
In 1980 and 1984 the course was used for the men’s US Olympic marathon trials. Anthony Sandoval set a course record with a time of 2:10:19 in 1980 during the US Olympics trials race which has yet to be beaten.
In 1985 there was a special “Peace Bridge Trophy” which was presented to the first man and first woman to step foot in Canada. The Marathon ceased to exist after 1986 due to lack of sponsorship however the race continued in the US under the name Buffalo Marathon…a race that continues to this day.
The marathon was revived in 1998 under the new name Casino Niagara International Marathon with Casino Niagara as the title sponsor.
A half marathon was established in 2001, drawing additional participants to the race. The half marathon also offers a walking division.
Nicole Stevenson set a course record for women in 2004 with a time of 2:37:08 which has also yet to be beaten.
In 2005 The Niagara Parks Commission announced and supported the annual SCHOOLS MARATHON CHALLENGE in conjunction with the Niagara Falls International Marathon. The SCHOOLS MARATHON CHALLENGE became quite popular and has had as many as 1,100 children from schools participating in the project. The Niagara Falls International Marathon with the help of corporate sponsor Minacs, now supports 100% of the costs of this event.
Also in 2005, the 5K event was reintroduced and was followed in 2007 with the introduction of a 10K.
Another significant change happened in 2006 when the finish line was moved to the brink of the falls and in 2007 the race was renamed a final time to the current Niagara Falls International Marathon.
Voted one of the most scenic marathons in Canada and the #1 such event in Ontario with a marathon that starts in one country and finishes in another, the Niagara Falls International Marathon continues to grow with participants in recent years exceeding 6,000. Unlike earlier years, the majority or 61.46% of runners in all events are now female compared to 38.54% male runners. Athletes from more than 36 countries around the world run in all events.
MARATHON COURSE DESCRIPTION
As you line up on Lincoln Parkway in Buffalo for the start of the Niagara Falls International Marathon, you will find yourself in a most historic and beautiful area. Originally called North Park, it is now known as Delaware Park. Opened in 1870, this beautiful green area was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead who also designed New York City’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Lincoln Parkway is only a small part of the park that includes the Buffalo Zoo, Baseball Diamonds, Soccer Fields, Running Track, Picnic Areas and a Golf Course (formerly known as the Sheep Meadow in the 1880’s where flocks of sheep grassed).
Delaware Park was the site of the 1901 Pan American Exposition, which was designed to improve relations between North and South America. While visiting the exposition, the then President William McKinley was assassinated in the John G Milburn home, located a few blocks from the exposition. That same day Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office of President of the United States of America at the Wilcox Mansion on Delaware Avenue. The site where President McKinley was shot is located just two blocks from the starting line of today’s marathon.
As you approach the start line of the marathon on Lincoln Parkway, you are standing between two very interesting and historic structures. To your left is the Delaware Park Casino & Rose Garden, which perhaps was the most popular area in Buffalo during the 1850’s, attracting thousands of people on summer weekends? On your right is the world famous Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which houses one of the finest collections of modern art in the world and where the runners will wait for the start of the Marathon.
The first two miles of the race are run on the Lincoln, Chapin and Lafayette Parkways. The route enters Richmond Avenue, a stretch that in Victorian times was famous for its magnificent homes and horse-drawn sled races in winter. At the south end of Richmond lies Symphony Circle. Facing onto the circle and visible from far down the street is the towering First Presbyterian Church, which was designed to reflect the romantic medievalism of H.H. Richardson’s State Hospital. Directly west of the church is Kleinhans Music Hall, is the work of Finnish architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen. The hall is also renowned for its excellent acoustics.
The race then heads for the Peace Bridge that crosses into Canada. Once over the bridge, the course turns right under the bridge and heads south along the river. In 1814 at Old Fort Erie, the courses southernmost point that, after two years of bitter fighting, Americans stood on Canadian soil as the enemy for the last time.
The course loops around Fort Erie and doubles back into the town, passing along River Road, continuing on the scenic Niagara Parkway for the next 18 miles. Running close to the riverbank and just above water level, it is elegantly landscaped and meticulously kept by the Niagara Parks Commission. More than 260 years ago, British and American troops fought up and down this area, but today it is an image of tranquility, serenity and beauty.
Once mostly farmland, the roughly thirteen miles between Fort Erie and the Village of Chippawa is now dotted with relatively inconspicuous motels and opulent residential development. On the river side of the course the most notable landmarks are the Marina, boat launches, parks and picnicking areas. By the time you reach the north end of Navy Island near Chippawa, the river is well over a mile wide.
Coming into Chippawa, the course bears left around an inlet and leads into the picturesque village. As you approach that turn you see the billowing spray of the Falls for the first time, as well as the first intake gates of the hydropower system that furnishes electricity to both countries. Once past Chippawa, as it begins to rise detectably for the first time since the bridge, the course moves back into the majesty of the Parkway. The Niagara Parks Commission’s elegant flowerbeds make their first appearance. The Dufferin Islands, usually filled with children and paddleboats in the summer, come up on the left. Not far beyond them, a historic landmarks such as the International Hydro Control building looms on the left. The finish line is practically in sight. The last half-mile, gratifyingly downhill and flat, takes you to the stunning beauty of the powerful brink of the Falls. Upon completion, you have arrived at the Finish Line, and can share your time at the iconic Wonders of the World, Niagara Falls next to the Niagara Parks Commission’s Table Rock Complex.
Race Weekend Events Held on the Friday evening on October 28th in 2016 a social event brings sponsors, VIPs, charities and special guests together to mix and mingle. The Race’s Health and Fitness Expo brings over 60 exhibitors annually to market health, fitness and lifestyle products and services to a large target market including 15,000 runners, friends and family members who pass through the two day Friday and Saturday event on October 28th and 29th in 2016. On Sunday October 30th in 2016, a marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K and the Schools Marathon Challenge take place on this scenic and historic course, all finishing at the brink of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. COURSE RECORDS: Men’s Open Full Marathon: Anthony Sandoval 2:10:19 (1980) U.S. Men’s Olympic Trials Women’s Open Full Marathon: Nicole Stevenson 2:37:09 (2004) Men’s Masters Full Marathon: Ralph Zimmerman 2:23:16 (1981) Women’s Master Full Marathon: Danuta Bartoszek 2:46:42 (2001) Men’s Open Half Marathon: Reid Coolsaet 1:03:11 (2013) Women’s Open Half Marathon: Dayna Pidhoresky 1:11:45 (2011) Men’s Masters Half Marathon: Steve Boyd 1:05:42 (2004) Women’s Masters Half Marathon: Paula Wiltse 1:18:00 (2010) Men’s Open 5K: Steve Boyd 15:03.6 (2000) Women’s Open 5K: Anna Eatherley 18:33.9 (1998) Men’s Open 10K: Stephane Hetherington 32:59.3 (2007) Women’s Open 10K: Judika Lose 40:03.8 (2009)