Without the combined vision of John and Tom the Buffalo Marathon would not exist today. They will forever be on our minds and in our hearts and prayers.
John Beishline, a prominent figure in Western New York’s running community, passed away on Dec. 10, 2013.
Beishline helped resurrect the Buffalo Marathon in 2000, and as race director, saw the race grow in terms of registered participants each year. Under his leadership, the Buffalo Marathon grew to nearly 6,000 participants in 2013, with that number poised to continue growing for 2014.
“John was a tireless individual whose dedication to running and managing local runs has touched thousands of runners across not only Western New York, but also runners around the world who’ve taken part in his races,” said Tom Donnelly, the Buffalo Marathon’s late race director. “He was a friend and teacher to individuals in our running community, and his impact will not be forgotten,” he added.
Beishline served with and operated Western New York Finish Line Services for more than 30 years and provided timing for more than 85 races per year. He also served as a race consultant to new races for more than 25 years for free, and was a certified race official for road races.
Among Beishline’s many other contributions to the running community were serving as the marathon race director when the World University Games was held in Buffalo in 1993, as the race director for the World Veterans Games, as the race director for the Engineering Run for 27 years, and organizing the Bullfeathers/Nickel City Run in 1989. He was also the president of USATF (USA Track and Field) Niagara Region from 1991 – 1996.
Highlights from Beishline’s running career include participating in local, sectional, national, and international races, and completing the Boston Marathon in 3:20.
Tom Donnelly, who died Nov. 15, 2014 at age 61, was a central figure in Buffalo’s running community for decades, including his outstanding work with the Buffalo Marathon.
Mr. Donnelly, who became the Marathon’s race director in 2014 following the death of John Beishline, improved the Marathon’s course, oversaw the event’s growth, did the majority of design work, and assembled a committee that is energized and committed to making this race a national destination event.
“Tom and our founding late race director, John Beishline, left us a race with an excellent reputation that has grown each year since the start,” said Greg Weber, race director of the Buffalo Marathon. “This race started as an idea around John’s kitchen table, and has grown to have national recognition,” Weber added.
Mr. Donnelly also served as race director of the YMCA’s annual Turkey Trot and is credited with leading it to its current popularity, including its 2014 registration sell-out of 14,000 runners. He worked for the last decade with the Turkey Trot, established in 1896 and one of the country’s oldest road races. He was president of the Checkers Athletic Club and president of the Western New York Running Hall of Fame. He was the marketing manager at the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority, where he worked for the last 27 years.
Mr. Donnelly himself was an avid runner who laced up his first set of running shoes in 1976 at the urging of his older brother, Bill, because he was overweight and out of shape. “I was running marathons and I gave him a pair of my old shoes and he went out and never stopped,” said Bill Donnelly.
Tom Donnelly went on to run many marathons, including the Boston Marathon, and had a personal best time of 2 hours, 35 minutes in the Skylon Marathon that begins in Buffalo and ends in Canada.
The Buffalo Marathon is committed to ensuring that it continues to be a race that has a positive impact for runners, spectators, the Western New York community, and also fulfills John’s and Tom’s visions for the event.