The Omaha marathon had been a fixture in the city for almost 40 years when the volunteer organization that ran it sold the race to a New York management group in 2013. The local running club did not like how the new organizers did with the race and started their own marathon in 2015 – the Heartland marathon billed as a race for runners put on by runners.
Cathy let me know that she was going to do this race as a way to use up some airfare credit she had from when she cancelled out of Little Rock. When my oldest daughter accepted a job in Omaha in April, I decided to sign-up as an excuse to come visit her. Chris and Rob also joined in the party so it was a nice group of forumites for a marathon with less than 100 finishers.
8 out of 15 pointsLocale:
Omaha was an interesting city. I got into town just after 1 PM on Saturday and we all went to the Old Market of town for lunch. There were multiple breweries to choose from along with many other shops & restaurants Chris treated us to some Mojito ice cream after lunch that was fabulous! The riverfront, where the race started and finished, was very nice with lots of public art. Chris was overjoyed when he found out that the regional office for the National parks was indeed open on the weekend so he spent some time there after the race. Unfortunately, less than 5 miles of the race was actually in Omaha as most of the race was in Iowa.
I spent some time Saturday afternoon with my daughter (Susie) and got to see the high school where she teaches and explores the community around it that is pretty trendy. We had a beer at one of the breweries out there and joined the rest of the gang for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant back in the Old Market area.
10 out of 15 pointsExpo & Registration:
The expo was very small but had a handful of vendors in case a runner needed to buy something at the last minute. They did have Bart Yasso as their guest speaker and were providing a free pasta dinner.
8 out of 15 pointsCourse:
Most of the course is run on the Council Bluffs Recreation Trails in Iowa. The first 4 miles were through downtown and was the only section with any significant hills. The biggest negative were all of the out and back sections along the trails. It would be nice if they could incorporate a loop somehow.
14 out of 20 pointsRace Amenities:
The race shirt is a decent design and has no sponsor names on it like so many other races, but is the lower quality A4 shirts given out at many of our local races. The medal used the same design as the shirt and was decent size & quality but nothing special. They checked off the boxes that most runners expect but didn’t go above the minimum required.
8 out of 15 pointsVolunteers/Spectators:
With most of the race on paved trails, there were very few spectators. There had been some emails sent out looking for extra volunteers, but I thought that they had everything covered. All of the aid stations were well manned and even though they hadn’t advertised it, some had gels available.
6 out of 10 pointsBonus - Beer Scene:
Omaha was actively promoting their beer scene and we had all requested a free passport that had coupons that basically was a buy a beer get one free. You can also get each brewery to stamp the book and if visit all of the breweries you get a free pint glass. We didn’t have time for that but we passed our books onto my daughter and hope she will be able to put them to good use. We all enjoyed the Vanilla Bean Blonde Ale from Infusion Brewing that we had post-race.Race Report:
It was a 10 minute walk from our hotel over to the race start and it was already over 70 degrees with highs forecast to reach the mid to upper 80’s. We used the porta johns and got into the Marathon Maniac picture before the start. We chatted with some of the other runners and since it was such a small race we ended up seeing many of them along the way with the various out and back sections.
Cathy has been nursing a sore calf over the last few weeks and wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to complete the race and was talking about dropping down to the half when those runners turned off after mile 7. I decided to run with Cathy to see if I could get her past the turnoff for the half.
We started off running easy through the big hills at the start and got a kick out of hearing the elephants as we passed by the zoo. In no time, we were crossing the bridge into Iowa. Around mile 7 there was the turn-off for the half and reluctantly Cathy turned to the right to continue on the marathon. She needed to use a porta-john before mile 8 and told me to go on and that she would be ok. (She commented on how badly her leg hurt as she went into the porta-john
The next 2 miles were wide open so there was no shade, but we did have a nice breeze to cool things off. The trail turned into a more wooded area around mile 10 and it was fairly shaded from there until we returned at mile 16. There was a turn-around just after mile 13 so I was waiting to see the leaders come the other way and I counted to see which place Rob was in. He was in the top 10 when I saw him and said that Cathy might still be back there. I had joined up with a relay runner in here. Anne was running with a team made up of runners over 70 years old. She was a character and I enjoyed the time I spent talking with her and learning about the race and Omaha. She handed off to her next runner after mile 14 and I continued on. Things were going fairy well until we got back past mile 16 and the shade was gone and we were in full sun for the remainder of the race.
I will give the RD props because at that point all of the aid stations started having cups of ice and many also added cold sponges to help cool everyone off. It was all welcome. I latched onto a few runners in this section but there weren’t many to choose from. There was another short out-and-back section around mile 18/19 and then we finally started moving towards the finish. We went by a park that had lots of kids playing football and baseball but the soccer fields were all empty. One of the least scenic areas was at mile 24 as we ran behind a Harrah’s casino and some sort of plant. Mile 25 was at the base of the Bob Kerry Pedestrian bridge and they had an aid station there and the volunteer was dumping ice-cold water on the runners which felt awesome! The bridge was full of families out for the day so I really didn’t take any time admiring the view of the city. We looped down off the bridge and past the Lewis and Clark Historic Trailhead and I saw my daughter and her boyfriend who gave me a good cheer as I went past. The last section of the race was maddening as we went past the finish line and then back up towards it.
Cathy was right there when I finished and then my daughter also came over. I got my medal and a couple bottles of water and started walking back to the hotel. I was sad, but not surprised, to hear Cathy tell me about how she dropped right after she left me and mostly walked the rest of the way back.
Rob was in a hurry to get back home so I grabbed a quick shower and we had a nice post-race meal and some good beers at a spot a few blocks from the hotel. It turned out that Chris & I were on the same flight to Charlotte so we arranged things so we could sit together on the flight.
The Heartland Marathon is exactly what they advertise – it’s a race for runners. It’s not for someone who is looking for lots of extras or needs a ton of frills. The heat just made for a tough day and aside from the race date isn’t the fault of the race director. I had low expectations going into the race due to poor training over the summer and I lived up to those expectations just narrowly avoiding a PW. Marathon / Ultra # 61 and state #38 complete. No more states planned for 2017 but I will be running the Kiawah Island marathon in December.