- 6 miles/10K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, 50 miles, Relay
- Road Race
- Event Website
I decided to make this my first full marathon experience. Overall, it was OK. Part of me wishes I'd chosen a different race to be my first marathon, but hindsight is 20/20.
We registered for the race pretty early, and the cost was reasonable. We like that the Omaha Running Club is trying to make the Heartland Marathon the marquee marathon in the city after the Omaha Marathon was purchased by an out-of-state company.
First, the expo. This year, it took place at the Hilton in downtown Omaha. It's a nice facility, although, parking can be a pain, unless you want to pay exorbitant hotel parking rates. One thing I'll definitely credit the Omaha Running Club for doing is getting a good guest at the expo. Last year (we didn't participate, but went to the expo), they had Frank Shorter speak, and this year, they had Bart Yasso. The expo is easy to navigate with a number of good vendors. Picking up your packet is simple, they have you check your bib to make sure it reads, and then you're free to go. If you're in a hurry, you can get in and out really quickly.
Next, the course. The route starts on the Riverfront, which is pretty cool. It's scenic and the downtown location could be a nice feature for both local and out of town participants. The first 4 miles are hilly, taking you through parts of downtown and by the Henry Doorly Zoo. You then cross the Veterans Memorial Bridge into Iowa, running over the Missouri River. From that point, you're largely on a walking/running/biking path for the majority of the remainder of the race. While much of the path is somewhat scenic, there is non-race traffic (walkers, runners and cyclists) navigating the trail as well. From mile 4 to about mile 9, there isn't much shade, so the sun can bear down on you. The Lake Manawa section provides some pretty park scenery and some off and on shade. This section is an out-and-back, so you have the benefit of the shad for about 8 miles, or so. From there, you loop back into an out-and-back before traversing back towards the River, through a park. After about mile 20, parts of the course get pretty desolate. In a race this size, you may not see anyone in front or behind you for large stretches and you feel pretty isolated. The majority of miles 4 through 24 are flat, so it allows you to get into a good groove, though. At around mile 25, you get to cross the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, which takes you back into Nebraska from Iowa. This is a really cool part of the race, although the climb to the top of the bridge is a grind. You then get to cruise into a nice decline as you make your descent from the bridge to the Riverfront, looping around to the finish line.
The weather sucked this year, which is no fault of the organizers, obviously. It was 72 at the start, and 85 when I finished. The downside of Nebraska is you're just as likely to get a great weather day as you are a terrible weather day.
The aid station volunteers along the course were awesome and very helpful. To me, this was probably one of the highlights of the race. They were really that good - encouraging, attentive, motivating. There were aid stations about every 2 miles, or less, and they were stocked with water and Gatorade. Some aid stations had Gu (which I didn't need) and cold sponges (which were freaking life-saving).
When we got there on race day, it was easy to check our gear and didn't have to fight for parking. We got in line in the corral, but I couldn't find either of my two target pace groups (3:30 or 3:45). I was planning on going with the 3:45 pace group, but thought I could always just stay well behind the 3:30 group if I felt ok enough. The website advertised pacers for the 3:00, 3:15, 3:30, 3:45, 4:00, 4:15 and 4:30. However, there were only pacers for 3:00, 3:15, 4:00 and 4:30. Not cool. This kind of derails your plans 10 minutes before your first marathon. In my opinion, if a race isn't going to have pacers, that's fine. But if you say you're going to, then you better have them. It's kind of a big thing to get wrong. The Race Director told me afterwards that "All pacers are volunteers and no one stepped up for the 3:30 and 3:45 slots. We have to go with what we are given." While I understand that to a point, don't advertise something that you can't deliver.
Post-race, there was a lot of food - hot dogs, chips, fruit, fruit snacks, chocolate milk, water, etc. I wasn't hungry, so I only had chocolate milk. There was only one massage therapist there, and there was a line for her. Then, she ended up leaving before the race wasn't even over, so I was pretty disappointed after I got done with my cool down to see that I wouldn't be able to take advantage of that great service.
Overall, it was a fine race. Will I do it again? Probably not, unless some fixes are made. There are 3 marathons in Omaha within a 5 week period, each vying to be THE marquee marathon in Omaha. While the work the Omaha Running Club does is appreciated, I think they have a way to go to get this to the level it could/should be. Omaha isn't a huge city, so I'm ok with us not having a nationally-recognized marathon, but 3 in the fall is a lot, and it's so oversaturated. I just wish we had one group that could completely nail a great race.