Overall Rating
Overall Rating (2 Reviews)
2.5
(2 Ratings)(2 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
1.5
SCENERY
2.5
PRODUCTION
3.5
SWAG
4
Local Weather (Sep 17)
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H (°F) 81 86 79 72 66
L (°F) 55 69 57 57 52
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    This review will be inherently biased because I ran my second worst time this year on this course. While I am capable of running between 3:20 and 3:30 on a … MORE

    This review will be inherently biased because I ran my second worst time this year on this course. While I am capable of running between 3:20 and 3:30 on a good day, I can typically phone in a 3:45-3:55 marathon under regular circumstances. In Omaha, I ran 1:45 for the first half and then a disastrously awful 2:38 second half.

    The course begins in Omaha’s downtown, which is just like any other small city in the United States (Birmingham, Little Rock, Tulsa, etc.), and eventually makes its way into new and old neighborhoods, with the occasional park thrown in. This part of the race was actually pleasant until. But around mile 7 it becomes a bike/running path along the river that affords absolutely zero shade. The entire race is a 13-mile out-and-back, so the lack of shade is a near certainty until about mile 19.

    I was dead by that point and could barely run. However, had I been confidently striding, I would have been slightly annoyed at the lack of creativity or effort in planning out the race course. That said, aid stations were evenly spaced out and staffed with friendly volunteers. The medal is large and bears a colorful ribbon, though the t-shirt wasn’t anything special.

    Although it is unfortunate that my performance tends to bleed into my opinion of any race, it’s not always the case. I fondly remember Shiprock (3:28), Route 66 (3:27), and Des Moines (3:25), but also smile when I look back on Crazy Horse (3:54) and Tupelo (4:31), the latter of which was also a gruesomely warm out-and-back.

    For any aspiring 50-staters, I’d look into the other marathons Omaha and Nebraska have to offer before signing up for this one. At the end of this race, I was not only dehydrated, I was underwhelmed.

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    4
    My Report
    SCENERY
    2
    SWAG
    4

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    Profile photo of Mike Sohaskey
    Mike Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '16

    BOTTOM LINE: Like its pleasant yet average host city, the Omaha Marathon is a pleasant yet average race. To this outsider Omaha was largely nondescript, and if you didn’t know … MORE

    BOTTOM LINE: Like its pleasant yet average host city, the Omaha Marathon is a pleasant yet average race. To this outsider Omaha was largely nondescript, and if you didn’t know where you were you’d be hard-pressed at any point to identify what city you’re running through. So it’s definitely not the most memorable course you’ll run, but then again it’s a golden opportunity to tour (per the race website) “Nebraska’s most vibrant city”. And the course lies entirely within the state border, a plus for me since I was there to fill my brain with Omaha and Nebraska, like a student cramming for final exams.

    (Each of the city’s two other marathons, the Heartland Marathon on Oct. 2 and the Nebraska Marathon on Oct. 16, includes significant mileage in Iowa—though why the 43rd most populous city in the country needs three marathons all within a month of each other is unclear. I sense a bit of civic competition!)

    The city aside, the race itself felt like a faceless event devoid of personality and going through the motions. It felt detached from rather than integrated into the community, and it certainly didn’t seem to draw much interest from residents. On-course entertainment was lacking (unless you count a small number of spectator signs), and without aid stations we would have run in silence for most of the 26.2 miles—no high-school bands, no speakers pumping in aural adrenaline, no music of any kind. Even the music at the start line felt apologetic, its volume so low as to be nearly inaudible.

    I certainly don’t mind smaller, quieter events—in fact I prefer them, and here some of my favorite races spring to mind, including Run Crazy Horse, the Mississippi Blues Marathon and the Hatfield McCoy Marathon. The difference, as their names suggest, is that these events focus on and embrace the local culture, giving runners a legitimate sense of place. Would you rather run the “Jackson Marathon” or the Mississippi Blues Marathon? The “Eastern Kentucky Marathon” or Hatfield McCoy? Not only that, but the swag for each of these races featured a “surprise & delight” nod to local culture (e.g. a harmonica from Mississippi Blues, a mason jar from Hatfield McCoy). The best race organizers understand that details matter.

    The lone kernel of Nebraska culture on this morning was the runner dressed as an ear of corn who I saw shortly after the turnaround. On the bright side, the race was a solid value at $85 (plus inconvenience fees) and significantly cheaper than Omaha’s two other marathons. Though given the Nebraska Marathon’s competitive slogan of “Run local”, I’m guessing its organizers may do more to recognize and embrace local culture.

    PRODUCTION: All things considered, I wasn’t surprised to learn that HITS Endurance, which produces the race, is based in New York and is “the largest equine show jumping production company in the world” (equine as in horses). The Omaha Marathon is currently the only running event on the company’s calendar, along with a handful of triathlons. Race production struck me as color-by-numbers and just good enough to get by, as though someone had watched a two-minute YouTube video or read a primer on “How to produce a marathon”.

    Overall the day ran smoothly enough with no major speed bumps, and kudos to both the organizers and the Omaha police for resolving the pre-race shooting incident as quickly as possible and with minimal disruption to the event itself. At the same time, several missed opportunities throughout the weekend suggested a lack of attention to detail.

    First, the expo was disappointing—the five or six tents set up in the parking lot of TD Ameritrade Park were of little interest and seemed scarcely targeted toward runners, including the vendor closest to the entrance who handed us each individually wrapped slices of bread. I could practically hear the planet groaning underfoot.

    In addition to the concerns above and the color-by-numbers feel of the production, aid stations were inefficiently organized. Race organizers who pay attention to detail will ensure that water and sports drink (in this case Heed) are offered in visually distinct cups so you can tell at a glance which is which. In the heat of Omaha I had to expend energy at each aid station asking for water, since everything was served in white cups. Not only that but unlike Gatorade, Heed is clear and so indistinguishable from water, thus adding to the confusion. Though this didn’t prevent volunteers from mistakenly shouting “Gatorade!” at every aid station.

    The post-race spread, though not terrible, was typical: bananas, oranges, dry bagels, an oversized open jar of peanut butter and a container of jelly with flies buzzing happily around it in the heat. No local vendors offering samples or selling food, something I always appreciate as an easy way to showcase the community to a receptive audience. Dan did manage to score us some chocolate milk from a cooler of ice.

    Individually these may sound like the nitpicky ramblings of a high-maintenance runner, but while none are make-or-break details, together they’re a clear indication of how well an event production company knows its stuff—and maybe more importantly, how much it cares.

    SWAG (see photo): Other than surviving the heat, the highlight of the Omaha Marathon may have been the swag, most of all the impressively sized medal that passes the “heft test” and which is now among the largest in my collection. The age group award—a colorful certificate in a curved & beveled acrylic frame—was an unexpected bonus; luckily I stuck around to claim it, since it would have cost me $10 to have it shipped. And the race shirt is a nicely designed, dark blue & green long-sleeve tech tee that will come in handy during the harsh Los Angeles winters.

    For everything you ever wanted to know about the Omaha Marathon but were afraid to ask, check out my race report at http://wp.me/p2rSqE-1jL

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    3
    My Report
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    4
    My Media

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