So, I ran a half marathon to train for my half marathon, and to do that, I drove to Omaha for a little running adventure. The closest long-distance race to me was in Nebraska for my 14-miler, and it seems like every runner that I know in Iowa is already tapering (*gulp*). The Heartland Marathon series, presented by the Omaha Running Club, has a full marathon, half marathon, a 10K and marathon relay. And YAY, I get to cross state #5 off my map!

Registering for this race the week before, I was a little nervous in how I would do all of this on my own — this was MAJORLY out of my comfort zone. I also freaked out a little about not having limited details on the website (including not having confirmation of the course for the full, which can sometimes mean cancellation of the whole event) and not a lot of information about water stops, etc. on the course. For a race from the local running club, you’d think they understand what things runners are looking for when it comes to race day, but maybe we’re all just a little too close to things.

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Registration and Cost: Oh, boy, this was an expensive race for me (when considering hotel, travel and late registration) — I tried recouping some cost by bringing a BUNCH of food with me. That said, cost of the race after fees was $102.13 (I think it was $95 before fees). OUCH.

Expo and Packet Pick-Up: Your typical small race expo that was at the OTHER convention center in Omaha at the Ramada (south side-ish of downtown). There was no race day packet pick-up. Very cool that Olympic runner Frank Shorter was a guest speaker at the Expo!

Free Swag: Another long-sleeve tech tee to add to my collection — and a beer koozie with the race logo o it (the joke was that you carry it on the course, and that was how they knew to give you beer instead of water LOL).

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Bag Check and Transportation: There was a bag check at the start line, but I didn’t know about it until I was at the start line. I walked from my hotel, and the weather was OK enough not to have to bring any additional layers. The website mentioned having shuttles to the start line from the host hotel… but not if they were taking runners back (a big reason why I decided to stay downtown).

Start Line: As I mentioned, the host hotel was quite a drive from the start line of the race. I had a mild freakout when the email arrived for race day info that included a different start line location than what was on the website (it wasn’t different, but I just read it different). It ended up just being a non-helpful location of a FORMER store (hashtag, places that are not there anymore).

I was super impressed by the start line — it was like a mini festival before the race, with a few vendor booths, a line of port-o-potties, the chocolate milk guy (!!!) and some hot coffee (AWESOME). The race started at 7:00 am, which is really dark at this time of year, but they had a bunch of lights. I was more nervous about walking in the dark by myself to the start line, which ended up being OK.

Weather: I wasn’t too happy to see 90% humidity on my weather app the morning of the race. But good news was that the rain moved out of the area, so I didn’t have to worry about forgetting to bring my rain jacket. Small wins. It wasn’t super sunny until the last couple miles of the race, and the cloud coverage kept it the weather pretty comfortable.

Course: Out and back course, navigating two states! Not quite the experience of crossing the national border like in the Niagara International Marathon, but still a very cool race highlight! The front three miles of the course had a few unexpected hills, which are always fun for me. After you cross into Iowa, there is a lot of time spent on the trails, but it was flat and tolerable. To be honest, I found running around the cornfields more peaceful this time around than I did during the gnarly heat of Dam to Dam.

Fans: What I loved most about the “fans” part of the experience were the volunteers. I LOVED being able to hear them shout “Gatorade first; water last” before you approached the aid stations. THIS IS SO HELPFUL!!! And once you got to the stations, everyone was super supportive, cheering you on to continue. There were chalk drawings on the sidewalks near where the relay exchanges were, too. Man, this Midwest Nice is LEGIT.

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Dark Start and Finish Line Showcase of the Race — the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge!

Experience: The coolest experience of the race was running over the cable-stayed Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge — a 3,000-foot footbridge across the Missouri River, where you cross the border from Iowa back to Nebraska — and, perfectly, the “beginning of the end” approach to the finish line. It was lit up in the darkness at the start and a really neat element of the race experience.

Finish Line: Did I mention chocolate milk? 😉

There was also a TON of food available at the finish line — bananas, orange wedges, snack bars, cookies, pastries, chips, coffee. It was impressive! I didn’t stick around too long, as I had another mile to do. I did a portion of it (.7 miles), and then realized how tired my body was. So, I jogged back to the finish line party to hear the overall winners for the half, grabbed a cup of coffee, and then walked back to my hotel — on the way back, naturally, meeting someone who relocated to Omaha from Pennsylvania (Harrisburg). It was cool to do that East Coast vs Midwest exchange for a few minutes with someone who gets it.

After Party: Party of one for this lady (read: shower and a sandwich back at the hotel), and then I had a two-hour drive back home.

Bonus: After the race (the same day!), I received an email of my individual results. The race’s results page included a LOT of info via Online Race Results. And I really like that the race provided a participant summary:
Number of finishers: 253
Number of females: 153
Number of males: 100
Average time: 2:12:25

Notable 30-somethings: Shout out to Ann Hubl (age 37) taking Overall Female at 1:35:43 — WHAT AN AMAZING TIME!

Random Bullshit: My hotel key didn’t work when I got back to my room. GAH, SO ANNOYING!

OVERALL
The Great: If you already follow me on Instagram, I ran another PR race!
The Good: Despite my initial thought of this race missing some helpful info, I thought it was incredibly well organized, and I really enjoyed my experience.
The Bad: Anxiety before the race was kind of dumb.
The Ugly: The start time at 7:00 was SO DARK.

Splits (per my Garmin):
10:29 (1) / 10:47 (2) / 10:18 (3) / 10:18 (4) / 10:12 (5) / 10:33 (6) / 10:25 (7) / 10:19 (8) / 10:03 (9) / 9:53 (10) / 10:10 (11) / 9:43 (12) / 9:15 (13) / [8:32]

This is my first half with no splits in the 11-minute range. This race was some WORK for sure. It felt hard, and I kept pushing when my mental game was starting to fail me. And when I had that moment of “I can beat a 2:15,” I pushed even harder to get it. That last mile felt like the LONGEST length to the finish line of any race that I’ve ever done — and I was kicking it in at a VERY low 8-minute pace to end (I definitely thought I was going to throw up lol).

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OFFICIAL RESULTS
2:14:23 — almost a 3-minute PR!
(My 10k split was 1:04:58)
13th in 35-39 age group
156th overall

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