We've had many seagull style trips on our quest to run a marathon in all 50 states... swoop in, run a marathon, and get out. I expected our trip to Omaha, NE to be very nondescript. However, it was surprisingly one of my favorites.
JoeWee Heinrichs (my sub 4 marathon partner in crime), offered to do the driving for this trip, and we accepted. He picked us up before dawn and we headed south and west to Omaha. We arrived just after lunch, checked into the hotel, went to packet pickup, and then had lunch in downtown Omaha at WheatFields Eatery and Bakery
. We sat outside, enjoyed the absolutely perfect weather, and chatted about marathons with our neighboring patrons and fellow runners who recognized my Paavo marathon shirt.
Bill and I had no plans for sight-seeing or excursions. JoeWee said he'd like to go to the zoo. I am fairly take-it-or-leave-it when it comes to zoos, but it was early afternoon, and what else were we going to do. We shrugged and said 'sure'. JoeWee informed us they had the largest desert dome, and largest nocturnal exhibit. OK. I am game.
So the three of us went to the Henry Doorly Zoo
. And I have to say, this was a great zoo. I believe adult admission was around $15, which I found very reasonable. We checked out the desert dome, and the 'Kingdoms of the Night' exhibit first. We wandered through the Cat Complex on the way to the Simmons Aviary.
We stumbled upon the best zoo thing ever. Prairie Dog Hill. Since it was very near closing time, there were not a lot of humans left in the zoo, we almost had the place to ourselves. Prairie Dog Hill is an open area where the prairie dogs can just run around loose. They are not behind fences or anything. There was a sign that said "Do not feet or pet the prairie dogs. They have a specialized diet."
OK. After a brief observation, it was determined that 'specialized diet' meant 'native weeds and other junk simply found on the ground'. Since that didn't seem terribly specialized to me, I was going to also cast some doubt on the petting warning as well. If they really didn't want me petting the prairie dogs, God would not have made them so gosh darn cute and soft and friendly and fluffy. As these scurrying friends nibbled on dinner, they wagged their little prairie dog tails while I petted them. They wished I could have stayed longer.
We finished at the zoo, and headed to the race sponsored pasta dinner, where we met up with Bill Schneider, who we know from home, and his friend Paul. Dinner was free to runners who signed up early, and was fairly standard issue.
Sunday morning, we walked over to the marathon start. It was an out-and-back course, fairly scenic, adequate aid stations, decent weather. All in all pretty pleasant.
The finish area was annoying, as there was just no good way to get to where the post-race food area, and it was not well communicated how to get there. We ended up having to cross the marathon course, dodging runners. I guess there was another way that involved a few flights of stairs, but we didn't find it.
My significant complaint of the weekend however, was the marathon shirt. This thing is absolutely useless. It is plain white, thin and see-thru. It has no color or picture. It simply says "Omaha, Nebraska September 22, 2013". No where does it say 'marathon'. No where does it have any hint that this is a marathon shirt. Not even a picture of a runner. The back has a list of the other locations and dates of the organizer's events, but the only hint that these are races is the word 'run' or 'tri' next to the location. No mention at all that this involved running 26.2 miles.
I have tons and tons of race shirts, so, I will simply enjoy complaining about the shirt, and boasting on facebook that I now have a new 'worst race shirt ever'. But I really feel bad for those folks who ran this as their first marathon, or their only marathon, or one of only a few marathons they will do. They have nothing special to wear to commemorate their accomplishment. When they wear this shirt at their next race, no one will even know what this was for.
Per a recommendation from our friend Dana Shulz, and a Omaha runner that I ran with early in the race, we had lunch at Upstream Brewing Company
, followed by dessert at Ted and Wally's
where we got to have some unusual ice cream flavors: Guiness, Orange Caramel, Ginger, and Walnut Brownie Batter.
Except for the dud race shirt, it was a really really really nice weekend.
sub 4 marathon states: 35
marathons this year: 14
lifetime marathons: 71