Throwback: 2013 Bismarck (ND) and Omaha (NE) Double

Wow, this one was another challenging double! Yes, as echoed from some other throwback race reports from this time, I had a bad case of plantar fasciitis. But my foot was not the only thing that made this weekend tough. It was the distance between Bismarck, North Dakota and Omaha, Nebraska. Scot and I flew to Bismarck on Friday, ran the Bismarck Marathon on Saturday, then drove to Omaha after the race. Google Maps shows that drive as 8.5 hours without stops. Of course we had to stop a few times, so it was a long day. We arrived in Omaha after midnight. Thank goodness Abbi had already checked into the hotel there. We ran the Omaha Marathon on Sunday, stayed overnight (thank goodness!) and flew home from Omaha early on Monday morning. I don't have many photos from this weekend, for some reason, but here's the story.

My first impressions of Bismarck were not great. It seemed such an uninteresting place for a state capital. There wasn’t a downtown or a city center area that I saw. Everywhere we went looked like suburban sprawl. Even the state capitol had little character. The packet pick-up was held at a shopping mall and there was little to see there. For dinner, we wanted to check out Krolls Diner, the sponsor of the marathon, but it was closed! We got a recommendation for a pizza place and it was OK.

At Magenta the Road Trip Flamingo's North Dakota Capitol photo shoot 

On race morning we were able to park close to the start/finish area. We found some fellow Marathon Maniacs and got a photo. It was just barely light when we started out on the two-loop course. I’ll say this about Bismarck Marathon: it might not have been the most scenic, but they did a nice job with the race logistics. The event was well-managed and the volunteers were awesome. I suppose they can’t help it if their city isn’t much to look at.

Marathon Maniacs before Bismarck Marathon

I ran much of the first loop with Maria. It was nice having someone to talk to, especially on a very long out-and-back stretch that went uphill for a long way. Then it circled the University of Mary, which was at the top of the hill and offered probably the best view of the area. And then we went down the long hill and eventually made it back to the starting line to begin our second loop. This was hard, knowing that the leaders had already finished, many of the half marathoners were done, but I had to go out for another boring loop that would be identical to the boring loop I had just completed. Same long uphill, etc.

I was no longer with Maria in the second loop. My plantar fasciitis was causing me to walk more and slow down. That second loop was long and boring and lonely. But I finally finished, and Scot was waiting for me. We didn’t have much time to waste before getting on the road to Omaha.

Scot and I at the Bismarck finish

We briefly considered driving to Omaha via Pierre, South Dakota so we could see another state capital. But it would have been a slightly longer drive, and it would have been dark when we got there. And we really didn’t have the time to spare there, anyway. As a compromise, we took a few minutes to cross the border into Minnesota before heading south at Fargo. That added an additional state to our itinerary, even if it was just to turn around and go back. The drive was long and incredibly boring. There are more interesting parts in the Dakotas, but we didn’t see them on this trip. The goal was to get to Omaha as quickly and safely as possible. We arrived late and Abbi let us into the hotel room. Then we went right to sleep.

Welcome to South Dakota! No time for sightseeing

On Sunday morning we picked up our packets before the Omaha Marathon. It was nice that they had race-day packet pick-up, but it wasn’t very organized, and they ran out of t-shirts in the right sizes. The t-shirts sucked, anyway. They were plain white on front and just said “Omaha, Nebraska” and the date. Didn’t say marathon. Didn’t have any artwork. The back of the shirt had a list of events organized by the same organization “HITS” and printed the Omaha listing as a “run”. That’s all. Horrible shirt that was ugly and didn’t fit. I gave it to my mom to use as a base layer. There was a quick  Maniac photo which Abbi and I joined, but Scot was running behind and was looking for me. He missed the photo but we found him at the start.

Abbi and I before Omaha start
Marathon Maniacs at Omaha

Abbi and I ran together for much of this race. The course was only slightly more interesting than Bismarck. There was a split off for the 10K runners and another for the half marathoners. These were not all very well marked. Fellow Maniac Natalie accidentally turned off with the half marathoners, and the volunteers there didn’t catch her. She added some mileage to her race before she realized the mistake. Then there was a section of the course that went along a path paralleling the river. That sounds nice, right? But it wasn’t. It was a horrible, concrete path, and while the river was on one side of us, there were industrial buildings on the other side of us putting out noxious odors. Then we spent some time in a park, which was not bad, but after that we returned to run the other direction on the river path. Later, we ran through some questionable neighborhoods. Hey, I don’t have a problem with low-income areas; not everyone can afford to live in a mansion. But if those neighborhoods don't have historical significance, are those really the areas you want to highlight to out-of-town runners during a race that should be showcasing the best of your city? I think not.

Months after the race we found out that a photo of Abbi, me and Scot was used as a promo on the Omaha Marathon website

During Omaha with Abbi and Amy

At some point I ended up behind Abbi. On this second day of a double, I was tired and my foot was killing me – again. I was so relieved when I made it back to the downtown area. I knew that I was almost finished, but late in the day some of the turns were not well-marked. I knew I would be finishing at TD Amertrade Park, home of the college world series. I could see the park, but I didn’t know exactly which turns I needed to take to get there via the marathon course. I second-guessed myself several times, but luckily there were some runners who had already finished and a bike volunteer who helped me out. I ran a lap around the outfield of the baseball field, then came out of the stadium for the finish line. I remember nothing of the finish line party or food. Was there any? I was in a bad mood at this point and also in a lot of pain. I accepted my medal, a nice stamped-glass medal, which was about the only thing from this race that I valued. Scot met me at the finish line and then we walked back to the hotel. We saw Abbi briefly, but she had to get on the road. Scot and I got cleaned up and then found some dinner. We drove to the Omaha airport the next morning to fly home. We added yet another state to our itinerary when we drove through a corner of Iowa on our way to the airport (actually, we also dipped into Iowa the night before when we arrived).

This race weekend was interesting. Both Scot and I earned two new states. We minimized travel expenses by doing this as a double. But neither of the races was stellar. Bismarck was well-organized, but boring. Omaha suffered from some poor organization and also some uninteresting parts on the course. I don’t think I’d want to repeat either of them.

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