There aren’t a ton of August marathons out there, and even less that sound super- appealing, so I decided to head to Nebraska for the State Fair Marathon at the end of the month. I knew that there was a chance it would be hot, but after suffering through the Iowa heat in July, I knew that I was at least conditioned for the temperatures—plus, this course would be significantly less hilly. The race website boasts that this is the flattest marathon in the country, and they might just be right; I think there was only twenty or so feet of elevation gain or loss throughout the entire thing.
I wasn’t expecting much going into this race, so I was pleasantly surprised by my experience. I flew into Omaha and drove two hours west to Grand Island. I had booked this race a few months in advance, but I hadn’t taken into account that because this is the state fair marathon, the state fair would be in full swing. I wasn’t able to get a hotel close to the fairgrounds, but parking on race morning wasn’t a problem at all. There is, of course, a huge parking lot on site and no one was using it at 6:30 in the morning. This isn’t a huge race, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the course support. There were aid stations with water and Gatorade every two miles along with Gu, oranges, and other snacks. There were a decent number of spectators along the course and even prize money for the top three finishers in the marathon and half. (Consequently, I was the fourth runner in. Had I realized that I’d win $250 for finishing third, I think I would have pushed myself harder!)
As promised, the course was very flat and had the potential of being fast. However, it was also in the 60’s- 70’s on race morning and very humid. (Fortunately the threat of rain also meant that we weren’t being scorched by the sun.) Grand Island is also pretty darn rural. The race director did a nice job with the course, but there just isn’t a way to make lots and lots of farmland particularly interesting. There was a horse who trotted off his property at mile 7.5 and ran with us for about a quarter of a mile before deciding that marathoners weren’t particularly interesting. I was far enough away from him to find this terribly amusing, but it would have been terrified had I been in his immediate wake. That was the most exciting part of my morning.
I was happy with my individual race, though. I’ve been trying to run as many miles as possible under 7:50 in preparation for Saint George in October, and I got to about mile sixteen before having to slow down. I feel like I could have kept with the pace for longer if the weather had cooperated more, but I still came in under 3:31.
Our race entry came with a ticket to the state fair, and many people stayed around after the run to enjoy the festivities. My plan was to run back to the hotel and shower and then return for the awards and lunch. However, by the time I made my way back to the fairgrounds, it was PACKED, so I didn’t get the opportunity to check out the pageantry. I was able to stay over for an additional night in Omaha and have dinner with my friend from Michigan, Theresa, and her kiddos.
** Race Highlights: The course was incredibly flat and had very good support.
** The Downside: The course was a bit boring.
Sub 4:00 State #20, BQ State #18
Finish Time: 3:30:50
Overall Place Within My Gender: 4/74
Favorite Race Day Song: For some inexplicable reason, I found great joy in running to songs from the Moana Soundtrack.
Total Training Miles: 4343.5
Shoe Total: 13