After moving here in 2001 I set up a meeting with Susie Smisek. In her capacity as the Race Director for the Omaha Marathon, I was anxious to pick her brain about the Omaha running scene. I had already reached a few prelminary conclusions based on observations in my 1st 6 months of being an Omahan.
I had a list of carefully prepared questions. Susie’s first two answers were the most telling in my search for what makes Omaha tick. My first question was how many people were in the Omaha Run Club. I’m ball parking it here but it was close to 650 at the time. That is great for a community this size by the way. Tom Whitaker’s leadership is deserving of much praise.
My second question revealed everything I needed to know. When I asked Susie what percentage of the Omaha Metro Running Community she thought the Omaha Run Club comprised, her reply was an estimate of somewhere between 75-90%. Bingo!
I suggested that it was less than 5%. I went on to tell her that I saw a VAST unserved/underserved running community here. A sparse race calendar with a complacent populace, things needed shaking up in a big way.
Fast forward 10 years.
Lincoln Marathon and Half Marathon on May 1st. The Half had 8500 of the total 10000 participants. I’ll let you decide what percentage were likely from the Omaha Metro Area, I’d say a whole bunch.
Papillion Half Marathon and 10K last weekend. Over 1000 entries.
Gambler Half Marathon and 5K this morning. Over 1000 entries.
Three successful half marathons in 3 weeks (taking the liberty of course to count the Lincoln Half). We’re not there yet but Omaha is making some great strides towards being recognized in the same breath as other mid-markets like Des Moines, KC, Denver, etc. A great time to be a runner in Nebraska!
I graduated May 1992 from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in Community Health Promotion and a minor in Education. I wasn’t sure what I would do with it back then but on reflection it seems to have been the perfect fit for my passions. Also could have never guessed those passions would wind up in Omaha but now realize I ended up just where I was supposed to.