Grand Island, NE -
Well before the sun came up Saturday, Marvin Bradley and Cheryl Cook-McCoy joined more than 80 other long-distance runners at the Nebraska State Fair's main entrance. They're among the first people to compete in the first-ever State Fair Marathon, each setting off on what's billed as the “nation's fastest flattest course” with their own goals in mind.
“I'm closing in, I've got three more states after this to finish my 50 states, a marathon in 50 states, for the second time around,” says Cook-McCoy of Salida, CO.
“My goal is to reach 250 marathons and this will be 248,” says Bradley, a Canon City, CO resident. “I've done other flat ones, we just finished one in Montana which was the highest and the hilliest I think.”
The Grand Island YMCA put the marathon, plus half and relay marathons, a 5K, and a kids one-mile run together as an outgrowth of a long-time race: the Bill Seymour Half Marathon.
“We do know the numbers are up a little bit from last year in all the races for total, and to have 85 plus marathoners on your first marathon, especially with the forecast the way it was supposed to be, is really good,” says GI YMCA Race Events Coordinator Jeffrey Doose.
It's a day of firsts for many: first races, first longer distances, even the first State Fair Marathon marriage proposal (by the way, she said yes). And nearly three hours after crossing the starting line Kaci Lickteig of Omaha is the first woman to finish the State Fair full, a special moment for the Dannebrog native.
“This was my first half marathon and it's just been one I always want to come back to, and a marathon is best because I love the longer distance,” says Lickteig.
More than 600 people competed in total, and coordinators think it will only go up.
“We will definitely continue to grow after this because this race brought in 21 different states to run the five different races,” says Doose.
Lickteig says she expects the new fair tradition to draw some of the fastest.
“It was great, course is wonderful, wonderfully marked, great volunteers, I give it an A+ rating,” she says.
This race was a certified qualifier for other marathons like Boston. Runners have to finish by a certain time depending on their age in order to qualify.