Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Run the Monument Marathon in western Nebraska

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Run the Monument Marathon in western Nebraska

I’ve already taken it upon myself to do blog posts about the highlights of the Monument Marathon course (in 2012, the first year of the race) and a mile-by-mile accounting of the course (in 2013). What more can I do to persuade people that the Monument Marathon in western Nebraska is The Place To Be?

How about a Top Ten list?

OK, here are:

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Run the Monument Marathon in western Nebraska

10. Unique division awards.

If you are fast enough to win a division award (and your chances are better here, with a smaller race field), you don’t get a generic plaque – you get a piece of original artwork from a western Nebraska artist! Photographer Rick Myers and painter Yelena Khanevskaya have been lending their talents to the race these past few years. Here are some examples of their work that have portions of the race course as their subject:

This Rick Myers picture was cropped from an image on his Facebook page.

This Rick Myers picture was cropped from an image on his Facebook page. Both the full and half marathon participants will run on this road through Mitchell Pass.

This image of a watercolor by Yelena Khanevskaya is one of many available on her website yelena-khanevskaya.squarespace.com

This image of a watercolor by Yelena Khanevskaya is one of many on her website. This view is of Mitchell Pass from the opposite direction of Rick Myers’ photo.

9. Convenience.

The race Expo and pre-race pasta feed is at the Gering Civic Center, just blocks from the race site.  There is ample, free parking at the race finish at Five Rocks Amphitheater. Half marathoners start and finish right there at the amphitheater. Full marathoners get a free shuttle bus to the race start and gear drop service. It’s easy to find your way around this small community, and it’s only a 3-hour drive from the major gateway cities of Denver, Colorado, and Rapid City, South Dakota.

The sunrise was incredible on Year 1 of the Monument Marathon in 2012. Here was the shuttle bus that year, in the parking lot of Five Rocks Amphitheater, ready to take full marathoners to their race start in the Wildcat Hills.

The sunrise was incredible on Year 1 of the Monument Marathon in 2012. Here was the shuttle bus that year, in the parking lot of Five Rocks Amphitheater, ready to take full marathoners to their race start in the Wildcat Hills.

8. History.

You will literally be running in the footsteps of westbound pioneers, as portions of the full and half marathon courses traverse the Oregon Trail, near where Mark Twain encountered a Pony Express rider. You will pass the gates of two neighboring history museums as well: Legacy of the Plains Museum and the Oregon Trail Museum and Visitor Center at Scotts Bluff National Monument (the latter is a National Park site, so if you have a National Park passport, you can add another stamp to your collection!).

This map, from the website of the Legacy of the Plains Museum, which is right on the Monument Marathon course, shows some selected historical sites in the North Platte River Valley, which has been a transportation corridor for centuries. (It also shows the distance between Gering and selected cities.)

This map, from the website of the Legacy of the Plains Museum, which is right on the Monument Marathon course, shows some selected historical sites in the North Platte River Valley, which has been a transportation corridor for centuries. (It also shows the distance between Gering and selected cities.)

7. Field size.

The Monument Marathon is a small race, with around 500 participants total between the full and half marathon courses. You won’t have to worry about elbowing your way through a crowded field.

At the 2013 race, the field was small enough that the half marathon winner didn't even have anyone on his tail in the chute. Leaders from race title sponsor Platte Valley Companies hold the finisher tape. The community support for this race is wonderful!

At the 2013 race, the field was small enough that the half marathon winner didn’t even have anyone on his tail in the chute. Leaders from race title sponsor Platte Valley Companies hold the finisher tape. The community support for this race is wonderful!

6. Unique race swag.

Each participant will receive a wicking race shirt and a swag bag, which in past years has included such goodies as a bag of locally-grown beans and a cookbook. Your participant medal is shaped like the state of Nebraska and, because we are practical folk, your medal can also be used as a bottle opener. The design of the race medal changes every year – collect them all!

Here is the half marathon finisher medal from the 2014 Monument Marathon.

Here is the half marathon finisher medal from the 2014 Monument Marathon.

5. Charity.

Your registration dollars help support a good cause. Unlike so many marathons and half marathons these days that are operated by commercial interests, the Monument Marathon is coordinated by community organizations and volunteers in support of the Western Nebraska Community College Foundation. The Monument Marathon has helped to raise $150,000 for scholarships.

Here's a screen grab from a THANK YOU video the WNCC Foundation assembled. Your participation in the Monument Marathon helps students like these.

Here’s a screen grab from a THANK YOU video the WNCC Foundation assembled. Your participation in the Monument Marathon helps students like these.

4. Tourism opportunities.

While there are plenty of attractions to visit while you are here, the area remains off the beaten path, so you don’t have to fight the crowds. See here for my personal list of Top 10 Reasons to Come to Western Nebraska. See here for official Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau information, here for Gering tourism info, and here for information about the wider western Nebraska area.

There's no way I could decide which image to use of the tourism opportunities here: museums, hiking, bluffs, a CCC-built inland lighthouse . . . so, here's the logo of the Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau!

There’s no way I could decide which image to use of the tourism opportunities here: museums, hiking, bluffs, a CCC-built inland lighthouse . . . so, here’s the logo of the Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau!

And to represent the things you can do here (cycle, golf, stroll by the river, fish): the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau logo.

And to represent the things you can do here (cycle, golf, stroll by the river, fish): the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau logo.

3. The scenery.

People who have never been here before sometimes don’t believe it, but there is some seriously gorgeous topography out this way.

There are a thousand beautiful images I could have chosen to represent western Nebraska scenery, but I decided to go with this one - it's a view from the parking lot of Five Rocks Amphitheater, where the race ends. Even the parking lot of the race has great scenery!

There are a thousand beautiful images I could have chosen to represent western Nebraska scenery, but I decided to go with this one – it’s a view from the parking lot of Five Rocks Amphitheater, where the race ends. Even the parking lot of the race has great scenery!

2. Top-notch organization.

The Monument Marathon is a well-organized affair, with numerous experienced runners on the race crew and a professional timing company to assist with the chip-timed race. The entire community is involved and invested in the race, which means we have great coordination with local leaders, businesses, law enforcement, and transportation officials. (Case in point: The local Nebraska Department of Roads project manager made sure to include a stipulation in their summer highway construction contract to ensure that roads will be open for race – without the race director even having to ask them to!)

Community EMS volunteers from multiple agencies come out early and support the entire race to ensure everyone has a safe race. Did you know? There is even a relay tower placed on top of Scotts Bluff National Monument during the event to ensure clear EMS radio communication.

Community EMT volunteers from multiple agencies come out early and support the entire race to ensure everyone has a safe race. Did you know there is even a relay tower placed on top of Scotts Bluff National Monument during the event to ensure clear EMT radio communication?

1. Small-town hospitality.

Western Nebraska is the kind of place where residents will greet you with genuine friendliness. We tend to go out of our way to make sure you have a good experience so you will tell your friends about us and come back for a repeat visit yourself. Hundreds of community volunteers will assist and cheer for you on race day. Here are a couple of my favorite pictures of course volunteers and cheerleaders.

The drizzle on year 1 of the Monument Marathon in 2012 didn't dissuade this racing fan!

The drizzle on year 1 of the Monument Marathon in 2012 didn’t dissuade this racing fan!

The Pine Ridge Agency Singers sang encouragement songs to runners as they came up a final hill on the Monument Marathon half/full course in 2013.

The Pine Ridge Agency Singers sang encouragement songs to runners as they came up a final hill on the Monument Marathon half/full course in 2013.

An Elmo balloon photobombs these colorful race fans from the 2014 Monument Marathon.

An Elmo balloon photobombs these colorful course marshals / race fans from the 2014 Monument Marathon.

If you don’t quite trust the wonderful things I’m saying about the Monument Marathon (yeah, I’m a bit biased, since I’m on the planning crew), check out the reviews and blog posts from runners who have actually run the race.

Sign up today! You’ll make the race director’s heart happy. 🙂

A look back at the 2013 Momument Marathon

The photos that have been sitting on my camera since September are finally seeing the light of day, or, er . . . the light of pixel?

Once again, Bugman and I were part of the super-fun-to-work-with crew planning the Monument Marathon. I was delighted that the marathon was honored with the Nebraska Tourism Commission’s Outstanding Event Award at the 2013 Nebraska Travel Conference. The community really goes all-out for this race, and it’s nice to be recognized.

In between posting signage, setting fencing, hauling boxes, and other such tasks this year, I managed to get a few decent photos of race day.

Volunteers for the marathon were up before dawn, taking care of such details as aid station water "cubitainers."

Volunteers for the marathon were up before dawn, taking care of such details as aid station water “cubitainers.”

Emergency crew is on the scene and ready, just in case!

Emergency crew is on the scene and ready, just in case!

It seems strange to see people in winter coats setting beverages to chill in ice, doesn't it? On a sunny day at this elevation, it usually warms up pretty nicely this time of year.

It seems strange to see people in winter coats setting beverages to chill in ice, doesn’t it? On a sunny day at this elevation (around 4,000 feet above sea level), a chilly morning often turns into a warm day.

A little last-minute packing of some rain-exacerbated potholes on the last portion of the course across the parking lot. The lucked out with the weather. It rained pretty heavily the day before the race. There were a few mud puddles here and there on the course, but things dried out quite nicely.

A little last-minute repair of some rain-exacerbated potholes on the last portion of the course across the parking lot.

Testing out the finish tape.

Testing out the finish tape.

When the race director's smiling, you know it's a good day.

When the race director’s smiling, you know it’s a good day.

First runner's coming! The half-marathon winner!

First runner’s coming! The half-marathon winner!

This little guy popped out of the supporter crowd to follow his mom at the finish.

This little guy popped out of the supporter crowd to follow his mom at the finish.

The Pine Ridge Agency Singers provided runners a lift in the final mile.

The Pine Ridge Agency Singers provided runners a lift in the final mile.

A slightly blurry photo of my friend Jim turning onto the final stretch of his first marathon. Yaaay, Jim!

A slightly blurry photo of my friend Jim turning onto the final stretch of his first marathon. Yaaay, Jim!

For further reading, check out my two bike ride accounts of the course: one in 2012, and one in 2013.

If you’re intrigued, registration for the 2014 race on September 27 is already open!

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Breaking news: race deadline extended for flooded-out runners

The registration deadline for the Monument Marathon and half in Gering-Scottsbluff, western Nebraska was September 15. However, due to the extraordinary conditions in neighboring Colorado right now and the number of races that have been cancelled, the race organizers have extended the registration deadline until NOON MOUNTAIN TIME, SEPTEMBER 17 to try to accommodate flooded-out runners.

If anyone is interested, check out the race website: http://www.monumentmarathon.com/index.html

It’s a USATF-certified, scenic course and a well-organized race.

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Made it 15, anyway

I was supposed to run 18 miles this weekend, decided to shoot for 13 because of muscle pain, but wound up being able to tolerate 15.5. Granted, it was a very slow 15.5, but distance is distance, no matter how slow!

It’s still a mystery to me the variables that affect my running.

I suppose my pace was slowed a little because of the scenery. Sometimes you just have to stop and take a photo.

Me and Bugman, on a Scotts Bluff National Monument pathway. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure I am not dreaming and that I truly live only 5 miles from scenery this beautiful.

Me and Bugman, on a Scotts Bluff National Monument pathway. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure I am not dreaming and that I truly live only 5 miles from scenery this beautiful.

We weren't the only ones tackling Mitchell Pass on the Oregon Trail that day. At the crest of the hill in this photo is another runner - behind him, a cyclist. This is part of the course for the Monument Marathon (and half), which will be held Sept. 18 this year. Registration deadline is Sept. 15!! Check it out here.

We weren’t the only ones tackling Mitchell Pass on the Oregon Trail that day. At the crest of the hill in this photo is a tiny dot that is actually another runner – behind him, a cyclist. This is part of the course for the Monument Marathon (and half), which will be held Sept. 28 this year. Registration deadline is Sept. 15!!

An ornate box turtle!! First one I've seen! Found this little guy on the canal road north of Scotts Bluff National Monument.

An ornate box turtle!! First one I’ve seen! Found this little guy on the canal road north of Scotts Bluff National Monument.

In my last post, I had commented about preserving summer produce. Here is what I did with some of that produce, which tasted really, really, really, really good after running 15.5 miles:

Homemade waffles made with locally-grown wheat flour that is coarse ground and kind of crunchy, topped with butter and stewed garden tomatoes (no additives, just cooked-down tomato goodness), topped with shredded Meadowlark goat cheddar from Victory Hill Farm, plus basil from the garden. A friend suggested this type of savory waffle, and, boy, was it scrumptious!

Homemade waffles made with locally-grown wheat flour that is coarse ground and kind of crunchy, topped with butter and stewed garden tomatoes (no additives, just cooked-down tomato goodness), topped with shredded Meadowlark goat cheddar from Victory Hill Farm, plus basil from the garden. A friend suggested this type of savory waffle, and, boy, was it scrumptious!

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Cycling the Monument Marathon course

I am a member of a  dedicated planning crew for the Monument Marathon in Gering-Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

Last year, the first year of the race, Bugman and I rode our commuter bikes on one of several rides necessary to certify the course through USA Track & Field. I took that opportunity to take pictures and write a blog post about the course: Monument Marathon and its Western Nebraska Scenery. I did a short writeup after the event, too: Inaugural Monument Marathon in the books.

Now that Bugman and I are riding a tandem long distances, I figured we ought to do a Monument Marathon ride. Since on my first cycle tour of the course I picked and chose the most interesting or illustrative views, I decided that this time I would document the course in a more objective fashion by taking a picture every half mile.

“That’s going to be a lot of pictures,” Bugman said.

Yep. At 26.2 miles, two pictures per mile = 52 pictures.

But my first post on the marathon course contained 62 images. It’s pretty countryside! It needs to be documented and shared!

Bugman and I biked up to the Wildcat Hills Nature Center, cooled off for a little while, then headed out on the course. I turned on my GPS audio cues and took pictures every half-mile, give or take the distance crossed while I fumbled with my camera.

Here are the results of our efforts:

mile 0

Mile 0: looking west/southwest. Wildcat Hills Nature Center parking lot. Paved surface.

Mile 0.5

Mile 0.5: looking north / downhill. Highway 71. Paved surface.

Oops! Missed mile 1.0 – the wind was whistling so loudly on the downhill I didn’t hear my GPS.

mile 1 point 5

Mile 1.5: looking east. Homes in the Wildcat Hills. Paved surface.

mile 2

Mile 2: looking east. Paved surface.

mile 2 point 5
Mile 2.5: looking east/southest. Paved surface.
mile 3

Mile 3: looking west into Gering Valley. Paved surface.

mile 3 point 5
Mile 3.5: looking west. Paved surface.
mile 4

Mile 4: looking west. Paved surface.

mile 4 point 5
Mile 4.5: looking west. Paved surface.
mile 5

Mile 5: looking west. Paved surface.

mile 5 point 5

Mile 5.5: looking east. Paved surface.

mile 6

Mile 6: looking south. This is on Sandberg Road, after the turn off Highway 71. Paved surface.

mile 6 point 5

Mile 6.5: looking east. Hard to see in the photo, but there is a tractor on the road up ahead. Luckily, he turned off the road before we caught up with him. Paved surface.

mile 7

Mile 7: looking north. Paved surface.

mile 7 point 5

Mile 7.5: looking south. Gering Valley (irrigation) Drain. Paved surface.

mile 8

Mile 8: looking northwest. The turn from Sandberg Road to Lockwood Road. Paved surface.

mile 8 point 5

Mile 8.5: looking west over a corn field to Scotts Bluff National Monument. Paved surface.

mile 9

Mile 9: looking west. Paved surface.

mile 9 point 5

Mile 9.5: looking east. This might have been the place where there was a junkyard on the west side. Editorial decision to face east for the photo. Paved surface.

mile 10

Mile 10: looking northwest at the turn into Gering. Paved surface.

mile 10 point 5

Mile 10.5: looking north. The race’s entry into Gering is via an industrial area. Paved surface.

mile 11

Mile 11: looking south. Paved surface.

Mile 11.5: looking northwest towards the Oregon Trail Park ballfields

Mile 11.5: looking northwest towards the Oregon Trail Park ballfields. Paved surface.

mile 12

Mile 12: looking northwest at the turn from a residential neighborhood onto Five Rocks Road. Paved surface.

Mile 12.5: looking east, back over my shoulder at the 4-way-stop intersection of Five Rocks Road and M Street / Old Oregon Trail. The measurement point was at the intersection, but I was too busy paying attention to traffic to take a picture.

Mile 12.5: looking east, back over my shoulder at the 4-way-stop intersection of Five Rocks Road and M Street / Old Oregon Trail. The measurement point was at the intersection, but I was too busy paying attention to traffic to take a picture. There are some late-1800s pictures of this road early in Gering’s development. Before it was a city street, it was a part of the Oregon Trail. Pony Express riders traveled this path, too. Paved surface.

Mile 13: looking south down the tree-lined drive to the Gering cemetery

Mile 13: looking south down the tree-lined drive to the Gering cemetery. Paved surface.

Bugman and I stopped for a break at Legacy of the Plains Museum / Farm And Ranch Museum, so our mile markers will likely be a little off from this point forward on account of the distance traveled in the museum parking lot.

Bugman and I stopped for a break at Legacy of the Plains Museum, so our mile markers will likely be a little off from this point forward on account of the distance traveled in the museum parking lot.

Mile 13.5: looking northwest at some property belonging to the Legacy of the Plains Museum / Farm And Ranch Museum, with Scotts Bluff National Monument in the background.

Mile 13.5: looking northwest at some property belonging to the Legacy of the Plains Museum, with Scotts Bluff National Monument in the background. Paved surface.

Mile 14: looking northwest at Scotts Bluff National Monument. Gosh, the yucca bloom are striking this year!

Mile 14: looking northwest at Scotts Bluff National Monument. Paved surface.

Mile 14.5: looking north. Perfect timing to catch the pioneer wagon and "oxen" on the Oregon Trail at Scotts Bluff National Monument.

Mile 14.5: looking north. Perfect timing to catch the pioneer wagon and “oxen” on the Oregon Trail at Scotts Bluff National Monument. Paved surface.

Mile 15: looking north. Over the hump of Mitchell Pass.

Mile 15: looking north. Paved surface.

Mile 15.5: looking northwest

Mile 15.5: looking northwest. Paved surface.

mile 16

Mile 16: looking northeast. I *love* that some people around here still raise longhorn cattle. Paved surface.

mile 16 point 5

Mile 16.5: looking east. Paved surface.

mile 17

Mile 17: looking west. In that clump of trees is the charming Barn Anew B&B. Paved surface.

mile 17 point 5

Mile 17.5: looking west. Paved surface.

mile 18

Mile 18: looking south across a field of young sugar beet plants on Ridgeway Drive. Mitchell Pass is on the left of the frame (which was back at about mile 14.5). Gravel surface.

mile 18 point 5

Mile 18.5: looking south? southwest? Gravel surface.

mile 19

Mile 19: looking south from the irrigation canal road. The route from about mile 19 to about mile 22.5 is on a dirt-and-gravel private road on Scotts Bluff National Monument property that is primarily used for irrigation canal maintenance. It was pretty difficult to navigate a tandem on, since the surface varies from small gravel to large gravel to packed dirt to loose, sandy soil with the occasional tire ruts. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 19 point 5

Mile 19.5: looking south at a prairie dog colony across the irrigation canal. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 20

Mile 20: looking south. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 20 point 5

Mile 20.5: looking south. I think it was somewhere around this point that we hit a patch of loose soil and I wound up planting a hand on the ground. This surface is OK to run on – you just have to pay attention, but in places it’s not OK for a 350-pound tandem-with-riders on two thin road tires. We walked the bike for a bit. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 21

Mile 21: looking south at the north face of Scotts Bluff National Monument. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 21 point 5

Mile 21.5: looking north towards the badlands as Bugman walks the tandem through another sandy patch. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 22

Mile 22: looking northeast across a pasture towards the edge of a neighborhood of mobile homes. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 22 point 5

Mile 22.5: looking southwest at the neighborhood around the Monument Shadows golf course. Paved surface.

mile 23

Mile 23: looking west at Scotts Bluff National Monument from a bike path. Paved surface.

mile 23 point 5

Mile 23.5: looking west from the bike path. Paved surface.

mile 24

Mile 24: looking south from the U Street Pathway at the Gering bale facility (the processing center for the municipal landfill). Paved surface.

mile 24 point 5

Mile 24.5: looking west from Five Rocks Road. Paved surface.

mile 25

Mile 25: looking south on Meadowlark Boulevard – part of a zigzag through a neighborhood. Paved surface.

mile 25 point 5

Mile 25.5: looking west from the tree-lined cemetery road across a bean field towards the south bluff of Scotts Bluff National Monument. Paved surface.

mile 26

Mile 26: looking west – just before the cruel twist of landscape referred to among the race planners as “Devils’ Dip” or “Chupacabra Canyon.” Almost there! Gravel surface.

Through these gates and through the parking lot the finish line lies at Five Rocks Amphitheater

Through these gates and through the parking lot the finish line lies at Five Rocks Amphitheater. Gravel surface.

So there you have it: views of the Monument Marathon course from a tandem bicycle in approximately half-mile increments: a mix of nature preserve, pasture, farmland, Oregon Trail landmarks, industrial areas, and neighborhoods on asphalt, concrete, and dirt/gravel surfaces.

This is a high-quality rural race organized by volunteers to benefit the local community college foundation. It is one of only four marathons in Nebraska – the super-rural Sandhills Marathon is a small race with a registration limit, the others are urban biggies all the way on the other end of the state in Lincoln and Omaha. The culture here has more in common with Wyoming than with the rest of Nebraska (Husker football fan-dom excepted).

If this sounds like your type of adventure, register for the race through the main webpage. We’ll be glad to see you!

For tips on what to do and see in the area, check out the Scotts Bluff County Tourism site  or peruse some of the archived posts on my other blog, SCB Citizen.

Back to the biking for a moment, and a bit of reflection. A little over a year ago, biking 26.2 miles knocked me out. This year, we rode 47 miles to cover the race course plus the distance to and from our house, and I was only mildly fatigued afterwards. What a difference a year makes!

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw