As the West Haymarket took shape and Lincoln residents watched restaurants and condos and an arena rise, Jason Bakewell and Ben Cohoon saw a potential finish line.
On Friday afternoon, from Vega's spot on the second floor of the Railyard, the creators of the popular Market to Market Relay will overlook the spot picked out for their new event, the Good Life Halfsy.
It’s a half-marathon set for Nov. 9, serving as a bookend to the May 4 Lincoln Marathon and Half-Marathon, which filled up shortly after registration opened Jan. 1.
The city’s hallmark race sold out in record time despite expanding to 12,500 runners this year. The vast majority of entrants sign up for the half-marathon, an indication to Cohoon that there was demand for another 13.1-mile event through the streets of Lincoln.
“They’re already going to Des Moines, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Sioux Falls,” Cohoon said of Nebraska's runners.
Cohoon said they wanted to make sure their race wouldn’t hamstring future Lincoln Marathons, which is one of the reasons why it’s scheduled six months out from that race. He said they spoke to the Lincoln Track Club, which organizes the Lincoln Marathon, about their intentions early on in the process of planning the Good Life Halfsy.
Ann Ringlein, vice president of the Lincoln Track Club, said it was easy to support the Halfsy after seeing the pair work over the years. The Lincoln Track Club is a nonprofit, and Bakewell and Cohoon’s Pink Gorilla Events is a for-profit endeavor, but Ringlein said she’s seen over the years that their organizations have the same goal in mind.
“It’s all for the good of the runner,” she said.
Both longtime runners, Bakewell and Cohoon put on their first race, the Market to Market Relay, in 2008. Bakewell was between jobs, having just moved back from working with troubled teens at a wilderness school, when, Cohoon, his former college roommate, threw a proposal at him.
“Hey, I got this crazy idea about a relay from Omaha to Lincoln,” Bakewell recalled Cohoon telling him.
From there it was a blur of Google Map searches and miles of cartography on bikes. Cohoon covered about 100 miles of mostly gravel roads, pausing to ask farmers in rural Cass County how they’d feel about a thousand or so runners passing through their neck of the woods on an autumn morning.
On Oct. 9, 2008, 150 teams of about 1,200 runners, many decked out in tutus or comic book-inspired costumes, traversed the 86-mile course as vans filled with snacks and relay teammates followed.
“At the time we were just trying to do something fun, and plan an event we would enjoy running in,” Bakewell said.
That race has expanded to include about 4,000 runners, and there's now an Iowa version of the Market to Market, as well. They’ve also created the Leprechaun Chase 10K, where female runners in Omaha and Des Moines, Iowa, get a 5.5-minute head start on the guys.
Though their races and portfolio have grown, Bakewell said the goal remains to create fun, memorable events. There will be revelers, entertainment and an after party near the finish line at the Railyard, and performers along the route, as well.
Like Market to Market, the Good Life Halfsy is a point-to-point race. It will begin at Seacrest Field and conclude at the Railyard, with the Cube serving the role that the HuskerVision screen does with the Lincoln Marathon. Bakewell said there will be shuttles available to take runners back to Seacrest if they don't have another ride.
The route will take runners around Holmes Lake and down Normal Boulevard to hook up with the Antelope Valley Trail. They’ll pass Union Plaza and Haymarket Park before racing across the new pedestrian bridge to the Pinnacle Bank Arena and down the ramp to the Railyard.
Registration opens Saturday at 10 a.m. at goodlifehalfsy.com. The race -- open to 3,000 runners -- costs $69.