Arizona runner battles wind while blazing to course record in Omaha half -marathon
A stiff wind surprised but didn’t slow John Raneri as he posted a course record time Sunday for the half-marathon during the 45th Omaha Marathon.
“I really enjoyed the course,” Raneri said. “I think the biggest factor was the wind. I had to work with the wind instead of fighting it. We had wind going out, but it was much windier coming back.”
The National Weather Service in Valley said winds near Eppley Airfield on Sunday morning were steady at 12 mph to 15 mph, gusting to 20 mph. The temperature was 58 degrees for the 7 a.m. start time.
Raneri, a 28-year-old professional running coach from Flagstaff, Arizona, finished the 13-mile, 192½-foot course in 1:05.9, said Tom Struzzieri, president and CEO of the race promoter, HITS Inc. Kenny Rayner, 29, of San Francisco, won the marathon in 2:35.18.
With the victory, Rayner qualifies for the 2021 Boston Marathon. He finished third in the San Francisco Marathon in May with a time of 2:33.35.
Struzzieri said organizers took several precautions because of the coronavirus pandemic. Runners were sent off in groups of six every 15 seconds and picked up their own water bottles along the course.
Participants were also given multiple opportunities to use hand sanitizer. The after-race breakfast buffet was changed to a meal in a bag that was handed to each runner.
“We’re just happy to put on a safe race,” Struzzieri said. “I was at the starting line to send the waves of runners off and got to spend time talking with them. Everyone was so pleased to be able to run in a safe way and on a beautiful day in Omaha.”
Include Raneri among those pleased to be in attendance. HITS flew him out from Flagstaff on Saturday just for the race and he was scheduled to return late Sunday. It was his first trip to Omaha, although he did run cross country for North Carolina University during a meet at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“I am really happy to show up and be able to do what I love to do,” Raneri said. “It’s just like one of life’s simple pleasures. My time in Omaha has been great, and I’d like to thank HITS for inviting me.”
About 750 runners participated in the four Omaha Marathon races this year, including 10K and 5K races. The traditional mile race for families was canceled because of social-distancing concerns, Struzzieri said.
“I want to thank Omaha and Douglas County for helping us put on a safe race for everyone,” Struzzieri said. “From the Douglas County Health Department to all the local officials, I just can’t say enough about how good they were to work with.”