Not many relationships last forty years, but for Nancy Sutton-Moss, her love affair with the Lincoln Marathon has stood the test of time. Nancy, who serves as co-Race Director for the Lincoln Marathon with Gary Bredehoft, has worked on the race in one capacity or another since its inception. She has served as Race Director for so long, she is not entirely positive of the exact year she took the event over. In the Marathon’s first running, there were 385 participants. This year, when race registration opens on January 7, 2017, all 13,000 slots for the May 7th race will sell out quickly. In 2014, Project Purple began a partnership with the Lincoln Marathon that has grown exponentially over the years. We are incredibly fortunate to have such a strong relationship with this marathon.
Sutton-Moss Explains Lincoln’s Success
What makes Lincoln such a special race and why does it sell out so quickly each year? The Lincoln course is a fairly flat, Boston Qualifier which takes place in the friendly and supportive city of Lincoln, Nebraska. Crowds come out in full-force to support the runners. Sutton-Moss attributes the success of the Lincoln Marathon to the Lincoln Track Club’s attention to detail. She explains, “We are an all-volunteer organization, so no one is paid to put the race together. All of the money raised goes back into the race. Everything is done very precisely and accurately. The course is certified and the race starts right on time. The marathon is the longest-running race in Nebraska and we give runners a lot of value for their money.”
The Famous Lincoln Finish Line
Of course, there is the draw of the spectacular finish on the 50 yard line of Memorial Stadium, where the Huskers play football. “Most people have never been on the football field, so they love the idea of finish at the 50 yard line,” she explains. A Jumbotron in the stadium shows runners coming in to the finish line, adding an extra special touch to the finish experience.
Micah Jensen, Elli Erickson & Addison Earnest show off their half-marathon medals
Call Out the National Guard!
One of the striking things about the Lincoln Marathon is the heavy presence of the National Guard. Because the race is a National Guard qualifier for races such as the Marine Corps Marathon, many of the Guard’s elite runners come from all over the country to compete in Lincoln. Guard members work the aid stations and greet runners as they cross the finish line. Sutton-Moss adds, “The National Guard is one of our in-kind sponsors. They are a big presence at the race.”
Changes Over the Years
Over the years, Sutton-Moss has seen many changes at the Lincoln Marathon. One of the biggest changes she has seen is the increase in women running the event. While the event was once very dominated by men, the number female participants has risen exponentially, particularly since the addition of the half-marathon distance. While men still out-number women at the marathon, the race sees 2,000 more female entrants for the half-marathon.
Another change is the addition of an event just for children. Sutton-Moss is particularly proud of the 1-mile kids’ race that takes place the day before the marathon. The “Mayor’s Run” supports the future of running in the Lincoln area and has approximately 5,000 young participants. Many area schools help the children prepare for the event in physical education classes.
Partnership with Project Purple
Historically, the Lincoln Marathon has allowed a number of charities to have running teams. However, a few years ago, the race opted to make Project Purple their only charity partner. Former Lincoln Track Club board member and city councilwoman Jayne Snyder passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2011. Sutton-Moss says, “It has been an easy transition to work only with Project Purple. They have been easy to work with and they are a great presence at the finish line.” In addition, Sutton-Moss believes that by having all the money go towards one charity, the marathon can achieve more than if it divided the funds between multiple organizations.
The Lincoln Marathon team has become a very popular event with Project Purple runners. In 2014, the team had 63 runners. By 2016, the team had over 100 runners participating. Project Purple hopes to continue to grow the team as we continue in 2017. Being a part of this large team is a big reason why Lincoln is so special for Project Purple runners. The event features a team dinner with speakers the night before the race. Project Purple also organizes cheer zones along the course and sets up a tent at the finish line for the runners.
The Project Purple Lincoln Experience
What do runners think of the Lincoln Marathon? When I ran the Lincoln Marathon in 2015, I enjoyed spending time with my teammates the night before the race. We had a lovely meal and listened to a variety of speakers. The top fundraisers were recognized for their accomplishments by Project Purple. Though the weather was exceptionally hot that year, the Lincoln Marathon did all they could to make conditions more comfortable and safe for runners. They added extra aid stations and medical staff on course. Finally, running into the stadium and being greeted by Project Purple and the National Guardsmen at the finish line made for a very special moment.
Many of the Project Purple runners return to the team year after year. Kristin Ebberts will be running Lincoln for the fourth time this year. Since she lost her father to pancreatic cancer in August, 2012, the race has become a family tradition. As Kristin searched for a flat, Boston Qualifying race, she discovered Lincoln and Project Purple. She recalls, “I hit it off really well with (Project Purple chair) Dino Verrelli and (Project Purple Executive Director) Elli Erickson. I enjoyed spending time with everyone in the group. The race is fun and the course is really nice.” In 2014 and 2015, Kristin ran the race with her mom, Jewel Neher. “It was a great bonding experience as we got healthy and ran together. It was such an amazing way to honor my dad.” This year, Kristin’s sister, Erin Berkland, will be joining the family in running Lincoln for Project Purple.
Project Purple runner Jodi Scott adds, “I loved the energy of the Project Purple family out on the course. The pre-race dinner was great and it was fun to meet the other runners. The energy of the Lincoln marathon is terrific and finishing in the stadium is pretty awesome. Dino brought my girls out to see me finish and that was amazing! They loved it, and I loved it!”
The 2017 40th running of the Lincoln Marathon will be a spectacular event. Sutton-Moss is committed to making the race particularly special this year. Paid in gratitude and friendship, she tears up every year as she hears the Star-Spangled Banner just prior to the race. The race preparation takes a full year, but, she explains, “We do this because we love the sport of running.”
To apply for the Project Purple Lincoln Marathon team, follow this link and fill out the application: