Jefferson is getting ready for the invasion of the relay runners — at least 1,400 who will make up the more than 200 teams for the first Market to Market Relay to be hosted in Iowa on May 11.
Jefferson Mayor Craig Berry says the creators of the Market to Market Relay from Omaha to Lincoln, Neb. — Ben Cohoon and Jason Bakewell, both of Lincoln — were in town, and Berry started talking to them about the run they created. Other people in the community got involved, and the next thing Berry knew, Cohoon and Bakewell had decided to bring the relay to Jefferson.
Barry says folks in Jefferson are making plans to add a celebratory feeling to the event, such as a meal at the Methodist Church and more on the Friday night before the run, a grand send-off at various times in the morning including a pep band, and an available breakfast. The wave of runners leaves at 6 a.m. the next morning. Additional waves of runners will leave at staggered times through about 9:30 a.m.
Cohoon says he and Jason were looking for another area to host a race and decided that Jefferson was ideal for such an event.
“We feel Jefferson is a unique area, and that’s why we decided to start the race at the Bell Tower in Jefferson,” he says.
Additionally, Jefferson isn’t that far of a drive for Cohoon and Bakewell, says Cohoon.
“We’ve been to the area 10-15 times, running on the route and checking out the route,” he says. “We’ve spent a lot of time going to each exchange point for the relay and talking with the mayor, with Chuck Offenburger.”
Cohoon says this will be the first Market to Market relay race he and Bakewell have done outside of the one in Omaha.
“The race in Omaha has 500 teams, that’s around 5,000 people, and the vehicles to get them where they are going,” he says. “We are at a point where runners who want to do the Omaha relay have to enter the lottery to get in. The race is at capacity, and instead of being a regional race, as it started out, it has become a Nebraska race.”
Offenburger, an avid bicyclist and columnist who has experiences with big events such as RAGBRAI, is helping with activities to give the runners, their support people and residents more of an enhanced experience, Berry says.
The limit for this inaugural Iowa Market to Market race is 250 teams, and more than 200 teams are already registered. Each team pays $500 to enter the race and has six or seven runners. The number of teams already signed up, even for the first year isn’t surprising to Cohoon.
“We expected a decent number of teams. Central Iowa has an active running culture. That’s one of the reasons we looked at the area,” he says.
Mayor Berry explains that each runner runs one or two legs of the race. Runners are driven from one exchange point to another to be ready to take the baton and continue on another leg of the race.
For Iowa, the route length is 75 miles. Beginning at the Bell Tower in front of the Greene County Courthouse, runners will follow the Raccoon River Valley Trail where they will pass the batons to other runners on their team 17 times.
The run takes them from Jefferson to the first exchange at the Bull Head 1915 Farm, Cooper, Herndon, Yale, County Road 190, Panora, Linden, Redfield, Kennedy Station, Adel, Ortenville, Waukee, Clive, Windsor Heights, Ashworth Park, Gray’s Lake and the finish near El Bait Shop in Des Moines.
To look at a map of the route and the length of each leg of the race, visit the Market to Market Relay page at www.markettomarketrelay.com/.
Mike Palmer, Jefferson’s city administrator, is running on one of the teams. He says he’s never done a relay before but is looking forward to the race. He says the weather has been challenging for running recently and hopes it will improve so he can get in more running time.
Palmer says his team, called the Incredibles as in the superhero movie, will wear black and red, the same colors of the Incredibles’ costumes.
“We plan to have fun with it,” he says.
Berry says some teams are very serious about winning the relay, while others get more into the spirit of just having fun, dressing up in costumes, even decorating the transport vehicles used to move team members from one leg of the race to another.
Palmer started running in 2009 and has completed a number of events since that time. His running buddy is Jeff Lamoueux of Jefferson, who will be running his first relay as well.
“I’ve done two marathons and a number of half-marathons,” he says.
He says the team is going into the relay as a way to have fun, but he also believes being on a team will make him try harder because he won’t want to let his team members down.
Libby Towers of Churdan says she’ll be running on team with a group of friends who have ties to Greene County and the Jefferson area. One friend will be driving over from St. Louis, Mo., another member lives in Manning.
“I’m the only one of us on the team who lives in Greene County right now,” she says.
Towers hasn’t let the weather stop her from training.
“I ran two miles outside yesterday. I had sleet hitting my face,” she says.
Michelle Fields of Paton is on a team called the Magnificent 7. She is excited about running the relay, although it will be her first time running such an event. She also will be running a half-marathon a week after the Market to Market race and sees the relay as a good event to run prior to the half-marathon.
Fields says she believes there will be more pressure as a runner to be one part of a relay team, because team members are depending on one another to do well.
The race ends in Des Moines, with a celebration at El Bait Shop. Prizes will be given out for serious reasons, like fastest times, but also for the best costume and the best-decorated car.
Rules of the race, as listed on the Market to Market website, give an idea of what the race is like. The rules are as follows:
• Team Size: Regular Teams shall consist of seven runners. Max team size is eight. Minimum team size is six.
• Running Order: Team members will run in a fixed order. For example, on a seven-person team, Runner 1 will complete Stages 1,8 and 16; Runner 2 will complete stages 2, 9 and 17; and so on. Runners must wear their official race bib numbers corresponding to their position on the team. The first runner must wear a number ending in “1,” the second runner must wear a number ending in “2,” and so on. Race numbers must be visible from the front.
• Baton Exchange: The “baton” and timing chip are one in the same and must be passed from one runner to the next within the defined Exchange Zone at each Exchange Point.
• Visibility Gear: Teams are required to have at least two reflective vests, two headlamps and two blinking LED taillight as a part of team gear. Each runner starting a stage after official “Nighttime Hours” will be required to wear Visibility Gear.
• No Headphones: Runners may not use iPods, MP3 players, earphones or any other equipment that interferes with their hearing. Music devices with speakers below the head are allowed if it does not interfere with your hearing.
• Team Vehicles: Only one vehicle is allowed per team. Vehicles must be less than 7 feet wide and less than 20 feet in length. No RVs, mini-buses, trailers or limos are allowed. Registered team vehicles must display an official identification tag in the front and rear window of their team vehicle.
• No Consumption of Alcohol: Consumption of alcohol is not allowed at any time while participating in the race.
• Runner Safety: Runners must run against traffic if running on city, county or state roads unless instructed otherwise. Runners must follow pedestrian laws and trail etiquette at all times.
• Vehicle Safety: Team vehicles MUST obey all speed limits, traffic signs and other traffic laws. Vehicles may not stop to interact or support runners on the course unless an injury has occurred or a runner has taken a wrong turn. Vehicles must always take the Driver’s Path if it differs from the Runner’s Path. Do not discharge runners from the vehicle prior to parking at the official Exchange Point parking area.
• Water, Nutrition and Team Trash: Runners are in charge of their own water and nutrition on the course. There will not be water areas or Aid Stations between Exchange Points. Please bring your own reusable, refillable water bottles and team water jugs. Trash and recycling is not provided on the course. Trash and recycling is the responsibility of each team. Please take all race-related waste home for appropriate disposal. Teams will be provided with trash and recycling bags their team race packets.