A caveat before I begin this week’s column: My wife and this column’s unofficial editor-in-chief is one of the organizers of The Indie 5K, 10K and Kids’ Dash to which I’m about to write. Surely favoritism to be assumed when the columnist is writing about his wife’s work. If another local columnist tried to pull this off, I would be standing right alongside you, pointing an accusatory finger, yelling “BIASED REPORTING!

But the fact is, I don’t care. I would be doing my readers a bigger disservice if I didn’t at least try to get them to participate in what could well be THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENT IN THEIR LIVES.

(What’s that dear? I’m laying it on a bit too thick? Just tell them about goshdang race? Sorry dear…)

Named after the style of music Omaha has become nationally known for, The Indie also represents the spirit of the neighborhoods it supports — Benson and Ames — two locations within our great city that are going through a cultural and commercial revival.

Benson you already know about. The midtown Maple Street district is experiencing boom times, with a new bar, restaurant or music venue opening practically on a monthly basis. Benson is now “thee place to be” on any given evening to experience some of the finest food, booze and entertainment the city has to offer. 

The revitalization of the Ames Avenue district is less obvious but no less impressive. Over the past few years, the area has seen both commercial and cultural renewal highlighted by the NorthStar Foundation’s new after-school center that opened in May, a Curb Appeal project that’s rehabbing homes and yards along Ames between 46th and 48th streets, the NorthStar community garden at 48th and Sahler, and the new walking trail and picnic shelter in Fontenelle Park.

Despite this, a lot of Omahans have yet to venture into Benson or along Ames Avenue, partly out of ignorance and partly out of fear. Both neighborhoods carry the stigma of being in “North Omaha” — a designation that used to be synonymous with the words “crime” and “poverty.” What better way to showcase the turnaround of these neighborhoods than by creating an event that allows people to walk, run or jog through them? 

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Indie. The 5K /10K runs take place at 8 a.m., Saturday, July 5, starting and ending in beautiful downtown Benson. 

And now the part where I prove I’m not in any way being biased in my reporting: The course, is, well, complete madness. 

Monday night I printed the course map at theindieomaha.org website and tried to navigate the 10K route. I can tell you with utter confidence that whoever came up with this route is nothing short of a twisted fitness masochist. 

The route is challenging. Brutal. A nightmare of steep, unending hills faced one after the other, a childlike reimagining of the streets of San Francisco. As I drove the route east along Pratt Street toward Fontenelle Blvd. and beyond to Ames where the route turns back west connecting via 52nd Street to Sprague and running further west toward Benson Park, I said out loud to no one “Holy sh**!“ followed by “No way!” followed by “Holy sh**!” 

The race organizers missed an opportunity to market it for what it is: One of the most challenging urban 10K foot races in America, a course so hard it makes the Corporate Cup look like a leisurely stroll in the park. It is, truly, madness. 

I signed up to run the 10K. I will be running the 5K. I don’t know if that’s allowed, but I can’t see why anyone would mind. Though half the distance, the 5K has more than enough hilly challenges to make this 12-mile-a-week jogger’s stomach burn with anxiety. 

On the plus side, runners of The Indie will be motivated by the promise of one heck of an after party should they survive the course. They will be greeted with a celebration that would shake the very foundation of Gomorrah. Downtown Benson will be transformed into a rock ’n’ roll food bonanza as the finest restaurants and bars in Omaha’s newest entertainment district will be giving away their wares to the race’s sweaty patrons. 

We’re talking food and drink by Aromas, Baxter’s, Beercade, Burke’s Pub, Pizza Shoppe, Infusion Brewing, St. Andrew’s Pub and Star Deli. Runners will be able to hoist a frothy mug and, like the great Falstaff, tell mighty tales of how they faced one wave of concrete after another, conquering each with their sinewy legs, all the while being serenaded by ultra talented rock bands Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies and The Big Deep. A few lucky runners will even receive free licks from The Indie’s mascot, Copper, the adorable Golden Retriever owned by the Omaha Bicycle Company’s Sarah Johnson. 

While most of us will be happy just to finish the race, The Indie has something extra-special in store for the competitive few who will (literally) be going for the gold. The winners of the men’s and women’s 5K and 10K runs not only will receive a handsome cash prize and international bragging rights as champions of the first annual Indie, they’ll also receive one of the most coveted awards handed out in the music industry: A Gold Record. 

That’s right, The Indies’ trophies will be gold records — vinyl albums donated by the good folks at Almost Music “styled” into golden colored awards by the design geniuses at Mint Design Group. Who wants another ugly champion’s cup to toss in a cardboard box and store in the attic when they can hang a handsome gold record on their rec room wall? 

Are you ready to run? Sign up online at theindieomaha.org. Your $30 entrance fee gets you in on all the fun and enters you into drawings for tons of free stuff. Proceeds will be used to make improvements to Benson and Fontenelle Parks. REGISTER NOW. Race day registration also is available, but why wait? Become a part of Omaha’s history, run in The Indie!

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

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