Good Life Halfsy – Nebraska’s funnest half marathon

Tie up your laces for a wild race in the Cornhusker state

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Why run the Good Life Halfsy?

With 13.1 miles of parks, water features, tree-lined boulevards and Lincoln’s most notable landmarks, this point-to-point, net downhill course begs to be run. Add 15,000 adoring fans, 5 Cheer Stations, over twenty-course entertainment acts and an epic downtown finish. The Good Life Halfsy in the Cornhusker state may just be your new favorite half marathon.

The sixth annual race featured 6,500+ runners from all 50 states taking to the streets in Lincoln. This half marathon is a unique and friendly race, with surprises waiting on every corner while offering a tour of Lincoln’s greatest sights.

One of the better highlights (personally) was having the ability to see my friend, Nathaniel Matya, run his first ever half marathon!

What is the Good Life Halfsy race course all about?

Miles 1-3: High energy is an understatement!

Let the Cornhusker games begin!

The music is rocking, the atmosphere is hyped up, and runners pour out of the starting gate eager to tackle the city of Lincoln. The Good Life Halfsy begins at Seacrest Field, located adjacent to Lincoln East High School, with the Pink Gorilla monkey leading the way.

The race then continues south along South 70th street for two miles after starting the course around the campus.

Mile 4-6:Endless community support and waterfront views.

As runners make their way toward the second quarter of the race, the local neighborhoods are packed with supporters. I was blown away by the energy provided by these folks despite the noticeably chilly weather (20-ish with windchill).

The Lincoln supporters have a great sense of humor!

The next turn on the course takes runners around Holmes Lake Dog Park and the surrounding roads over the next few miles. The half marathon really starts going downhill at this point as runners continue north along South 70th street.

This section of the course comes with waterfront views of the lake before turning onto Normal Boulevard.

Mile 7-12: Selfie meet-ups and Trago Park.

Get used to Normal Boulevard because the next several miles consist of running northwest along this road, connecting several Lincoln neighborhoods and passing the Sunken Gardens and Neighbors Park, among other local attractions. One of the best parts of running a race is seeing people you know. A huge shoutout to Karla Mayta (a diehard Cornhusker for life) along with my father who navigated around the entire course to catch Nathaniel and I running at different points in time.

Left to right: Dad, Karla and Jason taking a mini pitstop for a selfie around Mile 7.

As we snapped this picture, Nathaniel was hot on my heels and actually ran right past us. He looked as if he had run a million of these before and was on pace to finish in just over two hours!

At this point in time, I picked up my pace as over eight miles had elapsed on the course. The course continues north for two more miles on the Rock Island Trail, now running through Trago Park. This stretch wraps around for several miles and takes runners into the homestretch.

There is no shortage of kids ready to uplift each and every runner in Trago Park.

Miles 11-13.1: University of Lincoln campus and Haymarket Park.

The final stretch took runners through parts of the University of Nebraska Lincoln campus which gives you chills; the campus is iconic. I’ve had the luxury to tailgate and watch a game at Memorial Stadium and the fans are nothing but friendly and welcoming. They love showing off their city and want you to return. I could say the exact same for the race today. Once runners pass by this area, they are treated to a panoramic visual of the Lincoln Bridge.

Top: Memorial Stadium, home of the Nebraska Cornhusker football team. Below: Lincoln Bridge.

As runners make their way across the Lincoln Bridge and into Haymarket Park, they will coast their way to the finish line. Be sure to watch for yourself on the Cube, where the race organizers display each finisher as they complete the course and get the post-race party started.

If you PR at this race, which I did not, you have the opportunity to hit the Pink Gorilla PR gong.

I was proud to knock off half marathon #23 in the Cornhusker state. And in case you were wondering how Nathaniel did, he finished in a remarkable 2:08:47! He motivated me to run faster moving forward, and I promised the next time I visit, we can just drive 13.1 miles to watch some Cornhusker football.

Thank you to Nathaniel, Karla, Milo and Annie for providing the best Cornhusker hospitality!

To view more Run4Papa photos of this race, go to Good Life Halfsy photo album

Thank you ABC 8 and 1011 and ABC 8 News stations  for sharing the Run4Papa mission with your audiences!

1011 News

ABC 8 News

Hillbilly Hike Half Marathon – Throw out all the rules!

Hillbilly Hike Half Marathon, 10k & Greubel 5k – Get your Hillbilly on!

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What is the Hillbilly Hike?

Proud to run with the Hillbilly’s in the Hawkeye state!

Throw out the rules and prepare for a race that is fun, scenic, and in a remote area of Iowa. This location is perfect for Hillbillies and they proudly welcome any visitor, even a Northern-bred runner like myself.

This race began a few years ago with a crazy idea to help fund missions through their small church. The organizers were always doing small fundraisers to help the students/participants offset some of the cost to go and show love to others in various communities. The cause is important to this community because they want their students/participants who have this opportunity to realize they can make an impact in this world: not only on a trip, but also locally.

According to race director Ryan Roust, “Watching people who participate in these trips spread God’s love and then grow deeper in their faith is something we never tire of watching. God has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams and we are so grateful to all the runners who come and be a part of our race. For example, this year’s Hillbilly Hike had 700 runners from 17 states along with 100 volunteers. This continues to  blow my mind that people would travel to cold, rural Iowa, to run like a Hillbilly!”

His passion to putting on a quality race for the runners coupled with his philanthropic desire to help his community is evident by his actions year after yea. Ryan said, “We added a 5K a few years ago to support three local kids who lost their parents in a tragic traffic accident. This year, we raised approximately $4,500 dollars that we put into their college scholarships funds. The race provides a chance for us to continue supporting the family and keep their parent’s memories alive. It was such a blessing to have their family help with traffic and pass out medals this year at the finish line.”

Why run with a group of Hillbillies? One acronym: FOMO!

From the moment my father and I received our race bibs, we knew this race would be a horse of a different color. We asked Ryan why our bibs had a totally different race name on it and why the year showed 2017!? In a very calm, matter of fact tone, he responded, “We are so Hillbilly that we are using recycled race bibs to save money.”

When my kids ask me one day to tell them about the Dam to Dam race, I will say “You mean the Hillbilly Hike?”

After that, we stopped asking questions and embraced the group of Hillbillies for what they are: outgoing people who don’t take themselves too seriously. How refreshing!

Miles 1-2: Ready. Set. Stay Warm!

Lets be clear. This was considered a warm day for the Hillbilly Hike. As I waited for the bus to take all us half marathoners to the start line, I was chatting away with my fellow hillbillies. They were ALL so friendly and welcoming. When we arrived, we sat together for the better part of 15 minutes on the bus, waiting until the last possible moment to stand outside in the bitter cold. Yet, despite the weather outside, the runners and the volunteers were clearly prideful of this event. One runner said, “Thank you for coming to our city to run this race. This makes a difference to us and to our community.”

Ready to run in Iowa with my father. He ran the 5K and I ran the half marathon.

At 8:00 a.m., my iPhone showed a brisk 31 degrees (didn’t reflect wind chill to the best of my knowledge); but when you run with the Hillbillies, weather is secondary to living in the moment. The race kicked off in Indianola, Iowa at the local high school. The gun sounded and we hit the pavement making our way toward the greenway.

Miles 3-5: There is something about running on a greenway. In the fall. Surrounded by Hillbillies.

While people love to run for a variety of personal reasons, they also love and can relate to this cause. I would estimate about 10 different runners asked about my mission to raise Alzheimer’s awareness worldwide during this 3-mile stretch. People care and they aren’t shy about sharing their stories and how their family is being personally affected. The camaraderie was incredible and I could tell that everyone was genuinely pulling for one another.  Moreover, the sheer peacefulness and tranquility of running in such a rural area was breathtaking.

Soaking in the beauty of the greenway leaves turning their fall colors.

Miles 6-10: Mini horses. Bridge after bridge. Panoramic views of the water.

The next five miles were equally if not more peaceful. As I rounded mile six, I saw a few mini horses just chilling. When in rural Iowa, right? After making a brief pitstop to say hi to the miniaturized animals, I ran across multiple bridges covered in frost. From miles 7-8, runners were blessed with a colorful palette of trees circling the water.

I stopped for a few minutes to admire the view.

Miles 11-13.1: Open Fields. Hilarious Signage. The Perfect Bling.

When a race is smaller in size, it is not uncommon to run alone for long stretches of time. I certainly prefer to run with other people, but when I find myself all alone, surrounded by the beauty of this landscape, my brain feels totally relaxed. I am used to always being on the go and not pausing enough for moments like this in time. We all need this type of reminder more frequently in my humble opinion.

For the last 2.1 miles, I was surrounded by vast open fields on each sides. As I made my way toward Carlisle, Iowa, there was hilarious signage all along the way, but especially in the homestretch.

I mean, when in Iowa…

With the finish line in sight, I saw my father proudly cheering. By the way, he ended up winning his 5K age group (well done daddy-o!). We ran two separate races, but we ran for the same purpose: to advocate for dementia awareness in Iowa.

Like father, like son!

We celebrated by taking part in the delicious festivities at the finish line, which included homemade biscuits and gravy, beef stew, and apple pie. Of course, taking home some bling never hurt anyone either, especially this one!

I would say the bling provided is perfectly appropriate for the stage!

As for the Hillbilly’s, I am in to run with them again. I hope they would say the same about us!

To see more photos of this race, go to: Hillbilly Hike Half Marathon, 10k & Greubel 5k



Mount Rushmore Half Marathon – Fulfilling my Promise to Papa

Mount Rushmore Half Marathon – An Emotional Race and Run

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Why was Mount Rushmore half marathon race was so meaningful?

I was emotional. More emotional than I have ever been for a race and this was before I even signed up. This was no ordinary race, not by a long shot. I was finally going to make good on one (of many) promises to Papa by running at Mount Rushmore. Visiting this iconic landmark was a life long dream of his, but unfortunately, due to the aggressive nature of his dementia, we were unable to travel to this location while he was alive.

Fast forward exactly six years later to the day since his passing, I made good on that promise! The stars aligned for this moment in time and the theme of #21 literally pushed me toward Mount Rushmore because:

  1. Papa passed away on September 21, 2013
  2. This was my 21st half marathon
  3. This was my 21st different state
  4. The race was on September 21, 2019

The #21 was a symbol of both this race and anniversary of Papa’s passing.

13.1 miles of running through forests, tunnels, elevation, and of course, views of Mount Rushmore

I barely slept three hours. My mind was juggling all sorts of emotions this morning. I always miss my Papa, but today it seemed to sting more than I anticipated. While I had my wife and parents along for support, I couldn’t help but wish my Papa was around to see this historic site with his own eyes. Yes, I was fulfilling a promise to him, but geez, it hurt inside…and this hurt wouldn’t go away. Maybe that is the way life should work…

We arrived at the start line around 5:30 am. I hadn’t run a race or trained in a full year. I wish I was lying, but that is the truth. Yes, I got married, but that was no excuse. While I needed time off the race course, today was my time to shine on it.

Papa’s anniversary is always unusually hard on me, but  as soon as that race gun went off, it was game on!

A magnificent sunrise to kick-off the race.

Miles 1-3: The race begins at Ghost Canyon Dude Ranch on a well-packed dirt road for about 3 miles before turning into pavement. This stretch would normally not be that memorable; however, the night before the race, the Vacation Races team sent an email to all the runners about my Run4Papa story and the reason behind today’s run. To say I was overwhelmed does not do justice to what happened along these three miles. I was stopped probably 20+ times (and roughly 50 times total throughout the race) for selfies with other runners. I heard everything from “Thank you for bringing your mission to our state,” to “My family has a loved one with Alzheimer’s and we are inspired by your passion.” A few runners even asked if they could film a part of my race video. Of course, I happily obliged!

What never ceases to amaze me is the impact Run4Papa continues to have on so many people and their families around the world. This is why I run. I am fully cognizant how people pay it forward in life and every conversation, email, phone call and now race selfie seems to have a proactive compound effect.

I may have crossed mile 3 around the 45 minute mark, but there was no chance I was going to turn anyone away.

Miles 4-11: Let’s be clear. This race is a challenging course with lots of gorgeous views of Mount Rushmore and the surrounding Black Hills! If you are a fan of hills, you will love this course (especially during this 7-mile stretch). If you are not a fan of hills, at least know that you will be  rewarded with amazing views of the forest, several carved out tunnels on the mountain, and of course, stunning views of Mount Rushmore.

Winding through the beautiful scenery that is the Black Hills Forrest.

As I continued to climb through the winding roads of Rushmore, my mind was at peace. I have never run a half marathon race where nature was so prevalent. My brain and body felt calm and relaxed. Upon reaching Mile 5, I ran through the first of three tunnels which in itself was a treat.

Carved right out of the mountain, this tunnel was fascinating to run through with a view for the ages ahead.

While that was exciting and different, nothing could compare to the view that followed. When I say Mount Rushmore is directly in front of you, I am not exaggerating.

A direct line of sight to this historically iconic landmark of Mount Rushmore.

Miles 11-13.1: Thankfully, the last few miles is downhill before finishing in the town of Keystone, SD (South Dakota). Yes, it was a relief to run down versus up,  but honestly, I wish I could have kept running in the forest because I had zero desire to leave at this point in time. The scenery was so magnificent  that I took my wife and parents through it all the following day in our rental car.

Mile 12 – running on the downhill stretch out of the forest.

As I quickly made my way down the main road and toward the finish line, my mind succumbed to all the built-up emotions that had been swirling around in my brain. I saw my parents and wife standing near the finish line, I grabbed the Run4Papa flag from my father’s hands and waved it proudly as I completed my 21st half marathon in my 21st different state!

I wasn’t exhausted. I was ecstatic, heartbroken, and relieved all at once. I was appreciative of having my parents and wife be part of this important experience. To my fellow runners and supporters, thank you for always providing that additional motivation along the way; it makes a massive difference over the course of 13.1 miles.

Since the course was not set-up for spectators throughout the race (just at the start and finish line), the four of us hopped in a car and headed to see the Mount Rushmore landmark together.

My wife, parents and I standing in the spot my Papa never got to see with his own eyes.

I will never forget this moment in time as long as air continues to fill my lungs. I believe that Papa pushes me every day to be better and run further for this cause until a cure is found, and mark my words, we will find a cure for this disease!

Today, I hope he was able to see what I saw along these 13.1 miles because it was worth the wait, even if I didn’t have him physically by my side.

I will continue to carry this flag to every race moving forward and leave a snapshot of Papa’s legacy in each location.

To view pictures from this race click: Mount Rushmore Photo Album

What should you know about the Mount Rushmore Half marathon race?

  • Flying to this destination: depending on where you fly from, I recommend booking flights in advance as the cost can be pricey
  • Vacation Races Expo: Set-up is at the Ghost Canyon Dude Ranch the day before the race and runs from 12:00-6:00 pm with bib pickup as late as 7:00 pm. At the expo you can pick up your bib, race shirt, and other gear. Plan to stay awhile, and cook some s’mores by their makeshift campfire.

    You can even get a selfie with their mascot Odie!

  • Staff: From the expo to race day, the staff was so personable, friendly, and beyond pro-environment. In fact, there are NO CUPS OR TRASH ALLOWED on race day. At first, I was skeptical because I have never heard of this before, but it made complete sense. We are running through nature and why provide any opportunity for excess trash. I wish I would’ve kept mine for future races.

    These eco-friendly pouches were provided to each runner at the expo.

  • Race options:
    • Half Marathon Race start: 6:30 am., 4 hour maximum time limit
    • TBD: A 5K run in being contemplated for the future
  • Temperature: Started at 37°F and finished at 55°F (historically it is a low 41°F and a high of 68°F). I wouldn’t get caught up in the temperature because had it been  -5°F,  I would have loved every moment. Bottom line: the scenery is breathtaking!
  • Elevation:
  • Mount Rushmore Facts: The entire project took only 14 years to craft  beginning in 1927 and completed in 1941. The President’s faces are six stories tall (62 feet to be exact).
  • The Bling: I find this is always something people want to see so here you go folks!



We Promised, YOU Delivered!

NEW Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease

Grateful to my wife and parents for their tireless and endless support!

YOU made this happen!

Our research center was decades old. Our staff was on different floors and we knew we could do better for them and the people walking through our doors every day. As active Advisory Board Members at Northwestern Medicine, we knew we had to advocate and raise money for a more modern research facility. It was time!

Our goal was to double the size of our center’s footprint to maximize the work and collaboration being done by our researchers, clinicians and social workers at Northwestern Medicine. The design of the new center would not only be modern, but the floor plan would serve as a model for efficiency at Northwestern and for other research facilities around the world. While this would be a massive three-year undertaking, we ultimately knew this expansion would best serve the patients, families and medical staff.

After 3 years, YOU made this possible! We officially opened our new state-of-the-art 12,000 square foot research center! Because of YOU, we will push forward to advance this cause and treat patients and their families with the utmost care. This is an important step for our team who pours their hearts and minds into everything they have to fight (and run) against dementia!

The importance and passion behind our work!

In Honor of Papa

Our family is proud to have Papa’s legacy represented on the donor wall. He would be happy knowing that so many people will benefit from the research and treatment being conducted at this center.

Your contributions put into action

Construction began last year on this research facility, and as promised, this center was up and running by the end of 2018! Your support will help transform the work our team will be doing in the following ways:

1. Expanding the research center from 6,000 to 12,000 sq. feet to create an environment wherein researchers, clinicians, and social workers work side by side to bolster communication and collaboration leading to new discoveries and novel treatments.
2. Reducing the wait time for families looking to get their loved ones in to see our doctors and social workers.
3. Increasing the capacity to take on innovative research studies that lead us closer to the effective treatments.
4. Conducting research on how the brain coordinates mental functions, transferring the benefits of research to afflicted patients and preparing future scientists and clinicians in their field.

The Brain Bank: each box represents one deceased person’s brain which is carefully sliced and analyzed by researchers to better understand the affects of dementia.

Want to Join one of our research studies?

Our research studies lead to better understanding of and future treatments for these diseases. Most of our research takes place at our Center located in downtown Chicago. To join our research registry and learn more about our active research studies, click here. Our work is possible thanks to the generosity of our research participants — we appreciate you.

At this center, our team will continue to investigate the causes and clinical characteristics of neurodegenerative diseases, ensure that our patients are the beneficiaries of the latest advances and explore the neural foundations of behavior and cognition in health and disease. Areas of clinical emphasis include the following conditions: Alzheimer’s Disease, Primary Progressive Aphasia, Frontotemporal Degeneration, and Mild Cognitive Impairment

Dr. Marsel Mesulam using a super microscope to enhance the size of a slide on the adjacent computer screen showing the human brain.

What’s Next?

As 2019 continues to roll on, we have plenty of work ahead and have no intention of slowing down as a team. And of course, R4P has some big plans on the racing circuit to proactively raise awareness for this cause. Stay tuned for a big announcement this summer…I promise it won’t disappoint!

Until, then, we look forward to returning to our home away from home.