A couple competitive old guys are taking bets on which one can cross the Lincoln Half Marathon finish line first.
But it's more than a friendly wager for Will Lindgren and Bill Weeks — they're fighting crime, too.
The men are using the May race as an opportunity to raise money for security cameras that will help keep Lake Zorinsky's parking lots safe.
Lindgren, 56, coaches Team Nebraska — a group of elite runners who compete in national events. Weeks, 55, is a doctor. The two met five years ago at Lifetime Fitness in west Omaha.
Along with running, both men share a passion for the Lake Z area. Lindgren has logged more than 25,000 miles there since moving to Omaha in 2001, and although Weeks doesn't keep track, he estimates his mileage to be in the thousands as well.
But it's not always a jog in the park. There have been car break-ins, thefts and other incidents in the lake parking areas.
“The constant presence of broken glass in the parking lots has been a source of anger, dismay and helplessness,” said Weeks.
“I know people who avoid the area because of this.”
Krista Palm, another runner who frequents Lake Zorinsky, is all too familiar with the issue. Palm's husband died in May of 2011 following an eight-year battle with alcoholism and prescription drug abuse.
“(Running is) something I can take ownership of and experience a tangible source of freedom,” she said.
But after a four-mile run in October of 2011, her feelings changed. While she was running, someone smashed her car windows and took her belongings.
“Everything in my purse was stolen, my cell phone, cash, credit cards, Bible, everything.”
Palm soon found out she wasn't alone. She heard similar stories from other runners who parked at the Lake Zorinsky parking lots.
She soon met Lindgren and Weeks, and shared her story.
The men sprung into action, and the “Will vs. Bill Camera Challenge” was born.
The challenge is a friendly wager between the two: Who can cross the Lincoln Half Marathon finish line first. Businesses, running clubs and individuals can pay to guess the winner and race times.
All money raised will go toward installing the security cameras at Lake Zorinsky parking lots. The Gretna Medical Clinic, which Weeks owns, will match any donations.
“We have been lobbying the city to install cameras but no funding is available,” he said.
Captain Russ Horine of the Omaha Police Department southwest precinct looks forward to working with the men on getting the right equipment installed. He said Lake Zorinsky is not unique in thefts — when people leave their cars unattended, thieves seize the opportunity, no matter the location. But he's confident cameras will help.
“(Lindgren and Weeks) have the right idea, and we like to see concerned citizens motivated,” he said.
But while the men are a team when it comes to keeping Lake Z's parking lots safe, race day will be a different story.
Lindgren's strategy is to stay close to Weeks on the course.
“We would both like to break 1:40:00, a respectable time for a couple of old guys,” he said. Weeks is equally competitive.
“Well, it is a challenge, so I am racing to beat Will. He is a talented and seasoned veteran runner, so it will definitely be a difficult challenge.”
Lindgren's girlfriend and fellow runner, Linda Kunasek, is coaching both men. She said since the two are close friends, the bantering and bragging rights will be in full force.
“As their coach, I predict it is going to be a very close race and hoping they both stay close to each other in the first ten miles, then we will see who has anything left in the last 5k (3.1 miles).”
Weeks and Lindgren want other runners, like Palm, to feel safe with their cars parked at Lake Zorinsky.
If it takes a race between a couple of old guys to do so, they're up for the challenge.
A previous version of this story had Will Lindgren quoted saying, “The constant presence of broken glass in the parking lots has been a source of anger, dismay and helplessness. I know people who avoid the area because of this.” That was a Bill Weeks quote.