Readers of this blog already know that the Little Rock Marathon is one of my favorite races to do. It is always superbly organized, exceptionally friendly to walkers and slower runners, and it gives you a lot for your money. This was my fourth time to do the marathon and it did not disappoint on this, its 10th anniversary.
My plane left from Jacksonville at 8 am, so on the Saturday before the race I drove to the JAX Airport and waited for my plane. Turns out there was ‘weather’ in Atlanta, thunderstorms and poor visibility, so Delta was trying to get people headed to Atlanta on earlier flights. Although I had checked my suitcase, I was still able to get on a 7 am flight and had a longer layover than planned at the Atlanta airport. That was okay with me – it gave me a chance to have several leisurely cups of coffee in the Skyclub and eat some breakfast. On to Little Rock around 11 am and fortunately weather was not a problem there. I met my friend Deb at the LR Airport and we headed to the Marriott Courtyard downtown, a hotel conveniently located right at the start line of the race.
After checking in, we walked to the nearby expo at the Statehouse Convention Center where we picked up our bib, chip, tee shirt, and checked out the vendors. This expo is small but tightly packed with booths and people. For those participants taking the early start, there is a mandatory meeting each year where people are cautioned that the early start is not an alternative start but is meant for people who will take at least 6 hours (give or take 15 minutes or so) to complete the race. At the meeting, everyone has a chance to ask questions, and first-time runners/walkers are given lots of encouragement and assurances that they are just as important as the elites. There are even pacers for 6 hour, 6.5, 7 hour, 7.5, and 8 hour people – that is a very rare occurrence but exceptionally welcome.
We were hungry after picking up our packets, so we stopped at a local pizza place for a late lunch and then back to the Marriott to get our stuff ready for the next day. An early night as usual; I set my alarm for 3:30 and woke up at about 3:15, ate my breakfast, and got dressed. I was ready to go about 5:30 and even had time to get my return boarding passes before heading for the starting line. After some announcements and songs, the race started promptly at 6 am, with all of us early starters gathered together in the ‘elite’ corral. The weather was in the upper 30’s but it was supposed to reach 70 degrees later in the day. The most notable feature was the wind. Compared to Cowtown in Ft. Worth, the wind and temperatures were mild.
The course was the same as in previous years, with the first few miles running past the Clinton Library and then over a bridge into North Little Rock. It began to get light just as we turned back towards downtown. We passed by Little Rock Central High School (famous in Civil Rights history), the State Capitol, and the Governor’s Mansion, through several neighborhoods, and along an out-and-back in Rebsamen Park that seemed like it would never end. After we exited the park, we headed back towards the downtown area. There were several memorable hills that come around miles 24 and 25 but I knew that this was leading us to the end of the race and I tried to kick it into higher gear at that point. There is also a ‘lipstick’ aid station where we could pretty ourselves up for our finisher photo but I am always concentrating far too hard on getting to that finish line to stop. And it would be a lost cause anyway, since lipstick would not be enough to make any real improvement in my looks at that point. Crossing the finish line here always seems like a real achievement (okay, it IS an major achievement), and the medal is always huge. This year Little Rock outdid themselves; the medal is awesome, purple and silver and sparkly. Oh, and the center spins, although it was taped down to keep it from breaking.
I finished in 5:48, under my goal of 6 hours. There was an array of snacks at the finish line – bags of chips and pretzels, cups of water (but I would have preferred a bottle), Little Debbie cakes, and such – but what I really appreciated were the yogurt and chocolate milk. I’ve read that these are the perfect foods to begin the recovery process after a long workout or race and I am always surprised that more races do not offer them. There was also beer but I decided to make the chocolate milk my beverage of choice this time. I made my way back to the hotel with my hands full of treats and and my medal. After a shower and nap, I checked in with my husband to let him know how I did, and then waited for my friend to return. One of the positive things about Little Rock is the smashing good party they have post-race. Free to runners if they sign up when registering, the meal is served buffet style, with an open bar. This year the Whole Hog Café hosted the party, with pork and chicken BBQ, cole slaw, potato salad, and brownies, plus salad and pasta and breadsticks from Olive Garden. It would have been a perfect meal if only the entertainment had not started during the meal. The band is always so loud, and this year was no exception. I would much prefer to talk to my table mates, but I could not hear anything but the loud music so my friend and I picked up our platters and headed back to the hotel so we could eat in peace.
The bottom line – this race is a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend it.