I flew to Arkansas early Saturday morning and got in around 11:00. Beth was a bit delayed due to snow/ice so I decided to take a cab downtown and go ahead and get us checked in. I ended up grabbing a seat in a car of a transportation company and it only cost $15 (do this if you do this race- cheaper than a cab) to get to the hotel. The GM at the Residence Inn was super nice and gave me race tips and Little Rock tips while I waited on Beth. Turns out, our hotel was literally in the perfect location. 2 blocks from the start, 2 blocks from the finish, and about 5-6 blocks from the expo all with plenty of restaurant options in between (all of this means you DON’T need a rental car to do this state if you are flying in). The hotel was also really inexpensive for a race weekend- $130 with tax so book early.
Beth arrived and we grabbed lunch at the Flying Fish and then walked to the expo. We checked out York Sign Shop, I picked up a few new Huma Gel flavors, snapped a few pics and then went back to the hotel so I could do my shakeout run. After our run we headed out to find my Arkansas ornament and then chilled in the hotel until time for dinner.We found a pizza place that offered gluten free pizza so we had dinner at Gusano’s and we were back in the hotel by 7:30 and in bed by 8:30-9 with plans to wake up around 6am.
I slept okay and was awake before the alarm. An 8am race start gave us plenty of time to get ready. Coffee, gluten free bagel with almond butter, and nuun and I was ready to go. We both debated shorts vs. pants but decided to risk it with shorts. It was in the low 30s and drizzly but I would rather be under dressed than too warm.I did my warm up on the way to the start and was in my corral with less than 10 minutes to go. Perfect timing. I ditched my garbage bag right as we were off.Miles 1-8
The start was nice and smooth and well spaced out and I was able to follow the plan immediately. First mile could be a little fast, and then settle into a 7:30 pace through mile 9. I found myself really trying to reign it in and not do too much too soon. I finally started to feel my fingers and toes around mile 3 and just felt GOOD. The course itself had A LOT of turns. Literally up and down parallel streets…so I knew running the tangents would be tough.
There were lots of spectators and great course support with water/sports drink every 2-3 miles. I got water along the course but carried my Nuun Cherry Limeade with me. Around mile 5 I looked down and realized one of my Huma gels and fallen out of my belt. I panicked a bit and decided to hold out and take mine between miles 6-7 and just hope it was enough to get me through with a strong finish.
Honestly, I didn’t notice much about the course along the way other than the turns and the rolling hills, a priest that gave us a blessing (good moment for reflection for me) and the Governor’s Mansion (that didn’t look very nice?). I felt strong and confident. I was a little cold, and I swear, I kept looking down to make sure my pants were still in place because my legs were numb! Each mile clicked by until mile 8. There was a slow, gradual hill that I could feel just enough to wonder if I could maintain. I quickly got out of my own head, reminded myself that it was my race. Believe and achieve. Do what I know how to do.Miles 9-13.1
The plan was to kick it into gear for the last 5K. I wasn’t sure what I had left in me but when I felt my watch go off I just increased my speed. To my shock, I hit 7:11. We split from the marathoners around this point and somehow caught up with the 10K walkers. I spent the next 2 miles screaming at people, weaving in and out and more than anything pissed off that they have no clue that some of us are truly racing. A man next to me was yelling he didn’t pay this much money to have to do this at the end of the race. In my opinion, it’s dangerous. You couldn’t see what was ahead of you because they were walking 5-6 across. I truly had no idea where the turns were on the course.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing that people sign up and do the race and are trying to be active and healthy, I just wish they knew etiquette. Anyway, I still managed to maintain a 7:05 pace for the last 2 miles; I think chasing the walkers and zooming past them was motivation. As I made the final turn and got closer to the finisher chute I could see a 1:37:xx and was thrilled. Lots of happy tears at the finish line. I LOVE that I don’t look exhausted at the finish and that my hips aren’t collapsing as much as they used to. Official Results
Please note the insane amount of turns.
This was a new course from previous years due to a bridge being closed. Apparently, the course has had more hills in the past, and this one was easier. I’m not sure what the course will be going forward.
There were tons of food options (apples, bananas, pretzels, goldfish, granola, cookies, chocolate milk, protein bars and shakes, and soup) but I could only have the banana. I did try the soup because the volunteers said it was hot (and risking a stomach ache was worth being warm) but it was luke-warm so I dumped it out.I grabbed my race results and headed back to the hotel to shower. I was so glad I saved my pizza from the night before because it hit the spot (along with coffee). Beth came in a few minutes later and she PR’d too! We both showered up, got ready and then went across the street for breakfast (we were pretty much stuck downtown because of road closures). There wasn’t much else to do downtown so I had Beth just take me to the airport early so she could get home.
- Course Support/Race Support
- Bling at the finish
- Fast course
- Inexpensive hotel in PERFECT location
- NOT ONE stomach problem before, during, after the race
- Inexpensive, matching outfits (Pro Compression socks and iron-on’s from Etsy)
Not So Much:
- 10K walkers
- So many turns/hard to run tangents
The Little Rock race is known for its bling. Each year, the theme of the race changes and so does the medal. The marathon medal is seriously the size of a dinner plate. The 1/2 marathon plate is not as big, but still ornate and HEAVY. I was able to see the final medal at the expo, but the race directors had already warned us we would not get our medal at the finish line. The medals are caught at customs (due to a strike and a backup that started in January I think) we will get them in the mail sometime in March. However, we didn’t end up empty handed. I was VERY impressed that they were able to get us acrylic copies of the medal to have at the finish, and honestly, they aren’t bad!!The shirt will swallow me and it’s okay-looking but it doesn’t really matter because it’s going to the basement for my one-day 50 state quilt.
I definitely think this is the best race option for those racing the states and I highly recommend it. BUT, I’m glad I only booked one night of travel- we easily ran out of things to do on Saturday and Little Rock isn’t exactly great for tourists. If the course stays the same, it’s a great place to PR, the bling is fabulous, and the race directors are very dedicated to putting on a great event guaranteeing that you will have a good time (there is a post race party Sunday night that we missed). I do wish they would move the 10K to Saturday and be at the same time as the 5k.
As for my own performance, I couldn’t be happier. I wouldn’t change a single thing. I am now certain that Coach Chris and my new plan are exactly what I need right now. This race has me SO excited to see what I can do in May at the Bayshore Marathon.
Have you ever experienced a medal shortage/delay? What’s the biggest medal you’ve received? Dress up in a race theme- yay or nay?