Little Rock Marathon Race Review

2014LittleRockMarathonHeaderIII1

The 2014 theme for the Little Rock Marathon was “epic” with a comic type Super Hero flavor that was pushed hard all the way until and thru race day.  I can’t say that I’ve ever encountered a race that delivered a better PR campaign.  And I’ve certainly never ran a race that delivered above and beyond what the PR campaign promised, until I ran Little Rock.  I was impressed with so many aspects of the race starting the moment I found the race website and how it was designed to fit the theme.  I loved the race booklet they sent prior to the event to create hype leading up to the big day.

booklet

I loved how the booklet fit right in with the theme and was formatted in comic book style giving us a glimpse of what to expect.  I particularly liked getting a heads-up to look for the lipstick “aid” station in the 25th mile before the finish.

lipstick station

Little Rock is a 9 hour drive from my home (south of Chicago) and to be honest, I had NO IDEA what to expect from the town itself.  No, Little Rock was never on my “to be seen” list of places I wanted to travel.  No, I didn’t really know anything at all about Arkansas.  I made the trip because of the race, because of the good things I had heard about it from other runners, because of the large number (270+) of Marathon Maniacs who were attending and because of that wonderful PR campaign that really drew me to the race and the town itself.  And I must admit, Little Rock was a  pleasant surprise with a beautiful River Walking Trail, lighted bridges, lots of restaurants and bars in the River Market District, President Clinton EVERYTHING (parks, library, museum, bridge), beautiful homes, historic landmarks & monuments, and an old Street Car Electric Trolley, which was one of our favorite things about the town. Street car on the left.  Julie M & Judy F inside the street car on the right.

Streetcar Julie & Judy_Streetcar

We had a lot fun before the race even started and that was an unexpected treat.  The expo was a great size with lots of vendors, keynote speakers and plenty of time to pick up packets prior to the race.  The event also offered multiple race distance options for the entire family.

  • Kids Marathon – Finishing last mile on SAT – 1900 participant cap (sold out)
  • 5K Run/Walk – SAT – 1400 participant cap
  • 10K – SUN – 2000 participant cap
  • Half Marathon – SUN – 6200 participant cap
  • Marathon – SUN – 3500 participant cap (sold out)

The theme continued with a tricked out start line in comic book style.

start

The race directors even dressed up like super heroes and stood on top of start (by the right flag) and started each of the corrals the morning of the race.  In the pouring rain.  At 3-4 minute intervals.  It took us 22ish minutes to get across the start line and begin our journey thru town.  The first mile was crowded as always but the road soon opened up and we were on our way!  Temps at the start were in the 50s with rain so we were pretty tight from shivering in the rain while we waited to get started; however, after 4 miles or so we were loose, warmed up, the rain gave us a short reprieve and we were READY TO RUN!  We wove thru town,  ran across the big bridge and saw Capitol Building.

capital

By mile 6, we had already tacked a few hills, I was feeling good and starting to get antsy.

Mile 6

The real test of the marathon is patience. I’m not a fan of waiting.  In fact, I really can’t stand to wait.  This is the reason why marathons and I don’t really get a long.  BUT in Little Rock I was with friends and the goal was to have fun.  I had zero expectations and I’m not really sure they did either, if they did they were quiet about it.  We knew the weather was going to be an issue. We knew there would be hills but we had no idea what to REALLY expect.  So we were patient.  We didn’t dawdle but didn’t run fast, just kept eating up the pavement, stopped for a potty (or two) and just kept moving.  When I noticed a hill, I just put my head down and ran up without looking beyond the pavement in front of me so that it didn’t drain me mentally.  Then the rain came faster and harder.  Then the wind came. Temps started dropping A LOT (all the way down to 30 degrees by the  finish).  We passed the Governor’s Mansion and Julie excitedly waived to the man in a blue raincoat who she SWEARS was the Governor, himself.  We ran down streets with lots of history and amazing houses.  We passed a priest who stood in the rain, blessing runners with Holy Water and we made a B Line over to him so that we could be blessed because it seemed stupid to pass that up.  And then it got cold.  Like really cold.  Around mile 10 or 11 the wind really picked up and the rain had us soaked to the bone.  Our hands were red and we could hardly move our fingers.  We made a consorted effort to wiggle our fingers, shake our arms and get the blood flowing cuz we knew how fast things could go “south”.  Some of our marathon friends took the turn off for the half because they were so cold that they were starting to go hypothermic but we just kept our heads down, eating up the pavement as much with our eyes as our steps.  We couldn’t see much thru the rain anyhow.  I tried to take a few pictures but they all looked like this photo of the historic Central High School.  Cloudy and foggy thru the rain.

HS

So we kept moving.  Not quickly but not dawdling either.  We didn’t walk thru water stops, just slowed til everyone could get in fluid and fuel.  We had to help each other a bit with our fuel cuz our fingers were so frozen we couldn’t get into our belts.  Or open the packages for the gels/chews.  Our pace seemed solid though and our spirits were high.  We loved the course.  We loved the houses.  We loved seeing so many Marathon Maniacs and yelling support to as many as possible.  It was fun.  We were honestly having fun.  There was a decent amount of entertainment.  The course was diverse and interesting.  Aid stations were well stocked with water & Gatorade.  There were food stations with pretzels, bananas, oranges, jolly ranchers, & GU.  There were surprisingly a lot of spectators considering the weather conditions (wind, rain, thunderstorms, and a promise of hail and freezing rain to come).  It was all good until mile 20 when we saw the first sign that said that the race was canceled and we needed to get off the course. 

Event Canceled sign

We were in disbelief but kept running.  Then slightly past mile 20 there was a very nice older man who was very aggressive about getting us off course.  He was able to redirect some runners, while a few of us stopped to discuss the situation with him, then stepped off course to check the radar on our phones and decided to keep on running.  By this time, it was pretty bad honestly.  And not many people were running, most were moving at a slow walk, frozen with tight muscles. Spouses and half runners were coming back for the marathoners and bringing them warm clothes and rain gear.  We were instructed MANY, MANY times that the race was canceled, that buses were in route for us, that aid stations would be closing, that roads were opening, that traffic control was shutting down, that we should take shelter due to approaching storms.  But there wasn’t anywhere to go.  We were on a path (see the photo above with the lady holding the sign), on the riverfront without any buildings in sight.   No buses in sight to “pick us up”.  It was just us and the weather and we needed to keep moving for our own safety.  So we ran!  It was finally at mile 24 when a police officer with a bullhorn was shouting at us that if we continued it would be at our own risk.  We had the option of staying on the riverfront and heading to the finish or crossing over the road, walking thru the trees, and heading toward a Walmart {which was not visible} where buses were supposedly waiting to pick us up.  At that point, we headed toward the finish.  There wasn’t any lightening. Yes, it was still raining and the wind was really blowing hard.  Yes, we were frozen to the bone.  Yes, our muscles were cold and cramping.  However, we were determined to finish and to be honest, we couldn’t see the buses and we didn’t necessarily believe they were there waiting on us.  It was too damn cold and wet to go with the unknown.  I’d like to think that it was an educated decision on our part to go with what we knew and we knew that our hotel and car was at the finish.  We knew our drop bags with warm clothes were at the finish.  We knew that big ass medal was at the finish.  What we didn’t know was that we had two massive hills to conquer in order to get there!  But we made it.  And the lipstick station was still open in the 25th mile, even if those poor ladies were frozen and shivering!  Thanks, L’Oreal for the lipstick stain! 

lipstick

And it was an official finish.  And we got that big ass medal.  Done, baby!!!  WhooooHooooo!

with medals

I can’t say that I’ve ever been so happy to finish a race!  LOL!  It was an amazing day.  It was a great race.  I’d definitely go back and not because of the medal but because of the event, the people, the town, the course, the fun.  If you haven’t yet ran the Little Rock Marathon, I’d strongly suggest putting it on your list!  So much fun!!  And thanks to Julie & Judy for going with me because friends make any event so much better! 

** Running For Fun, Cuz That’s What It’s All About ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

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30 thoughts on “Little Rock Marathon Race Review

    • Yes, it confused a lot of people. And from what I understand, many didn’t actually run the distance but did receive their medals. That doesn’t bother me but I do believe it lead to more confusion on the internet.

      I’ll tell you, it really was a mental struggle slugging out those last miles and not even knowing if we would be “official”. The first thing I did when I crossed the finish was to ask if we were official. I was immediately told yes, and if I hadn’t been so cold, I might have cried tears of joy.

  1. Holy wowzers!!! You gals are seriously TOUGH. After running it last year, it kinda makes me sad that you didn’t get the full experience of LR that was so great. So many great spectators and homemade aid/cheer stations. We can never plan on the weather, but you had such a great attitude about it. I probably would have ran to the finish too.. GREAT JOB!

  2. WOW….BIG…WOW….what an EPIC story you provide! Given what you describe…I can only do a cyber bow in honor of you three for such an EPIC show of performance in finishing that race in those EXTREME conditions. Too bad they couldn’t have been passing out some cheap rain ponchos for all you runners when that cold rain came in.

    Technically they could have forcibly removed you from the course and it is definitely their responsibility to do so once they make the call the conditions are extreme and to abort further pursuit. But in this instance…I am elated you 3 did what you did and got that finish over all 26.2 miles…cause frankly…based on your description…all of you were cognizant of the conditions and more importantly, the state you all were in and despite…”uncomfortably cold and wet”…knew you could make it! Kudos for race officials and staff for allowing you to slip thru the “crack” so to speak! If I were a RD and knew about what you 3 were doing…I would have radioed for some person to get in a car and follow behind…just in case.

    I know the path you describe and that area where gal holding up the sign…because that is where I caught up to my run-friend, Mark Campbell, when I was testing out a run-walk strategy in Little Rock. Of course we had marvelous…if not overly warm conditions well into the race, and Mark was just struggling and contending with the usual marathon “demons” of busted glycogen resources and such.

    Your review of the race is just as I would expect based on the time me Mark and Glenn Benjamin traveled down and ran LR….superb publicity and promotion…equally as well in delivery on course race day….and yes…that city is awesome in its terrain and natural assets…and its history…and their effort and initiative to make it a city they want you to come back to…if not move to.

    Forgot the name of those two ladies that are the RD and promoters, but I recall bouncing some email with the lead lady complimenting her on their race. Make sure you send something or notify them the link to your blog site on your review….they will love what you report…may get some giveaway or something for you to boot!

    Finally…if you loved Little Rock so well…ya all might want to set your sights on Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, MS. I ran that one the Inaugural year and similarly to Little Rock…the terrain and natural beauty…and historic elements of the city just as good. OK…ya don’t get a “honkin” big bling like LR…but the time can be just as EPIC! When I was in Jackson on January 3rd years ago…it was 60’s…humid and lost of threatening clouds…but no rain or storms….just sitting out on an outside deck…sipping fine brews…listening to some awesome blues music on stage set-up in street….and best of all…in short-sleeve shirt and shorts! Wish ya could have enjoyed LR with similar race day conditions!

    One of your best posts…ever. I always read your posts on X-Fit and such…but this kind of personal experience…is really what I love to read! Keep it up TTF…I wish I could have been their with you 3 for such an EPIC run!

    • We loved it and I’ll definitely check out the MS Blues Marathon too. As for sending this link to Gina and Geneva, I’m not sure that would be a good idea. They released a video stating that there was a miscommunication and that the race was never canceled. I certainly don’t want to upset them, I think they’ve had a lot to deal with over the last couple days. I hope they are vacationing somewhere warm right now!!

      And there was a guy passing out garbage bags in that 21st mile. I did grab one but was too cold and wet by then to get any relief. I really needed gloves!!!

  3. Congrats for finishing. It was a tough day out there. I did the half and was SO thankful that I wasn’t out there doing the full. I hope you enjoyed Little Rock! Sure wish we could have gotten more FFAs to meet up.

  4. Impressive work! I was hoping for all y’all that the race wouldn’t be cancelled and knew there was probably so much disappointment for those who did stop. I probably would’ve done what you did, LOL.

  5. Wow that sounds like one crazy race! I can’t imagine being told that a race I was almost finished running was shutting down. I have to give you props for doing the whole thing! That is one medal that you totally earned!

  6. Wow – That’s insane! I am not sure what I would do if I was running a race and saw the event status change to black. Really impressed that you all pushed through and even more impressed that the race was official.

  7. I met the race directors at the Chicago Marathon expo and I was very tempted to run this race again. The theme was irresistible, the directors themselves were quirky to a fault and I remember really enjoying this race layout. It’s been the only race where I can say the LONG HILL was my favorite part (miles 14 – 16).

    But I had perfect weather in 2012.

    You have more reason to remember this race with a lot more acrimony. I was reading joyously until I caught sight of that baleful black sign and I was instantly disheartened. I did think about it as I was reading: at mile 20, it’s just a bike path through a golf course. Where the hell would you go to “keep warm”? Especially if you’ve been running for 3-4 hours already. It’s WORSE for your health to stop. Glad to see you soldiered onward and earned that laughably large medal.

    Seriously, if they keep making them bigger every year, you’ll have to reinforce your medal rack to hold these bad boys up.

    • Your memory is correct, there was nowhere to go when they told us that that the race was canceled and we should seek shelter. It was just us and the elements. So we kept running. 🙂

      And I don’t even remember the “long hill”. My eyes were on the ground so that they didn’t get pelted with rain. I know that sounds ridiculous but it’s true!

    • I’m not a big “bling person” and even I was like, DANG that is SO cool! The down side is that I let the kids play with the bling. Well Michael keeps grabbing this and I’m serious afraid he will hurt himself. It’s so big that if he drops it on his foot, he will break is foot.

  8. What a race, huh?! I’m sure it was a tough decision to make for you as to whether to continue or not and for the RD’s as to whether to cancel the race or not! I know for me, when I am cold and/or wet, I only have about 5 minutes once I stop running to get inside and start changing clothes, otherwise I just get way way too cold! So I probably wouldn’t have stopped either unless the bus was right next to me! I am surprised that they let you “officially” finish since they had cancelled the race (or maybe didn’t-I read some of your earlier comments-confusing!). But that’s awesome that you did!

    Hopefully they have better weather next year because this race sounds so cool!

    • It was a great race! We were told while on course that the race was canceled but they clocks were still on at the finish. People were finished long after we did so I’m not really sure how they handled it after we passed thru.

      I do know, that the RDs put a video on FB after the race apologizing. They stated that the race was never canceled and that there was miscommunication.

      I only know that we finished and I’m thankful. This was a random thing, it will all go perfectly next year, I’m sure of it!

  9. holy bonkers!!! i’ve always wondered what happens if they tell you it’s cancelled and you aren’t done…I mean you still have to get to the finish line area, I’d probably figure i might as well run there anyhow. Badass mother!

  10. This was one of the best race recaps I have ever read. When they are good, they allow me to enjoy the course through the eyes of the writer, when they are GREAT they make me want to sign up for the next one – immediately. I am miles from Little Rock,and like you have never had it on my list of must-see places, until today – thanks to you.
    Way to gut it out, way to press on in the face of adversity, and way to bring your story to life in such a great way.

  11. I was one of the ones detoured to Walmart. Fortunately my friend and I saw the mile marker behind Walmart and picked the course back up rather than waiting for the buses. We crossed the finish with a logged 21 miles, gained three more with the hike back to our car then earned the medal we were given on the treadmills at the hotel. It was a rough race and I’m planning on tackling that hilly beast again so I can finish the whole 26.2 without the aid of a treadmill.

  12. I live near LR and ran the half! My hat’s off to all the marathoners for sure…I certainly admire you! Glad you enjoyed our city. Wanted to let you know that WAS, in fact, our governor you saw in the navy windbreaker, in case you doubted your friend! 🙂 Congrats!

  13. Pingback: Race Medals Worth The Entry - RunToTheFinish

  14. Pingback: Little Rock Marathon – 2017 | TooTallFritz

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