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 **

5K at the Quad Cities Marathon

Many, many months ago, I registered for the half marathon that was part of the Quad Cities Marathon weekend.  This would have been my last race before the Chicago Marathon.  Many would probably take it easy with the marathon so close in sight but that’s not my style.  Each and every year, I always race and run hard this weekend and it never fails to be the fastest half of the entire season.  Yes, the fastest and on legs that are tired from marathon training but oh so fast and fit from 18+ weeks of high mileage.  I don’t even usually have to “try” to run fast, it just happens and always leaves a smile on my face knowing that the hard work of marathon training paid off. 

QuadCities_2012 banner 

This year has been a little different.  First, I normally race the Fort 4 Fitness Half in Fort Wayne, IN because that’s close to my parents and essentially a home town race for me.  My whole family participates in the various events which range from a 4 mile run/walk, 10K to the half marathon.  Its more like a party than a running event with family, friends and an atmosphere that few other races come close to rivaling.  Oh, and the course is amazing too.  I love Ft. Wayne!  However, this year the Fort 4 Fitness Half was scheduled for the September 29th, which is only a week out from the Chicago Marathon, plus Aby has a Cross Country Invite that day, so we were out for sure although certainly not happy about it.

About the time I realized I wouldn’t be running the Fort 4 Fitness Half, my friend Lisa who has been my best running friend for longer than some people have been alive decided to do her first marathon in her hometown, Moline, IL.  Hello, Quad Cities Marathon!  We had done the half there in 2007 before the Fort 4 Fitness races were created and despite the horrid heat from that year, it has always been on the top of my list of great races with amazing hospitality.  So I was instantly excited to go back to the Quad Cities and I even seriously considered running the full with her even though it was only two weeks out for the Chicago Marathon.  Then Lisa broke her foot.   Then I tore a tendon in my foot.  Lisa’s injury was about 6 weeks earlier than mine and healed fast so she was still able to train up for the half, while I was only able to return for the 5K.  So we both ran yesterday but in races which we didn’t originally register.  Cynde, Kelly, Lisa & I before the start (photo source, Nancy W):

QuadCities_2012 girls

The Quad Cities Marathon races are top notch.  They give great swag and since this was the 15th anniversary, the swag was better than ever.  In fact, I don’t remember ever receiving this much great stuff that I know I will be using!   The 15th anniversary promised running gloves (used them yesterday morning and they rock!), a running belt with a zippered pouch, reflectors and a blinking light, plus a gender specific long sleeve shirt that is super soft and will be nice for lounging and/or running. 

QuadCities_2012 swag    QuadCities_2012 Swag only

The expo had about 40 vendors and seemed small but most are when you are spoiled used to running races in Chicago that consistently have 35 to 45 thousand runners.  Although small in size, the expo had the necessities and they gave away free beer the vendors were personable.

The race itself offered a Kids Mini Marathon, 1 mile walk, 5K, half marathon, marathon relay and a marathon.  Lots of choices and they were very nice about letting us downgrade our registrations to shorter races due to our injuries.  Plus the various courses were well marked, had tons of volunteers support, port-o-potties, aid stations, and the traffic control was amazing.  These races are all fast due to the participant cap of 5,000 runners which enables  you to run your race and not get boxed in behind lots of other runners.  If you are looking to run fast and free, I’d recommend trying out the Quad Cities races.  There really is something for the entire family.  Plus they give a ton of awards so you may come home with some extra bling, I did!

                   QuadCities_2012 trophy    QuadCities_2012 trophy2

Although, I’m still not up to speed, I’m improving and well, most people come to Quad Cities for the  half or full marathon so the 5K was a “little” light.  I ran a 25:05 and that was good enough for a second in my age group.  Kinda cool that they gave such nice trophies for all the races.  The awards for the half, marathon relay and the marathon were even more extravagant.  They even offered awesome medals to the 1 mile walkers and the 5K participants.  They really made us feel a part of the process and that was nice.  Here is a pic that Run With Jess took of the 5K medal. 

QuadCities_2012 medal This is an amazing series of races and I would absolutely go back again.  I was very concerned about the mass start with all the races beginning at once but it wasn’t a problem at all and I was able to get right out and on with my 5K race at the pace that I could manage wanted.  I was never trapped or boxed and was across the start line within 20 seconds.  I love the Quad Cities and all that they offer.  I enjoy the atmosphere of these races and the little touches like on course wet sponges and oranges, and the great finish line party with on hand chiropractors and massages therapists, tons of snacks, water, chocolate milk, Pepsi, pork chop sandwiches and FREE BEER.  They were very generous with all the complimentary post race items and didn’t even take the tags from our bib.  Thanks Quad Cities for another great race.  I’ll definitely be back!

** Happy Racing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz ** amanda@tootallfritz.com