Little Rock Marathon Race Review


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.


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.


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.


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.


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! 


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 **


Cold Weather Running Gear

I normally don’t do a “what to wear” when it get’s cold post.  So many bloggers do and I try to avoid redundancy when you can find what you need in every corner of the blogosphere.  However, Chicagoland has been blasted with cold, wind and sub zero temps for weeks now and I’ve been feeling as if I need to address it.  If you are part of the F’N Running Club or follow me on the TTF Facebook page then I glanced over it when it was 6 degrees last weekend but here is a full length version in the event that you or a friend need some additional guidance. 

Temps Drop But Running Wont Stop

Base Layers – Possibly the most important cold weather investment.  Super important.  Don’t skimp here and go to a discount retailer, I buy the real stuff from Under Armour because they “do” cold weather and they “get” the fact that we are going to be OUTSIDE doing what we love, no matter what.  I personally prefer the mock or turtle neck style to get a little coverage up on my neck.  Under Armour ColdGear Fitted Mock Neck ($49) below.   I also wear a long bra top (form fitted running tank with shelf bra), any brand.  I have a ton and buy them everywhere from Target to Kohl’s to various online retailers. I put those fitted tanks (or a tee would work) UNDER the Mock Neck when it’s super cold, like now.  

                       image     image         

Outer Layer – Preferably a wind jacket or heavy-duty, quality half of full zip.  My wind jacket is from Athleta, the Headwinds Jacket ($99), which I think is on clearance now ($85).  I’ve had it for probably 5 years and every time I wear it people think it’s new.  Love it and it really holds in the heat and keeps out the wind.  I’m sure other wind jackets would work, I’ve heard that New Balance has an amazing WindBlocker line but this is what I own, mine is red from who  knows which year:

image   Waterfall Glen_Black FRI_2013-me

I also own an amazing heavy duty Under Armour Base 3.0 quarter zip ($79) which really fights the cold!

Me Susan Nicole_2-3-13

Legs – This super tricky for me because I have LONG legs.  Only long tights fit me.  I’ve tried various brands but always come back to the fact that if I want every part of the tights to be where they need to be, then I have to go with long length.  Athleta is the only place that I buy long tights.  I just purchased a pair of the Polartec Power Stretch tights ($79) in long and am IN LOVE with them.  I wore them in 6 degree weather last week, as a single bottom layer, and didn’t feel cold at all.  They are super soft and cozy without feeling bulky.  In the past, I have used thinner tights like the Athleta Relay Tights ($79-$89) and then added a second layer with the Runabout Pant ($69).   Photos below:   Polartec Power Stretch Tights, Relay Tights & Runabout Pants (all from Athleta cuz they have Talls!). 

image  image  image

Gloves  – Don’t forget the gloves!  I wear Manzella Sprint gloves.  I have 3 pair and just ordered my 4th pair this week cuz I wipe my nose on them and need to wash them a lot.  I love the fit, and the reflective prints on the palm of the hand for night running, plus they wick sweat fast.  I can wear them from 20 to 40 degrees without anything else on my hands.  Once it dips below 18 or so, then I add another layer of gloves or go to a heavier version.  Some people like mittens, it’s kinda about personal preference but your fingers are super sensitive so pay attention and keep them warm!!

Kankakee River State Pk_ Fence_Nov 2013  image

Don’t be afraid to add hand warmers to your gloves if you have poor circulation or just can’t keep your fingers warm.  I picked up a few at Walgreens this morning, a 2 pack is $1.

Hot Hand Warmers

Headbands & Hats – My gosh, don’t think you’re too cute for a hat or ear/headband or you might get frostbite on your ears.  This is serious business.  As you probably know, the majority of body heat is lost thru the head so COVER IT UP!   I have a couple ear/headbands, one from North Face that’s pretty heavy-duty and one from Athleta that I wear most of the time.  The pink ear/headband from North Face is on the left, the Athleta Polartec Power Stretch ear/headband is on the right.  I’m good with the thin one from Athleta most of the time til it drops down under 18ish degrees, then I go heavier and add a hat!

image    Schubert Woods_me_athleta headband_Dec 2013

When it super cold, I wear both a hat and an ear/headband, and you may even see me add a balaclava to protect my face.  Trust me if you see my face covered,  recognize that it’s cold, windy and “possibly” dangerous! 

balaclava   group_12-10-11_balaclava

Socks – Please cover those ankles!  I like to move to a crew length sock that will protect my skin and cover the gap between my shoe & tights.  Smartwool, or socks with more natural fibers do best to keep you warm.  Here is what Athleta has in Smartwool socks but you can get them just about anywhere.


The bottom line is that you CAN run outside in the cold but you need to be smart, have good gear and also know that if you just can’t get warm after 2 miles, pack it up and go back home.  Never be afraid to call it quits if you don’t feel safe no matter how crazy everyone else may be.

Did I miss anything?  What’s your go to cold weather gear?  Please share! 

** Run Smart & Safe In The Cold ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **