Since Signing up for the Little Rock Half Marathon, I have been very excited to experience this race. Everything I’ve read from traditional media, to blogs, to their own website, has really hyped this race up! Let me tell ya, it lived up to it!!
On Friday, I left
work school around 9:30. I knew I had a long drive ahead of me, but was excited to be meeting my old friend Keith in Little Rock for the Half Marathon. After a stop for gas and lunch outside of Memphis, I arrived at the Comfort Inn in Little Rock a little after 3. I picked up Keith, and we headed to the expo to pick up our race packets.
(On a side note, downtown Little Rock is very easy to get around. Even with roads blocked off due to the race, we had no problems the entire weekend.)
We had also decided ahead of time that, if the 5k on Saturday wasn’t sold out, we would sign up and run it as a little bit of a shakeout run the day before the Half. In all honesty, on the drive down I started to hope it would be sold out — no luck. So, we signed up for the 5k, picked up our bibs and tshirts for both races, and explored the expo.
Sorry the one on the left is sideways, I’m not smart enough to figure out how to straighten it.
The expo was just OK. It was probably the smallest expo of any of the bigger races I’ve done. I’m not a big fan of expos, to begin with, but I actually planned on doing some shopping at this one. I wanted to buy Mrs. Snell a t-shirt (and did).
Mrs. Snell’s long sleeve shirt
I also bought myself a pair of compression socks for recovery. (If you have any advice or comments about compression socks, please add them in my comments!) Overall, the expo was small, and without a lot of variety. There were probably only about 6 booths set up for other races, and not a lot of running related gear booths, either. We did score some sweet $2 shirts from races past. That’s a story for another time….
After the expo, Keith and I explored the River Market area of downtown Little Rock. We stopped in at the Flying Saucer, had a couple drinks and ate some sandwiches for dinner. We liked the downtown area. It was very nice with a lot of good eateries and bars. Although, we did deem it a little too “Hipster” for our tastes. (no offense).
Saturday morning we ran the 5k in cold, windy conditions. It was a nice course, a nice warm-up, and a nice way to get a preview of the course. Our pace was slow enough that it didn’t effect our Half Marathon on Sunday. I’d probably choose to do this again at other 2 day race weekends. I mean, I’m not going out there to win anything anyway. Just a sweet medal and some free beers! I’d never gotten a 5k medal before, and this thing was as big as some of my Half Marathon medals. My only complaint during the 5k, other than Keith’s lack of inner monologue, was the temperature and the wind. Neither can be helped by the race directors, as it was unseasonably cold!
Nice 5k Medal
I won’t bore you with the details of our Saturday, except to tell you about our dinner with an old childhood friend of mine named Christine who now lives in the Little Rock area. We met Christine at a place called Bosco’s. It was a nicer restaurant that served specialty pizzas, pastas and brewed their own beer. It was great to catch up with someone I haven’t seen in probably 17 years. Man, we’re getting old. I don’t know about you, but I really like to have a beer or two the night before a race. I feel like they give me a carb boost, and a sleepy-time boost. I get anxious the night before a race, but a couple of beers put me out like a light! Good thing, too, because we got to sleep before 10 o’clock on Saturday night.
Sunday wake up came at 6:00 am. Our hotel was close to downtown with a free shuttle and an 8:00 am start time. No need to wake up super early. I ate my regular pre-race meal of peanut butter on whole wheat with a banana and a Diet Coke. We caught the shuttle to downtown, found the gear check tent, and headed back to the start line. After having left the hotel at 7:00, we were ready to go for the race at about 7:10… Now what? It was 34 degrees out with a slight breeze that didn’t allow us to warm up at all. So, like most of the runners, we snuck into the River Market to warm up.
At 7:45, Keith and I headed out to our starting corrals. I wished him luck, and we went our separate ways. I was assigned to corral C because of my previous finishing times and Keith (who didn’t report one) went to the open corral. Even after waiting indoors for half an hour, by the time my corral was started at around 8:05, I was frozen to the bone. My muscles were ice cold, and had the hardest time getting blood flowing to them. It took me a good 2 miles to warm up and settle into the race. By this point, I had lost the 4 hour Marathon pacers whom I had planned on keeping up with.
The corral/wave start of this race was very helpful. The race starts on the narrow streets of the River Market area and is very cramped. However, after about half a mile, the runners get the opportunity to spread out. At first, it was more crowded than the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, but soon it was less crowded. But, a good crowd, indeed.
The Little Rock Half Marathon course is a winding course through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock. Before the 2 mile mark, the race heads across a bridge to North Little Rock. The cool part about that was seeing the wheel chair division leaders and the elite runners crossing back across the bridge at mile 5, when we were at 1.5. Wow, those guys can run! After 4 miles in North Little Rock, the course reenters Little Rock and starts some rolling hills. Pretty much all of mile 7 is a slow steady incline. I did some passing during this part, I can climb some hills. In fact, I passed one skinny, small, young lady who was having NONE of that. I guess looking over and seeing a fat old guy going past her ticked her off. So, she pushed back past me up that hill. At mile marker 8 another long steady hill greeted us. There I went past the young lady again. This time, she didn’t fight back. So, I put her in my rearview and pushed on.
Overall, I felt really good about my effort this race. Every time I looked at my GPS, I was making great time. I ran really well for the first 9 miles. Mile 10 got me, but I reeled it back in by mile 12. At Mile 10 we saw the Governor’s mansion. Nice digs! Even cooler… there he was, outside in the cold, waving at runners and shaking hands! I was on a 2 hour mission. I waved and ran on by. I think I saw Central High School at mile 11, but I may have missed it earlier in the course. CHS, Little Rock Nine, Integration, look it up. A little after mile 11, I continued a race tradition. If you have a table on your curb along a race course, and you offer small cups of beer, I will be paying you a visit. I did it in Chicago, I did it again at Little Rock. Just a fun little thing. Didn’t hurt me, probably didn’t help, either. At mile 12, I got a boost of energy. I don’t know where it came from, but I kicked into a new gear. Mile 12 was :10 faster than 11, and mile 13 was 8 seconds faster than 12.
As I came upon mile marker 13, within 1 tenth of one mile of the finish line, guess who passed me… YEP! That little witch from mile 6 & 7!! I couldn’t believe it! She was like a Kenyan at that point! I tried to keep up, but that girl was at a total new level! OOOOooohhhh… I was soooo pissed!
Overall, the on course support of the cheer groups, churches, bands, aid station volunteers and spectators was AMAZING for such a small town. The only race I’ve ran with more spirit was Chicago, where over a million people line the streets to watch. This race support was extremely impressive and encouraging!
I crossed the finish line in 1:56:12. It was my 3rd fastest Half Marathon to date. I was happy to break 2 hours, but a little disappointed by my time. I thought I had worked harder than that.
Disappointed, but they gave me another free beer.
The beer’s tiny, I’m not a giant. Plus, my rockin medal.
All in all, the Little Rock Marathon weekend was a great time! On a scale of 1-10, I’d put it at a 6.5. I probably won’t do it again, due to distance, but it was great! Plus, their post party will never be topped by a race again. It was free food and beer for 4 hours, plus a great DJ and a band! Keith and I had a great time!
For reference, here’s the half medal next to the 5k medal:
Something else cool they did, a printout of the results at the finish line party.