As far as I can tell, Little Rock Marathon is known for two things, a running theme and a big A$$ medal.
The theme for this race was EPIC…
There was promises of everyone dressing up as Superheroes and just busting out 26.2 miles in costume for a medal as big as a pie.
So of course when my friends signed up and said they’re driving the 22+ hours to Little Rock, I jumped right into their trip. Tony declined due to lack of vacation days and of course left me to be the third wheel. The journey to Little Rock was just as Epic as the race, but I’ll save the details for another post.
Expo – I don’t have a write up of the expo because we never made it. I heard they had massage tables and blah blah usual expo stuff. Little Rock marathon does not allow race day pick up which is a little annoying, but luckily, we were allowed to fill out a waiver selling our souls to have a friend pick up our numbers.
We stayed at La Quinta, about a mile from the race start. I’ve never stayed at a La Quinta before and I plan on never ever again. First of all, I didn’t know they still had smoking rooms in hotels anymore in the US. And if they did, the hotel of course always disclosed that those were the only ones available. So yea, we were on a smoking floor with 100+ pissed off runners that will probably never stay in a La Quinta again as well. No apologies, no options, nothing but a smelly room on a smelly floor. At 10PM an employee comes to our room offering to shuttle us to another location 30 minute drive away for a smoke free room. Lady! we booked this hotel because it’s a mile from the starting line, we have an 8AM marathon and getting ready to pass out, no a shuttle to a remote place miles away in the middle of the night will not remedy this mess. We declined and attempted to sleep.
Night before race meal – I actually believe that what you eat the night before is way more important than race morning. However, we got into the hotel pretty late and our nearby options were pretty limited by 9PM. We went to a place called Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, a chain, but our other option was Taco Bell. I got an Italian sub which is probably something I should never do outside the east coast. I’m pretty sure my bread had freezer burn. Subway would have been 5 star dining in comparison.
Race Morning – I woke up feeling like crap. We had the AC blasting to make the room less stuffy from the smell; unfortunately, that also meant we were freezing the whole night. I had phlegm upon layer of phlegm in my throat with my head stuffed up to another planet.
I had two pieces of toast with peanut butter and a cup of tea. My usual long run routine. It always works and no matter how appealing the waffle maker looked at the breakfast buffet, I decided to really not risk it, particularly with last night’s “dinner” still floating in my belly.
I know this seems like a pretty negative trip, but the drive up was a blast! Stay tune for that post for some positivity!
Anyways back to the race! We said goodbye to some of our friends in the hotel and went up to finish getting dressed. I originally planned to run in a skirt, tshirt, arm sleeves and calf sleeves, but upon seeing the temperature be 10 degrees colder than I thought it would be the night before, I flipped my plans.
I ended up wearing capris, shirt, long sleeve, cap, and wright socks. The only thing that I would have switched would be a windbreaking/rain shelter instead of a long sleeve. I don’t think it was that cold for running (my body is used to 15 degree runs by now), but the long sleeve soaked up a lot more water than a windbreaking/ rain shelter would. However, I stupidly decided to not pack my Boston jacket moments before leaving my house for the trip. Stupid Liana, stupid Liana.
The weather was miserable. The forecast got worse and worse with every hour. It was about 52 at the race start and probably 36 degrees by the end of the race. I’ve never ran in dropping temps before so trying to plan for that was a challenge. It almost seemed like a cruel joke when as soon as the race started at 8AM it began to pour.
Although I was grateful that on my walk over it wasn’t raining. All I asked from the rain gods was to let me make it to the starting line dry, and they held off just long enough.
The corrals went from A-M with about 15,000 runners between the 10K, Half marathon, Full Marathon. It actually took a lot of effort to make it up the crowd to the start of our corrals. I was in B, while my friends were in A, C & D.
Luckily, Heather was also in corral B so I got to meet her IRL (in real life)! She and her friend were running the half marathon and my plan was to stick with them for as long as I can. They were running a 1:40 which was a bit fast for me, but the weather was so miserable that I wanted some company for the first leg of the run. I did stick with them for the first 10K, but by mile 7 I decided I should slow down with the hills if I planned on making it through the marathon without feeling like death afterwards.
As I mentioned in my goals and expectation post, I decided to treat this marathon as a long training run for Boston. That meant holding myself back to 80% effort instead of race pace. It meant letting people pass me (although that happens all the time) and still holding myself back even if I felt like I could push more.
To slow myself down, I took some photos along the course when the rain would calm down in bits. After losing my phone, I wasn’t really wanting to break my new one.
The first few miles are flat, if not on a decline, but after mile 6 the hills start rolling, rolling!
Overall, I think the marathon would have been a blast. Sadly because of the weather none of the bands came out and the crowd support was almost non-existent. The volunteers however, were amazing. They were so supportive and great even though I could tell they were freezing and shaking from the cold. When I ran Hyannis in similar conditions last year in Massachusetts all the volunteers ditched the course after the half marathon, so I was so impressed with these cold shaking souls out there cheering and helping us runners out there!
Is Little Rock Scenic?
To be honest, I don’t think there’s much to look at along the course of Little Rock, although I rarely see scenic road marathons. I felt like we ran through either industrial roads, and something that looked like a bike path of some sort.
This was the one scenic part of the course and one of the rare flat spots. We also ran by a few blocks of some nice houses.
Is the course hilly?
Hilliness is in the eye of the shoe-wearer, but I’d say yes, compared to most road marathons, this is a hilly monster. Although never quite steep, it has several slowly inclined rollers with a massive hill climb for about Mile 15-17. But what goes up, must go down and I love blazing down the hill.
My Personal Performance
I kinda had a few numbers in mind, but the main one was 3:35. It’s the BQ for my age group and I feel like if I’m going to pay for a race, I should at least race for a BQ since that’s currently within my capabilities.
I finished in 3:34:18 so maybe a little predetermined destiny right there? I know I took it way easier than ever before after mile 20. Part of it was trying not to injury myself, the second part might have been that mentally I was wearing down. It seemed that after the 20 miler mark, each mile was further and further! Particularly mile 22 that my watch clocked in at 1.20!
My legs felt sluggish and I think sitting in a car for 22 hours played a role on it. I’m not a tapered runner since I perform better on high mileage so the two-day sitting break made me feel sluggish. Or maybe my body was still recovering from the long runs I did back to 7 days ago. Or maybe it was the weather? Nah, the weather been perfect, I doubt I would have ran faster. If anything miserable weather made me run faster to get it over with!
I also shared my splits from NOLA on my Facebook page. I guess for me, no matter what pace I start at, I am a big positive splitter. It’s a mental weakness I have that I’m trying to train through. The best race approach for me is to just run as hard and fast as I can for as long as I can since the exponential slow down is inevitable.
My Race Fuel
I ran with salt tabs, a hammer gel and my phone but I ended up using none of it. I saw lots of bananas, oranges, GUs along the course, but I was too cold for any snack breaks. I don’t think I stopped for water until mile 24. I was just too cold to feel thirsty or hungry for most of the race. If you’re a runner who uses fuel on a course, there’s definitely lots and lots of it provided for you.
The Finish Line
The finish line was a blur. I saw the poor shaking volunteers trying to get the blankets of the rollers with difficulty. I stood on a line for a while shaking since they seem to be having difficulties. By the time I got a marathon blanket I couldn’t understand where I was and what direction to go to get back to the hotel. As I contemplated crawling under a fence, I bumped into my friend Dave who pointed me in the right direction and took this gem of a photo!
The volunteers didn’t give me anything to fasten my blanket so it kept flying around me! At one point my head was lost in it!
The food past the finish line was bananas, lots of little debbie unhealthy treats, I think I even saw a twinkies haha. I grabbed a banana, pretzels and a brownie and tried to make my way towards the hotel. I really wish they had a bag there so I could have been more thoughtful in what I grabbed.
I wasn’t making it very far in my goal to reach the hotel. I kept going inside anywhere I could for warmth after every block. I silently thanked every business that didn’t try to kick me out since I was soaked and not buying anything. I made it a half mile before I found an expo looking building and I went inside to try to get warm. I washed my face with warm water and tried to stop shaking.
I’m never in pain running a marathon, but those moments after the finish line when my body temperatures starts to plummet are the worse for me.
Luckily as I contemplated hitchhiking a ride back to the hotel room (it was .7 miles away and I had no money) my friend called me up and asked if I needed anything from our hotel room. YES!!! So instead of hitchhiking a ride from some stranger that could kill me and dump my body by whatever park I ran by, I ate some more of my brownie. I ended up giving away the banana and pretzels because I had no will to carry them. I wanted to use my hands to hold my blanket as tight around me as possible.
Once I got my change of clothes from my friend, the world seemed like a less cruel cold of a place again.
Little Rock Marathon Overall Thoughts; Would I Ever Run This Again?
Aside from the crazy medal and the amazing volunteer support, there’s nothing in this race that would make me do it again. It’s a bucket list race for the medal. I think I paid $100 in race fees which makes it a relatively high race fee since that’s what I paid months in advance.
As far as I know, this race has been happening for over a decade. Frankly I think the race organizers should have had this shit together instead of making excuses. Honestly, I think if they just apologized, people would get less pissed but I’ll get to that later.
First the corral system while great in theory is a little wacky. There were 13 corrals with a few minutes before each corral would start. I heard it took some people 40 minutes to start. I was lucky, I was in corral B, so I got to start 3-4 minutes after the gun, which I’ve never done before. Usually I’m about 15 seconds behind gun time. I get that they are trying to do crowd control but I think maybe having different start times for the 10K and maybe even the half marathon than the marathon would be more effective than having runners wait 40 minutes in their corrals to start. Had I been one of those runners, I would have been a much crankier Liana.
6AM walkers… now first let me start by saying that I love LOVE an event that’s welcoming and encouraging to anyone to do a marathon. I think its amazing when an event will support anyone, any pace to try to complete a marathon. I have more respect for the 8 hour marathons than I do for a lot of the middle of the pack. You guys are amazing. However, the merge between the runners and the walkers is clumsy at best. For the most part, I didn’t have much of an issue until after mile 21 when the cross got more narrow and the walkers would be walking in a line with giant tutus. Merging and running around people is not something my tired legs wanted to be doing at mile 24. Maybe this is a race etiquette issue.
Now to the biggest issue of them all – rerouting, cancellation and whatever you want to call it. I want to preface with that I was lucky enough to finish without any issues but 2 out of the 5 runners in our little Massachusetts group were faced with this issue. Had I been in their position, I hope I would have been strong enough to say no and kept running like they did.
The race directors claimed the race was never canceled and that the runners were just given a rerouting option due to the storm getting stronger. However, Volunteers held up signs that read, “Event Alert System: Extreme. Event Cancelled.” This started occurring around the 23 mile mark for four-hour marathoners! Race participants were told by KARK police that the course had been closed. They were all pushed off the roads and told to stop running. Many runners at mile 18 were rerouted to a Walmart location on Cantrell where a bus that never came was supposed to pick them up.
Some were rerouted towards the finish line cutting the course short with a faster time. Basically the overall results of the race are a wreck! I’m not sure what the BAA will have to say about anyone whose relying on their BQ from this race but I wish them the best of luck.
That being said, I did have an EPIC time! The volunteers and my fellow runners made it epic even if the race directors could use a course in organization and communication. The race was even more EPIC because of these cool kids.