We left from the Memphis area around Saturday 11am. Took I40W pretty much the entire way. The drive was very simple and straight forward. We hit minimal traffic even with the couple spots that had construction zones on the weekend.
Hotel Check in and Expo
When we arrived to Little Rock, we checked into our hotel (Wyndham River Front, North Little Rock). A bunch of folks from Memphis were staying at this hotel which is where I got the suggestion. This location was perfect as there is actually a bridge (no more than a mile walk) over the White River from North Little Rock (right where the hotel was) directly to the State Convention Center. Once we checked in at the hotel, we did not have to use our car until we decided to grab dinner. Very convenient and also very reasonably priced $!55 night.
We checked in and walked over the bridge. Here is a pic of the perspective walking back over the bridge from downtown Little Rock into North Little Rock where our hotel was.
The expo was very easy to navigate. Your typical marathon expo with the usual vendors. It was not huge but plenty of useful items if you needed them. Swiftwick socks people were there! Those are some of my favorite socks (started buying them at Breakaway Running here locally in Memphis). The race swag area had some really cool stuff that was unique to the Western theme of the marathon. I bought these fun socks “My Lucky Socks” which I thought were great. I even took the risk of wearing these on race day since they were so fun. Will get back to a story on that later.
After Adam and I got our packets, we walked out on to the main street in downtown Little Rock. The last time we stayed down there was the night of the Moonlight 25k/50k so I was still fairly familiar with the area and there were a few spots I wanted to check out. If you want a quick bite to eat that is good value for money, I highly recommend the River Market. They had Thai, Middle Eastern, Pizza, confectionary, coffee, everything you could imagine. It is literally right across the street from the convention center and is full of great eating options. It is like a food court so you just sit down wherever. Was very clean and well maintained. Adam and I got two plates of middle eastern food (gyros, Jerusalem salad, baba gounush, hummos and a coke) for $18 total!
We then splurged on canolis at the place across the food court from where we got our lunch.
After we ate lunch, we walked around a bit more. There is a great free trade store on the main street also that I like to go into so I went in there and perused around and bought some cards that were made in Indonesia.
We then headed back to our hotel. At this point, I was not sure what to do. A lot of the restaurants in downtown Little Rock are similar to what we have in Memphis (Flying Saucer, Bosco’s) and I like to try new things when I go out of town. I just googled ‘malls’ on my phone and found an outdoor mall that was about 10 miles outside of downtown. It had several different restaurants, an iMax theater, apple store and a few other nice things to check out. We decided what the hell and we walked around for a bit and then tried this place called Local Lime. From the outside it was hard to tell what it would be like but going in…it reminded me of a contemporary restaurant/bar you would find in a much larger city. Very modern lighting and seating…great music playing (lounder than normal but fit the vibe). We decided to have a house margarita each (all made fresh and from scratch) and I had this great salad. It was the Acapulco salad with salmon/grapefruit/oranges/avocado…divine!
After we had our meal, we headed back to the hotel and just chilled. This was the first time I have had a marathon where my hotel was literally right near the start/finish…oh this was so awesome. We were able to sleep in until about 6am. We met in the lobby of the hotel around 7am and walked with some friends over the bridge to the start line.The corrals were a bit confusing to me. Quite narrow and if you were in the ‘open’ corral..which I was..it was a bit of a trek to get through all the people since there was one entrance to get in for the pace groups that were greater than 4:00. There are two other corrals (A and B) which are for the faster runners which I suspect were easier to navigate as they were not as full. It is always challenging when you are in the open group as there are usually more half marathoners and there was a 10k also so they were quite congested. On the bright side…the temp was in the 30’s so huddling around all those people kept you quite warm.
They released us in waves. Adam and I started out with the 4:40 group. I did not recognize the pacers but I knew I had friends who were pacing the 4:55 group. In the back of my mind, I figured they would catch me as I knew I was rolling the dice with my IT band.
Unfortunately, around mile 1…I was thinking “oh $hit”. I am not sure if it was the marathon 3 wks prior, the two trail runs, built up damage, the cold weather, my attitude or WHAT…but my leg was feeling jacked. I kept trying to push through it but around mile 3 it even started locking up. I am not sure how to describe it other than a sharp pain that starts around my knee and shoots up my leg and I almost lose control of planting my foot. It is sudden. It was happening at least every 5 min. The last time I had these problems it was later in the runs…past 10 miles or so. I was pretty much freaking out at this point. Adam and I were running together and I am sure I was bitching towards him more than I should. Around mile 3, I pulled over and did some stretches. I remember a really nice policeman telling me good luck…and then about 50ft down the road there was a church band playing one of the songs I really enjoy from Hope. That made me feel a bit better. I kept trying to take my mind off it.
Mile 1.5 you go over the bridge into North Little Rock….on the other side of the bridge you get to witness the mega fast runners coming back (it is mile 5 for them).
Around the end of this stretch is where I stopped again…and I heard Anna yell at me. She was pacing the 4:55 group with Charles (both pace team members from St. Jude). I was so glad she called my name as I was definitely feeling like giving up on myself. I ended up joining their pace group and just trying to talk as much as I could to take my mind off how I was feeling.
Way cool that around mile 7.5 you go past the governor’s mansion and Governor Beebe was outside cheering us on! I really thought that was a special touch to this course.
You run by the historic Central High School and the Capitol Bldg
Around mile 11, the half marathoners split off. They join us again around mile 12.
Miles 13.9 – 16.5
You start the ‘infamous’ hill around mile 13.9. It is a long/slow/gradual winding hill. To be honest, at this point I was chatting with Anna and did not even really notice it. It just kept going up…and you had tons of crowd support…multiple stops with beer, muffins, pizza, snacks. It made the journey so worth it.
As you come to the top of the hill…you then take a sudden downhill. With the issues I was feeling in my left leg…this HURT. Way more than going uphill. The last time I felt something like this was in the last five miles of the Sylamore 50k. You feel people steaming by you but all I kept thinking was ouch ouch ouch…and there is no way I was going to blow up before mile 20. Not with the way this marathon started.Around mile 19 you take this left that goes on to a type of parkway stretch. Nice smoothly paved flat/straight roads. Kinda cool as you can see the faster groups coming back on your right as this portion is a down/back. I enjoyed seeing other runners. It gets old looking at people’s backs during a race.
It went into a park eventually (around mile 20) that was like a greenway on the right (that was the coming back part) and you were running in on the road that went to it. On your left as you were running in, was a beautiful woodsy/forest that was very scenic and helped you take your mind off the road. Right before mile 21, is where you do like a hairpin turn to start coming back. All of the aid stations through this area were wonderful. There were also plenty of folks out playing music.
You are on this greenway type path and then start coming back on the road near where you entered (mile 19).
Around this point, I was just trying to finish under 5 hours for this race. I love getting past the hump of 22 miles. Adam and I were alternating aid stations. He was having some hip flexor issues and stretching a bit also. I was finding that stopping at this point was hurting me more…so was doing that steady roll to the finish line. I was hoping to stop at the lipstick station (around mile 25 or 26) but I never saw it??? Not sure how I missed it.
The finish line of this race is sooooo much fun. Once you get to about mile 26, you start this stretch and you can hear the music! It was so great just running right into the end and hearing the music and the cheering and getting that HUGE medal. I have never been so happy to receive a marathon medal (other than doing my first one in Miami).
I ended up finishing in just under 4:52. Not my fastest and definitely not my slowest…purely driven on getting the medal 🙂
Getting to the food at the end was easy, you walk through the chute get your medal and the food is right there. No standing around or having to walk too far to get it. The only thing I would have liked was some type of warm food. Maybe they had it and I did not see it. That and a beer!
Adam and I had a checkout time of 2pm and it was about 1:15 so I pretty much decided we should hustle back over the bridge and get our showers and get home. We didn’t eat much but we just started moving quickly and got over the bridge (ironically I was passing a few people…sometimes I think I would make a better race walker than a runner). Got to our room by 1:30 and took quick showers and we were out by 1:58pm and on the road! We stopped about 50 miles into the trip and I got a coke and some fries at McD’s. Not the healthiest choice but I needed something to drink and some salt. It hit the temporary spot.
• Easy packet pickup.
• Nice people…race coordinators, staff, volunteers, general public…EVERYONE. I felt so welcome.
• Expo was easy to get through and they had fun race swag to purchase.
• Plenty of hotel options near start/finish line for this race.
• Aid stations were well stocked and supported.
• MEDAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just look at the picture. No words needed. Do this race for the medal! The thing is so heavy I can’t hang it on the wall with my other ones until I change the board up that I have…it will pull it out of the wall
• They have an early start time for those folks who do a 6:00 hour or greater marathon. I think it is nice that they encourage everyone to be healthy and allow them to start early so it does not interfere with the faster runners. This race is very inclusive.
• Plenty of good places to eat. City is nice to visit.
• I can’t believe it, but I really can’t think of any? The cons for me personally were the issues I had with my IT band but when it came to the race…I really can’t think of anything they could do better. I would do this one again for sure.
Random thoughts and goals
I really enjoyed this race. I wish I could have performed better but the great thing is I was able to run into quite a few folks I have met through my earlier marathons. I can not believe I just did 4 marathons in this time period: late Oct, Dec, Feb, March. I have never ever done something like this. This amounts to 7 marathons for me. I never would have pegged myself as someone who would have even made it through one marathon.
I have not signed up for any races in the near future (save for the 5K we run for the Panola Co Humane Society that we run with Wyatt for tradition).
I have had a chance to think about how my body feels now. I PR’d my marathon in Oct, felt good after pacing a slower marathon in Dec at SJMM, felt decent at the one in Feb, felt pretty awful at this last one. I think I want to focus on building my core strength with CrossFit, get my diet back in check (definitely did this last marathon w/more weight on me than I did last Oct), and get my mountain bike.
Thinking this summer I may want to work on some speedwork and see if I can knock down my 5K PR. Adam seems to think I should be under 25 min. I have not raced a 5K (if you can call my pace even racing LOL) in probably 2 years and my PR was done in Boston w/a mild hangover at 26:13!
Core strength, biking, eating well and some speedwork may be a good change. I really want to get on my bike ASAP. Just need to get the layaway paid off
I know for sure that this December I want to pace St. Jude again…part of me likes the idea of trying something new. Now…don’t be surprised if I sign up for another marathon in the next few months.