Sunday, March 10, 2013

Race Recap: Little Rock Marathon

The Little Rock Marathon will be hard to beat in my book. It is so refreshing to see a race event done right. All the little details add up to make this marathon truly special. I heard so much hype about Little Rock that I knew it was "the one" for Arkansas. I originally planned on the half, but once I got wind of the big bling, I quickly registered for the full 26.2.

I already wrote about the expo and opening day of races. Check it out here if you missed it. I was pretty calm on marathon morning, although indecisive on what to wear. I dressed out of my norm - heavy on top and no compression socks. (Tip: No matter the weather, always go with how you've trained. I was so unhappy with myself late in the marathon.)  

The skies were clear and sunny, but it was a chilly 30˚ at the starting line. My friend Patty and I (along with 100's of others) huddled in the lobby of the Marriott Courtyard to keep warm. We were so busy chatting away with other runners that I didn't step outside until minutes before the starting gun.

I really liked Little Rock's corral system. There were three corrals before mine: Corral A (marathon 3:20 and under), Corral B (3:20-3:45), Corral C (3:46-4:00). Get all the fasties out of the way first. The start was alive with pumping music and excitement. The race directors, DJ and Bart Yasso were overhead cheering, dancing and giving waves to the crowd. When the Open Corral was finally released, the beginning was smooth and uncongested (similar to my experience at Route 66). It was easy to find a consistent pace from the very beginning and I love races like that.

After a week of nursing my poor ankle, it felt so good to be running again. I tried to keep it "easy" by hanging with the 4:25 pace group. Like every other marathon, it feels slow in the early miles with rested legs and pumping adrenaline... I tried my best to conserve (unsuccessfully).

Mile 1 - 9:55
Mile 2 - 9:35
Mile 3 - 9:39
Mile 4 - 9:44
Shortly after mile one, I saw my hubby and then turned to head over the Broadway bridge into North Little Rock. (A fellow runner told me the course will change for 2014 since they will be building a new bridge next year.) As I came up the bridge, the elite runners were on their way back already. There were three men out front in a pack and I took a close look and tried to guess who would win.
I snapped some pix the day before the race while we drove the course.

We ran a quick 4 miles in North Little Rock - through neighborhoods, downtown, past the civic center, along the river, past the baseball stadium (home of the Double-A Arkansas Travelers) and then back over the bridge. There were big crowds as we came back into Little Rock downtown. At this point, I started to feel my sore ankle (peroneal tendon) and said a little prayer that it would stay simply an annoyance and not turn to pain. I focused more than usual on my stepping, trying to avoid any rough spots that would turn my foot awkwardly. (Eventually it just went numb and never gave me a problem.)

Mile 5- 10:01
Mile 6 - 9:55
Mile 7 - 9:55
Mile 8 - 10:01
Just before mile 6, a guy keeled over right in front of me. It looked like he was having a seizure and went down face first with a huge plunk. A fellow runner rolled him over and it was frightening as he had white foam coming out his mouth. I waited until I saw medics on the way and continued forward... Yikes! I sure hope he is ok?!

The course cut out of downtown into some residential areas now. I started to notice the little elevation changes, but at this point, powered up them easily.
Shortly after mile 8... a slow gradual climb
Mile 9 - 10:00
Mile 10 - 10:08
Mile 11 - 10:08
Mile 12 - 10:01
I was pretty pleased with how consistent I was keeping my pace. My goal was to hold it under 10:20 min/mile for a nice training run. I was obviously going faster than planned, but it was hard to slow my fresh legs down. Eventually, my mind just adjusted and said, "run whatever is comfortable". I really wasn't in the mood to look at my watch... so I didn't... for the rest of the race.

I liked the stretch where we ran towards the Capitol building (we did this twice actually - once during mile 8 and again in mile 12).
photo from previous day
At the end of mile 9, we passed by the beautiful Governor's Mansion. I made a quick stop to shake Governor Mike Beebe's hand, who stood at the open gates.
Arkansas Governor's Mansion (stock photo)
Throughout the race, we passed a lot of churches. (Welcome to the Bible Belt)  Many of them had support tables (water, candy, fruit, kleenex!) and big cheering sections. Shortly before mile 12, I stopped at one for an orange. The young gal misread my shirt Run with Jess for Run with Jesus. The whole group started chanting, "Run With Jesus" before I knew what was going on (huh?! puzzled runner brain). I trotted away without the heart to correct them... I mean really, who is Jess compared to Jesus? It became the standing joke the rest of our trip.

Mile 13 - 10:11
Mile 14 - 10:51
Mile 15 - 11:30
Mile 16 - 10:34
By mile 13, we split from the half marathoners and headed back towards the Capitol again. This time, we ran right up to it (literally UP as in elevation). It was a nice view of the grandiose building. This is when the hills kicked in... really, I should say hill. singular. It was one giant climb for three straight miles from 13 to 16.  I pushed upward with each step, stopping just once for water. The area was really pretty and I tried to enjoy the quiet neighborhoods, but all I could think of was stripping off my UA turtleneck underneath. The sun was warming up now and I was getting hot. This long hill wasn't helping matters either.

Mile 17 - 10:15
Mile 18 - 10:22
Mile 19 - 10:25
Mile 20 - 10:45
Finally we hit the top, but I knew from studying the elevation chart that it was a short quick drop. The fast downhill made my quads scream more than the uphill. I can't remember my quads hurting this bad in a race before. I felt really deflated... especially since I've been doing more hill-training lately.

the only picture I stopped to take during the race...
My favorite part of the race was the short time we ran down North Lookout (photo above), making our way back to river elevation. There were lots of trees and it was a serene area. During this time, I ran a good mile next to an assisted runner... not sure if she was blind or deaf, but I was intrigued watching the guide direct her (by a hand on her lower back). It was inspiring to say the least. Suddenly, my achy quads didn't seem so tragic...

I felt a little refreshed and anxious to hit the straightaway that was the end. At mile 18, we turned left for an out/back along the Riverfront drive. At this point, I started to catch up with the walkers. (There was a 2-hour early start for those who would need 6-8 hrs to finish).  Mentally, it was really tough to keep myself strong when there were suddenly so many people walking around me. In fact, it drove me mentally crazy (especially when they were walking 3-4 wide and I had to take extra steps to get around them. Grrr, my pet peeve.)  The 2.5 miles to the turnaround felt like forever. In fact, when I reached the big "Mile 20" archway, my thought was "I'm only at 20?"

Mile 21 - 11:02
Mile 22 - 10:42
Mile 23 - 11:27
Mile 24 - 11:39
I started stopping for water frequently after 20 - like every single mile. It was more an excuse to walk rather than a thirst issue. I was just so tired and warm. (It grew to 52˚ by the time I finished.)  I had to laugh at the large WALL banner at mile 21. I didn't even have the energy to walk off the course and take a photo like so many were doing. I trudged onward, but it felt like my feet were dragging on the ground.

Now I'm usually pretty good with mental talking to myself, but not today. I tried to remind myself that this was just a training run and time wasn't the point. Who cares if I walk? And yet, my lack of strength in these final miles continued to grind at me. I flipped on my music for the first time and tried to numb the brain.

Mile 25 - 11:57
Mile 26 - 11:22
Coming off the trail, we immediately hit a hill that felt like a mountain at this point. The reward for getting over it was that I saw my hubby at the bottom. When he asked if I needed anything, all I could respond was "for this to be over." There was a couple more inclines in the final miles. I picked a spot halfway up, ran to it and then walked the rest of the hill. It's all I had in me at that point. By time I hit the mile 25 sign, I was determined to just get it done. The final mile is honestly a blur.  My eyes and mind were focused solely on finding the finish line.

I missed the 'Lip Stick Stop' completely, although I do remember seeing lipstick laying on the road. I heard later that it was used up before a lot of marathoners came in. That's the only bummer with running the full 26.2... many times (at any race), activities/food/etc are done before the average marathoner comes in. When my hubby went to get a chocolate milk, they were out. The guy laughed and said, "Next time, run faster."  I wish I could.

I wasn't smiling during the finish...

But once I had that gorgeous plate-sized BLING, I was the happiest gal around!
So quickly the pain stops once I'm done!
Top left in the picture...
That's Bart Yasso in the crazy lobster shirt cheering every runner in.
This is now the 2nd marathon that he has been at my finish line. Cool, huh?!

I immediately found my hubby waiting with a big hug and my flip flops. We found a spot along the finish line and watched for my friend Patty to finish. Afterward, all we wanted to do was lay in the grass... and snuggle with bling as big as our heads.

Marathon #4   |  State #10
Official Chip Time  4:36:51
10:34 avg pace
Overall #987 out of 2447
Females #317 out of 1151
Division #60 out of 179

The race was over, but the event was not. Typically, I shower and head out for home, but I heard rumors that the Little Rock post-party was worth an extra night of hotel. And boy, was it!!  We had so much FUN on wobbly legs!

I loved how Little Rock took the "Lucky" western theme to the max... cute displays and costumes everywhere we went. The post party was held at the Statehouse Convention Center in one of the big ballrooms from 4-8pm that evening. We got there right on time (because I was ravishing hungry!). Our ticket into the party was included in our race registration - but you did need to RSVP.  There was a huge buffet of food - pork sandwiches, hot dogs, chicken and all the fixin's. The bar was also hosted - free drinks all around. Our table took full advantage of the *free beer* until the kegs spit.

The ballroom filled quickly and the DJ kept the dance floor grooving, and then the band Salty Dogs took over. I couldn't believe how many people were dancing. I wanted to... but had to settle for "chair dancing". My legs just didn't have it in them to bust a move. We stayed the entire party. There was even a complimentary photo booth that we had fun with...
Sine we were now operating on beer brain, we continued down the street to Big Whiskey's bar and met a bunch of runners who were there celebrating. The entire evening was so much fun. We had an absolute blast in Little Rock... definitely a race to remember.  I can't imagine a better pick for Arkansas!


  1. Great review! I had a blast with you at the marathon. :)

  2. Good commentary, Good Race. Congrats. Both Well Done. :-)

  3. So glad you loved Little Rock! Great recap!

  4. Run with Jesus. Love it. My hubby did have some issues dodging the walkers that got an early start.

  5. Great job! The race looks awesome!

  6. CONgrats Jess! I LOVE your smile! Oh that sucks to get too hot at the end. I can't even remember what's it's like to run 26.2 mi--been almost 2 years. You are awesome!!

  7. Awesome race report Jess! WTG! Congrats again! You're such a star!

  8. Loved the recap and the pictures. I run pretty much all of downtown weekly. Hint - you actually passed my house around 9.5 miles into the run ;-) So glad you enjoyed Little Rock!

  9. Oh my goodness, how fun does that race look?! AMAZING TIME! You are so inspirational!!!

  10. Looks like a lot of fun and the medal is enough for someone to sign up!

  11. I would love to run this race!! Holy cow is that medal huge!!! Congrats!!

  12. SOOO much fun, love this recap, Jesus - whoops. I mean Jess ;)

  13. Sounds like such a great race! If I'm ever in AK at the right time...
    I feel pretty honored to be bunking with Jesus next month!

  14. Agree that LR is a great destination marathon. Run hills at home, though. If you incorporate hills in your workout LR is no problem. The out and back... its better than the quad cities marathon, but I saw cheaters too. They weren't cometitive runners... but I think you have to do the whole 26.2to get the bling.

  15. Too bad I didn't find your blog until after LR, I would have looked for you. My DIL was running her 1st 1/2 (I ran my 1st the weekend before at Disney), and my family was there holding signs. I already have Disney circled on my calendar for next year, but I wonder if I could do LR the next weekend. Hmmm, you make it sound fun.

  16. I ran this two years ago (1/2) and had NO IDEA about the after party. If Kim chooses this race for AR next year, I may have to make the quick 4.5 hr drive to join in and attend the party this time around. Glad you were able to forget all your race pain once the oversized medal was in your hands.... well worth it!

  17. That bling surely would make it worth - SO MUCH FUN! And that after party looks like a great time. Hoping you have a great race in AL next weekend and hopefully get to meet up with you on Sunday. I'm volunteering at the expo for Publix on Saturday afternoon so come find me! :)

  18. Great job girl! I think your time and splits were awesome! You kept a pretty steady pace!

  19. That sounds like a really well-put together event. Glad you had a good time! Hopefully when I'm able to pull the trigger on my first 26.2, I'll have an experience like this. Thanks for sharing the race!

  20. Fantastic job! I'm glad to here that's a good race... I'm been considering it for next year. Hope you're recovering well!

  21. LOVED reading this recap! :-) You did a great job! The "Run with Jesus" was awesome! lol!! Running down North Lookout is my absolute favorite part of the race. Almost makes those hard hilly miles right before it worth it. Almost! You really put things in perspective when you ran by the runner needing assistance. I need to be more aware of that when I'm running too. I remember passing a guy (mile 15?) on the uphill who was in a wheelchair and I couldn't imagine trying to wheel up that thing.

    I totally agree about the walkers taking over the lanes. I'm all for walkers completing a marathon but they just need to walk in smaller packs!

    Anyway, GREAT job again on LRM!! Hope you'll come back again! :-)

  22. I'm definitely putting this race on my bucket list. That medal is amazeballs. I loved your recap! Congrats on a great race!

  23. MEGA congratulations on such an amazing achievement xx

    What always amazes me is that organisers KNOW how many people have registered so why is there never enough at the finish line; and ALSO they KNOW peoples expected/anticipated finish times so why does everything pack up so soon - it is SO demotivating when I run and everything has been packed up its like they are saying the back of the pack are not actually worthy of being there ggggrrrrr rant over

    Enjoy that ma-hoo-sive medal you earned it.

  24. Way to go Jess! I hope you get some much deserved rest, and enjoy that bling!

  25. whoa!! congrats and that medal is FREAKING awesome....might have to add this race to "my list" just for the bling!!

  26. That medal is outrageous! I love it! What a fun race! (especially the afterparty - gotta celebrate that 26.2!)

    Way to go, Jess!

  27. Great recap!!! The bling is CRAZY!! I am not going to lie I probably would have punched the "Run faster next time" guy

  28. Congratulations Jess! I'm pretty sure there's not another race medal that big anywhere. Great job!

  29. Congrats on your marathon-- I definitely feel like you picked a great race and I'm not saying that because I'm an Arkansan :) That medal is massive~ I'm still a newbie runner but I am planning to run the half next year. I hope to meet you if you return


  30. Congrats Jess! I'm originally from around here and am really excited to hear such positive feedback!! Will you be running in 2014?


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