Two friends getting fit and having fun along the way.

Little Rock Marathon 2017

I’m so excited to share this post with you all!!! Our friends Cindi and Catherine, who you may remember from a previous post about them slaying the Disney Marathon, recently ran the Little Rock Marathon. Cindi was awesome and wrote about her experience for us. She is entertaining, genuine, and can be down right funny. She took the time to really explain the LRM experience and by the end of her post you will surely feel motivated to lace up those running shoes!

About a month ago, my long time friend, Catherine, my husband, Joel, our two oldest boys and I finished the 15th Annual Little Rock Marathon weekend and since our RunDisney experience, I changed my mind. Hands down, if you’re ever going to be one and done, the Little Rock Marathon is the one to do.

First off, the race’s theme is always over blown and this year it was candy and RUNALICIOUS and proceeds benefit Little Rock Parks and Recreation.  You know it’s a win-win when 14,000 runners, walkers and volunteers dress up in all things sweet to support a parks system.  Next, the race’s official trainers, Hobbit and Tom Singleton, taught me a lot about distance running starting in August.  I appreciated everything that showed up in my inbox from them and the race coordinators, affectionately known as the Chicks in Charge, Geneva Hampton and Gina Pharis.

On September 1st, registration opened and we each signed up for the COMBO which meant two races earning three medals.  As a side note, many runners waited too long and didn’t get spots.  Some chose to buy others’ bibs after the deadline and “bandit.”  Official results still haven’t posted because some are being disqualified. If committing to this race, register as soon as possible because it has international appeal and the races are capped and fill quickly.  Bottom line, don’t wait.

We stayed at the Little Rock Marriott, the host hotel.  The best part was that the hotel doors almost opened on the starting line.  It connects to the expo and after party.  That alone made it worth it.  The worst part is that e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e stayed at the Little Rock Marriott.  Parking and valet was hectic, hot water took awhile to get to the upper suites, and the rooms didn’t have refrigerators.  (Most of us have food routines but we solved the problem with cheap coolers.)

On Friday, Catherine’s flight was delayed three times getting out of Dallas.  So after checking in, my family and I went straight to the Expo for packet pickup. Out of 70 exhibitors showcasing health and fitness products, the only things our boys were interested in were caramelized pecans, petting the bleating baby goats and taking a photo with the llama at the Heifer International booth.

Big Damn Bridge

We then made use of a late afternoon and walked all 4,226 feet of the nation’s largest pedestrian foot bridge and nabbed the Come See the Dam Bridge geocache. We had an early dinner at the Cajun’s Wharf and the aquariums at the restaurant with the view of Arkansas River at sunset was so soothing after a travel day.

Much later that evening, Catherine’s flight FINALLY arrived.  She got herself checked in, ate an over priced appetizer in the hotel and went to bed.

Bright and early Saturday morning at 7:30 AM, the weather for our 5K and 10K’s was perfection.  Our races went without a hitch and the courses were relatively flat giving Catherine and me an inkling of hope.

Then at 11 AM, our 12 y/o completed the last 1.2 miles of the Little Kids Rocker Marathon running a sub-six with 1,000 eager 1st thru 7th graders.

Around 1 PM, Catherine had lunch with her cousin while we tootled around the city.

Early that night, we met up for our ritualistic pancake dinner at IHOP.  This practice is all Catherine’s fault and it’s almost become a pre-race religious ceremony with our toasting of orange juice and salute to extra crispy bacon.  To Catherine and IHOP’s credit, we’ve always finished in a vertical position with zero cramping.  So, at this point, we’d be fools to break from tradition.

Sunday morning – big race day – we woke up at 4 AM to raindrops pinging our window.  Radar indicated we were in for a complete deluge and low temps with no hope for clear skies.  After eating oatmeal, bananas and taking two vitamins, we put on our Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory costumes and took pictures in the lobby anticipating the inclement weather.
​​Finally at 6:45 AM, we headed toward the start.  Even wearing garbage bags, our heads and toes were soaked in minutes, but that just took the pressure off of us to PR.  Catherine (AKA: Willy Wonka) and I (AKA: Veruca Salt) started the party at the back of the pack.  Embracing the eight hour time limit, we talked costumes with everyone and chatted an especially long time with Batman and an over sized Tootsie Roll around 16M. We blew kisses to the students at the Arkansas School for the Deaf that cheered in sign language. There was another student a few blocks later hanging out her dorm window going old school banging on a kitchen pot with a spoon.  We autographed a king sized sheet with a purple Sharpie, but we’re not sure why.  We did the running man with an entire fraternity that was dressed like Daisy Duke to “Baby’s Got Back.”  We sang “Sweet Caroline” with musicians playing guitars at 22M.  We gave two thumbs WAY up to the fireman carrying the American flag…..in full gear.
We laughed until we had to stop and collect ourselves when someone on the other side of the out and back yelled, “There goes Olive Oil and Wimpy!”  I kind of expected “Annie and Sandy”  But, “Olive Oil and Wimpy?”  And then, at one of the final 14 aid stations on the course, it happened.  I had a full blown selfie session with a sweet grandpa that works as Santa every year. Yep, he thought I was “Mrs. Claus.”

Meanwhile on the half marathon course, Joel (AKA: Oompa Loompa) ate donuts, tater tots, hot dogs, Skittles and according to our son, his dad tried every local beer, did the Oompa dance from the movie and posed for pictures with anyone that asked.  Unlike the rest of us, Joel’s race had nothing to do with running.

​​Speaking of beer, it was such a cold and crappy weather day but entire blocks were still decked out like Candy Land with balloons, beach balls and crafty thingies wrapped in multi-colored cellophane. The marathon is held the first weekend of March every year.  With such consistency with scheduling, businesses, churches, student groups and little kids in recycled Halloween costumes along the route clap, hold signs, offer lemonade, gummy bears, tissues for runny noses and Vaseline for chub rub.  Older residents sit in rickety chairs on their front porches and simply smile and wave.  Race support was THE best I’ve ever experienced making stretches of the race fly by.

In reference to flying, the boys had no trouble with the half marathon.  They finished 4th and 7th respectively in their age group.  Can I get an amen for young legs?

On the flip side, Catherine and I struggled during the first half of the full marathon.  It was hard to get in a groove when you’re bones are chilled, your shoes are sloshing and the course is packed from curb to curb. We navigated pot holes filled with water and the painted lines on the road were dangerously slick.  The rain let up and was only spitting by the the second portion of the course when the routes for the half and full marathoners split, but that’s when the mountain range and stiff headwind presented themselves. We never missed a training run, we prepped for rolling hills and reviewed the elevation chart.  We scheduled our food and drink perfectly, but nothing prepared us for the last three miles.  No pride here.  For us, the course was challenging.

​After the race, we had VIP passes. Naturally, BBQ makes everything better and it was such a delighter that we didn’t have to face the weather again because the hotel was connected to the convention center.  Well, that was, until we went to DamGoode Pies for second dinner around 8 PM after dropping Catherine off at the airport.  My Garmin logged race time alone as 56,039 steps with 2,758 calories burned.

Word to your mother.

After planning for over a year, we are proud owners of the world’s largest finisher medals. They are 8 1/2 inches, weigh more than 2 lbs and they spin. (I’m going to reiterate that because it’s too much fun.  Yes, they spin.)

Race weekend was organized, family friendly and simple to navigate for the out-of-towner.  There was a huge volunteer and police presence, vehicle traffic was minimal along the route, and we felt very safe letting the boys run the courses without us.  All ages and stages of mobility are encouraged to participate and everyone is celebrated.  As a matter of fact, Mark Auckerman was the last to finish and I think he got more press than the winners.

Looking back having digesting it, the best part of the weekend wasn’t the medals although they ARE pretty cool.  The best part was the people.  I know I’m partial to the Mid-West and this sounds Pollyannaish, but those on and around the course didn’t see ethnicity or gender or religion or political affiliation.  I mean, sure, people see stuff because some, like the lady dressed as the doughnut princess incorporating a pool float, are hard to miss.

​But, what I mean is that it was an honor to be among thousands of genuinely courteous folks that don’t take themselves too seriously and recognize determination and effort before anything else.  Determination and effort is easy to spot and it can’t be faked.  And, I’m convinced now more than ever that the world needs more runners and the Little Rock Marathon is doing an amazing job of presenting the opportunity and making that an affordable, realistic goal for thousands around our country.

My family and I left the natural state early Monday morning knowing that we’ll definitely do this one again.

Sandra and I wanted to cheer them on in person but had other things on our calendars that didn’t allow for it. We were however, able to cheer them on virtually via the Little Rock Marathon live tracking  phone app. It was nice to be able to check in and see their progress. Please help me congratulate these awesome runners by leaving a comment on this post.

Way to go Cindi, Catherine, Joel, Seth, and Sam!!