Monday, 7 March 2016

Little Rock Half Marathon, Arkansas 2016

Another race I've wanted to run for a while completed. It was so much fun and worth the long trip.
The trip there..
Our journey started out on Thursday with a 8ish hour drive to Memphis. We took the now very familiar i20 as far as Birmingham, Alabama before heading North West towards Memphis. We didn't stop too often, combining gas, restroom and food stops along the way to maximize driving time. I'd even packed lunch and dinner into a cooler to help us eat a little healthier on the road, as well as saving time and money. 
We got to Memphis and stayed in a hotel near Graceland. That was a bit of a rough area so much so that the car parking was a gated area. The next morning I dropped Martina at Graceland while myself and Boomer went for a walk in a nearby park. Then we popped back to Graceland, parked and walked around. I got to see the outside of the house etc but I'm not really a huge enough Elvis fan to pay to take a tour of the inside, I left that part to Martina. It was still pretty cool to see it. Then it was off to Little Rock with only 2ish hours of driving before we arrived at a much nicer hotel in North Little Rock. 

Expo  
Downtown Little Rock and the expo were only ten minutes away and since the expo was on until 7pm on Friday we went that afternoon, to keep Saturday free for other stuff. I liked this expo. It was in the very large convention center so it never felt crowded. It wasn't huge but there were a lot of other big races there promoting their event so I got to ogle a lot of shiny medals. The Little Rock race is themed differently every year and this year it was 'Game On' so around the expo were giant versions of games like draughts or Connect Four. I got my bib and T-shirt (tech unisex) without any problems. The packet also contained a race poster, I think I might actually frame this one. They also had extra clothes merchandise and other things like glasses for sale. I was tempted but resisted. About an hour of walking around downtown Little Rock and we were beat..back to the hotel.



The race
Part of Manure mile
 near the water treatment plant
Saturday we took the day to go to Hot Springs National Park were I went and soaked in some 104F  thermal spring water. I also remembered to bring my foam roller on the trip. So although there were some knots the foam roller wouldn't take out I felt pretty good going to the race on Sunday morning considering all the car time.
 We got up at 5. I had half a bagel with some Nutella and coffee before driving to the race. Highway takes you within a few blocks of the race start and even though I was worried about finding parking (a lot of one way streets etc. to navigate) we scored free parking right beside the highway. The convention center was race central and we walked there for some restrooms and a half fanatic/marathon maniacs picture. A coffee shop on the corner opened super early which was really nice..Martina was able to go in and get some coffee and breakfast...supporters need fuel too!! 
Couch Potatoes
It seemed like no time at all until we were walking the couple of blocks to the start. There were around 3,500 half marathoners and just over 2,000 full marathoners. It seems that gianormas full marathon medal does something to close the normally larger ratio between the number of full and half participants. The race started after a prayer (and an invite to Church after...they might need to fumigate the Church) and the national anthem. It didn't take long to get over the line from Corral D. The first few miles were crowded, slowly as the race went on the field spread out but there was always lots of people around.

Awesome Spectators
Costumes


Governor 

Nom Doughnut 
Band
As far as entertainment and support goes I think I could only really compare this to a Disney race or maybe RnR Virginia beach. It definetely beat Virginia Beach and comes very close to Disney. There was constantly something going on, music bands, aid stations, crowds, manure mile, couch potato mile, the Governor of Arkansas, being splashed with holy water...and on and on! I also like that the course went back towards downtown several times so I got to see Martina and Boomer 3 times..plus that area had huge cheering crowds. We were mostly running though city or residential areas so other than crossing the River it was more about the entertainment than scenery. Even though I didn't listen to music (no headphones allowed) I wasn't bored at any stage.
Another band
 There were aid stations (offical) every 2-3 miles with water, gatorade as well as other food such as orange slices and sweets. A few unoffical aid stations were also out in force. I had two mini cups of beer (at different points) as well as a doughnut hole. Those were only the ones I stopped at. I also saw someone handing out full sized doughnuts but I don't think my stomach would have appreciated that too much.
The route was hilly but nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. I ran all the hills without any problems or walking. I might have got a little smug passing people on the hills....only for a moment :) I stuck to my plan to run an easy run but I felt great throughout so I decided to run the
It got political
last two miles hard to see what I had left in the tank. Lots it seems. The second to last mile was a 8.30 min/mile. I was regretting my decision as around halfway through that mile is a rather long hill, not so smug now ha ha. The last mile was a 8.15 and with those two miles came a negative split. It was around 50F at the start but just over 70 at the finish. I finished in 2 hours 4 m

inutes. So although it was an easy run I'm really pleased with it. I'm getting stronger and fitter. 
I crossed the line and sucked in as much air as I could (I ran really hard for the finish). I must have looked like I was dying as a volunteer came up to me checking if I was ok. Then I got my bling. It's now my biggest half marathon medal and boy is it heavy and glittery. Walking through the finishers shoot I also got some water. The real food was now downstairs in the expo hall which had been cleared out overnight. I had some really delicous pasta with a tomato sauce (I immediately wished I'd took more). There was some other hot food as well as the usual fruit, chips, cookies and drinks. They also had some food trucks right there in the hall, a massage area, a band and a bunch of tables...a nice setup.
 
Post race
 I hightailed it back to my supporters and we went back to the hotel. Despite Body Glide I once again had some major chaffing in a few spots so water = screeching ha ha. After washing it was time to hit the road. The trip back was about 10.5 hours of solid driving and almost 12 total. It was a bright sunny day so until it got dark the drive was pleasant around 3 hours from home in Atlanta, due to really shitty road signage and crazy speeding drivers not giving enough room, we had a half hour detour as we ended up exiting off of our highway onto another one by mistake. To make it worst Martina's phone (with our only gps) had died and refused to charge. One highway led to another and before I knew it we were in downtown Atlanta. I cried a little (tired brain) eventually my brain kicked back in, I thought about it and found our way back. We swapped drivers soon after that! Either way we made it home around midnight and collapsed into bed. What a crazy weekend. That is our last long drive that far west....thank goodness.

I loved this race. If I lived closer this would be an annual event. It might be a little crowded/hilly for a PR  but I'd highly recommend it if looking for a fun race to do. 



2 comments:

  1. Who knew this race was so big and had so much support?! Super cool! Great job on the hills! :)

    The hot springs sound really nice. And the warm food buffet after the race - I love it when races do that!

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    1. I knew it was a big race with good medals but the overall experience was so much fun. For something that is not organized by a big company they are amazing.

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