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The Little Rock Half Marathon Weekend and Race Recap- EPIC!!

The Little Rock Half Marathon Weekend and Race Recap- EPIC!!
The Little Rock Half Marathon Weekend and Race Recap- EPIC!!

The Little Rock Marathon is a special race to me.  I have participated as a spectator, relay runner, half marathoner and marathoner.  I wrote more about these memories in this post.

This past fall when LRM registration opened I was contacted by Joyce Taylor, the Elite Program Coordinator of the Little Rock Marathon.  (She also happened to coordinate the Elite Program for the go! Mile race I ran last June.)  Joyce is so nice to work with and extremely organized.  She asked if I was interested as running the half or the full as an elite in 2014.  (The past few years I’ve slowly been working my way up from Corral C, B and last year made A.)  Of course I was planning on it but I honestly couldn’t decide between the full or half.  Last year I finished 4th overall in the full (3:07) and was thrilled!  But it was a rough recovery for me and to be honest I was nervous about hurting my hip again.  Last year a 1:26:58 won the half so a big part of me wanted to do the half.  My plan was to race more half marathons this spring and doing the Little Rock full would require A LOT more recovery for me.  So I decided to go for the half.  Of course you never know who is going to show up to any race so it’s really hard to bank on an overall win.  (The full marathon offers prize money for top five and the half marathon for top three.)  I decided last year after my Mississippi River race experience never to be too scared or intimidated to try when it comes to any race.  Obviously you never know who will show up race day but the important thing is to do your best and not second guess your decision. 

I was not able to leave for Little Rock until Saturday afternoon.  My older three children had their last basketball games Saturday morning (9, 10 & 12). Also, my husband was having some last minute health issues and was not able to go with me so I decided this would be a fun experience for my oldest daughter and I.  When you have four children there’s not a lot of one on one time with them.  Abi is my oldest and the most like me.  She loves all things running related so I knew she would have a good time. As the others get older I would love to do something like this with each of them sometime.

The Expo
The expo closed at 5 pm and we got to there with about 45 minutes to spare!  I immediately met Joyce to pick up my packet.

Then we walked around to some of the booths. Abi picked out a cute headband and I bought some gu and fun arm sleeves as well.

We also ran into Lucinda, one of my running clients who was planning on running in the full marathon.

The theme of this year’s marathon was EPIC so there was a lot of super hero stuff everywhere.  Little Rock has the best marathon themes every year!

The host hotel is conveniently located adjacent to the expo so we walked right over and checked in.  Abi was thrilled about being on the 15th floor.  And I think she was thrilled about just being away on a girls weekend trip in general!

view from our room overlooking downtown Little Rock

After we got our stuff settled we decided to head downstairs to the Grand Ballroom for the pre-race pasta dinner.  I don’t believe I’ve ever been a part of any races pre-race pasta dinner but I had two complimentary tickets and it was located at our same hotel so I didn’t have to do any driving in downtown Little Rock- which was fine by me!

The dinner was excellent!! There were two kinds of pasta- whole wheat or regular and two kinds of sauce: alfredo (Abi’s choice) and marinara meat (my choice).  There was also bread, salad and cobbler for dessert.

We happened to sit right near last year’s overall marathon winner (in fact, he’s won it the last three years) and his friend.  They knew how to carb load right!

Mark Chepses (4 time LRM winner) and George Kitonga

After dinner we headed back to our room to get some things ready for the morning.  Then we watched Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief which was just coming on TV.  Abi was so excited to see this since she just finished reading the book.

I laid out all my race gear.

I also kept checking the weather forecast which was not looking good at all. At 8 am the temperature was supposed to be high 40’s/ low 50’s with 12+ mph winds and 70% chance of rain but every hour it would be getting colder and worse as the storm got closer. I decided my best bet would be to wear a visor and hopefully I would be done running before it got too bad!

Sunday morning we woke up around 6:15 and Abi and I were ready to go by 6:45.

dressed and ready to go!

My sister Tara lives in Little Rock and she met us right outside our hotel.  She was going to be staying with Abi while I ran and they were going to try to find a spot along the way to cheer for me.  They dropped me off as close as they could to Juanita’s, the elite staging area.  For a few minutes the weather seemed perfect but during my warm-up it started raining.  The wind was picking up and the storm was moving in!

The Plan

I would like to think I am as good (or better) a runner that I was in December when I ran my current half marathon PR but I wasn’t very optimistic about setting a PR on this course in the predicted weather.  In December my watch averaged a 6:25 so I was hoping to do similar or as close as possible at LR half.  If I could keep my splits between 6:20 and 6:30 it would be a success to me.  My December half was on a very flat course and the weather conditions were ideal. The LR Half course is not as challenging as the full but it is not flat by any means.  Let’s just say it keeps things interesting.

Little Rock Half Marathon elevation map

The Race

I’m on the far right in the black tank next to the red shirt. Photo courtesy of www.arktimes.com

Photo courtesy of Arkansas RRCA

Mile 1- 6:19.  A little faster than I wanted but a lot better than it could have been.  This race always seems to start fast for me.  Last year I was trying to hit a 7 min pace for the marathon and accidentally ran mile 1 in 6:30- not good and yes, I DID pay for that later in the race.

Mile 2- 6:30.  At this point I was still trying to find my groove.  I knew there was at least one female runner (college age girl from WV according to her tank) in front of me and possibly more. Then another lady came right up beside me and started to pass me and so the mental battle began. 

Mile 3- 6:31.  I wasn’t sure what pace she was going for but if nothing else I wanted to find out and try to pace with her.  I stayed right with her and the next few miles were the best I felt in the race.  We just happened to be dressed identical which seemed kind of funny to me.  Both of us wore black shorts, black tanks and white caps.

Mile 4- 6:21.  Feeling good.

Mile 5- 6:25.  This mile ends going up the bridge.  I really like this mile though because on the other side are runners heading down the bridge finishing mile 2.  I heard a few friends shout “Go Tia!” as they passed me the opposite direction and I tried to look up to wave.  It’s always nice to see a familiar face and it really helped push me up the bridge.  In the mean-time the runner I had been pacing with started to fall back just a little.

Mile 6- 6:28.  Coming off of the bridge I got a little confused and for about a minute I was trying to figure out of I went the right way or on the 10K course.  Finally I realized I was on the right route.  It was also raining again and pretty windy.  And my matching lady runner was still right behind me.

I’m in the lead but she’s right on my heels

Mile 7- 6:31.  I was not feeling great.  I’ve always liked the half course but for some reason it seemed harder this time.  Granted, the last time I ran the LRM half course I averaged an 8:11 pace and I felt wonderful.  I just kept talking to myself.  She’s right behind you….  Keep going!   You might catch up to the first girl so don’t give up now… 

Mile 8- 6:32. At this point I told myself just hold on for two miles and then I would only have a 5K left.  Yes, the self talk started way too early in this race.

Mile 9- 6:34.

Mile 10- 6:37.  I was really not wanting to see any 6:30’s or at least not this many but I was just holding on the best I could.

Mile 11- 6:37.  And on this mile a lady passed me but it was not my matching friend.  It was a female marathoner!  She just cruised right past me at her 6:30 pace- no problem! I was impressed. Meanwhile, I was trying to hold it together for two more miles.

Mile 12- 6:33.  Believe it or not I actually started to feel better knowing the end was near. 

Mile 13- 6:20.  I was truckin it! I did not want to get passed this close to the end.  I had worked hard to keep that lead and I knew I would be so mad at myself if she out kicked me in the end.

Abi and Tara waiting for me to finish. 

Mile 13.3. 1:50 (6:06 pace).  I knew the finish would be a little long.  And I honestly didn’t care about the time on the clock- which is a first for me.  My main goal at this point was not getting passed so I just kept sprinting as hard as I could.

Overall Finish Time: 1:26:14 (6:35 avg.) / Garmin avg: 6:29.

3rd/ of 2,914.  I actually thought I was 2nd most of the race but apparently one of the top two ladies was wearing a jacket and took it off later.  Official results can be found here.

As soon as I finished I met the lady who was on my heels most of the race.  Her name was Sarah and she was as nice as could be!  She really pushed me to keep going.  It turns out she ran the full last year and was the one who placed 3rd- right in front of me!

It was crazy windy!

My cheering squad- Tara and AbiTara was a HUGE help!
Jade & Shela from Massage Me who braved the weather just to cheer me on.

The Weather
Basically the moment I stopped running I started freezing. I put on the warm clothes I had packed in my gear check bag but I couldn’t warm up.  The temps were dropping fast and the weather was getting worse.  I had planned to see some good friends finish but knew we needed to start heading home before the roads got too bad.  It started POURING while we were on the highway and then the lightening really kicked in.  Rain soon turned to sleet/hail.  I heard from a friend that the race had been called sometime after 4 hours.  At this point we were 30 minutes away from Little Rock.  She said runners were re-routed or bused to various pick-up locations along the course.  Some continued to run at their own risk but others didn’t know they had that option. Later we learned that the race was never officially canceled just “rerouted” but regardless many runners were unable to finish. 

A Few EPIC Finishes

  • My friend and running buddy Tish finished 2nd overall female in the 10K! (45:18)
  • Another friend and running buddy Kem won the Masters division for the Half Marathon! (1:31:32)
  • My running client Lucinda ran a 4:07 marathon- a 12 minute PR on a challenging course and in even more challenging weather! So proud of her!
  • My friend Kerri ran her first marathon and even though the course was barricaded at mile 18.5 she kept running.  She asked the police if they were going to arrest her if she continued and when they said no she kept going! She finished in 4:24.  Talk about dedicated!
  • Since this race is close to home I know several others who ran the 10k, half or full and honestly I think anyone who raced LRM Sunday morning did an amazing job considering the crazy weather.  I feel sad for those who were not able to finish but I know that race directors had to make some tough calls and had to put safety first. 

Wrap-up
I will never forget this weekend.  I had such a special time with my daughter and have been truly blessed to get to do something that I love. Thank you, God!!

I asked Abi what her favorite part about the weekend was… She said all of it. 🙂


38 Comments

  1. Lady, you are freaking amazing. This course is always my nemesis. It’s so much tougher than it seems. I think it’s those long gradual inclines. They just get to you. My falling apart point is usually around mile 7 then 9. And to make it worse you pass my house around 9.5 miles. The weather was awful b/c of those dropping temps. I can’t even imagine how awful it was for the full marathoners. I couldn’t warm up after either. I was shaking so hard I couldn’t even get a good massage (did the perks tent). I ended up 7th in my age group and a course PR. Not my fastest race, but all things considered, I’m so proud. AND proud of you!!!

    1. We passed your house?!! That’s awesome! So you do a lot of training on these roads I would imagine. You are right about those long gradual inclines. I was so glad it finally headed down around mile 12! The only way I warmed up was after a hot shower. I felt awful for everyone stuck out there in that weather but marathoners are the most determined people so I was not surprised when I heard so many found a way to finish. Just glad I chose the half this year. That was hard enough! Congrats again on a course PR! I think that’s the way I’m going to have to measure my improvement on this course each year too. 🙂

    1. I LOVE that bridge part. I never remember going down it before mile 2- just up it at the end of 5. But it’s so fun running and seeing someone I know. Definitely one of my favorite parts about the whole race.

  2. Awesome! My husband told me on Sun. – “hey, did you hear they cancelled a marathon in Arkansas midrace?” I knew it had to be your race. I looked up a couple articles on the race, and they had the top three listed from the half. So great to see your name there! It was fun to read your recap.

    1. Thanks Claire! Yes, it was crazy. While I was running I was so glad I was just doing the half. I was thinking about how much longer the full runners would have to be out there. They definitely deserve those giant medals!

  3. Awesome race report!!! I have two thoughts: 1) The Epic! theme & signage is probably one of my faves I’ve seen for a race. LOOOVE. 2) You are a rockstar. I need your mental mojo. 🙂

    1. Thanks Danielle! LRM picks the best themes!! They go ALL out every year! I was very tempted to dress in some superhero attire but once I knew the weather was going to be bad I didn’t want to add racing in a costume to the mix! It might have pushed me over the edge. But I sure did enjoy seeing so many others in costume!

    1. Thanks!! That’s cool!! What year did you do it? Do you remember the medal/ theme? They have some fun themes and the weather has never been this bad before. You’ll have to do it again- if reading this didn’t scare you away! Lol! Maybe next year the weather will be perfect!

  4. You are pretty tough there! I heard that was some intense weather – it had to be bad to reroute, pick up runners, etc. Wow. I’m glad that at least you got out of there before the worst hit (racing in lightening is probably not fun…). Another great race for you, never mind the weather! Congratulations.

    1. Thanks Gracie. For me the hardest part was knowing another female runner was right behind me when every place counts like that. All those “Go Ladies!” were making me nervous!! 🙂

  5. Congratulations. I loved reading this report – I got sucked in and was running it with you right from the start. Special memories for Abi too.

  6. I always look forward to your race recaps! Thank you so much for coaching me to a new PR. It was a tough race. Your daughter is so sweet; I bet you guys enjoy many, many races together in the years to come. Congrats on your 3rd place finish!

    1. Thanks Lucinda, I am still in complete awe of anyone out there who was able to do the full marathon. I’m so glad you were safe and able to complete it. That course is not easy by any means. I am so impressed with your big PR!!

  7. It was so great to meet you! If I had to miss out on prize money by 10 seconds, at least it was to someone as sweet as you! 🙂 I love the little Rock Marathon weekend, so I participate most years. Hopefully I will see you again at future races! -Sarah

    1. Yes, you really pushed me so thank you!! Who knew we would have such speed demons (1:19 & 1:20?!) to compete with? Lol!! I just wish you lived closer so we could train together! Hope to see you again soon! 😊

  8. I love your race reports, and your daughter is a little trooper and so cute. What a fun weekend! I’d love to have one like that with my kids (each in turn) someday.

    1. Thanks Terzah! You should definitely do it! I love having J with me but this was an awesome experience for sure. There’s something special about having some one on one time. 😊

  9. Amazing! What a wonderful girl’s weekend–modelling such a great run for your daughter!
    *and that race looks awesome. So much effort to produce a theme! Those race directors deserve a huge congrats also!!

  10. Huge Congratulations on a job well done!!! Wow, that was a really strong race and you definitely powered through the conditions. You’re a great runner, and great runners don’t let the weather we had on Sunday affect their race. Really, really impressed!!! Great job and congrats!!!

    1. Thanks! It was a good learning experience for me. I’ve never had to stay so focused on maintaining a close lead like that (between 3 & 4th place) and I kept thinking I would get out kicked at the end. I am more impressed with all the marathoners like you who kept moving as it got worse out there. Great job! I am definitely a new follower of the 50 after 40 blog now!

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