Two weeks ago John and I made our way to Russellville, Arkansas for our first experience with RussVegas.
Last year was the inaugural race but at the time I was unable to participate because of my spring marathon. I had heard great things about it and I was really excited to do it this year. My friend Jackie and I actually registered in the fall, several months before the race (which is really early for me) to make sure we got in before it sold out. RussVegas advertises music with live bands as well as plenty of crowd support and I must say that this is one race that delivers! I was extremely impressed with the overall organization, including the pre-race, race, and post race environment.
The Date: Saturday, April 11, 2015
Location: Russellville, AR
Race: RussVegas Half Marathon
John and I made the trip to Russellville Friday night. It’s about an hour and a half drive and we stopped for dinner at Zaza’s in Conway on the way. Love that place!! We arrived at packet pickup just before the Glow Run started. This is a very family-friendly race environment so we may take the kids next year. (They are all about giant bounce houses!)
Saturday morning we got to the race early enough for me to find a restroom and warm-up. My friend Natalie (who won RussVegas last year) was also there so we warmed up together before the start. The weather was perfect- low wind, upper 40’s and partly sunny. The course was described to me as mostly flat with a few gentle rolling hills. Natalie warned me about the one big hill (a bridge) around mile 12. I’m really glad she did!
My plan was to run between a 6:30-6:35 pace. My watch in Germantown (3 weeks prior) was around 6:39/6:40 and that was coming off being sick/ on a hilly course so I thought a 6:35 in good weather, on a decent course should be doable. I was ready and focused and had my secret weapon to help me along the way.
One of my blogging friends, Stephanie recently ran a speedy half marathon and she posted the words, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” on Facebook. Yes, the same phrase Coach Taylor uses on Friday Night Lights. I will admit I have seen that entire series on Netflix (loved it!) but I’ve never applied that phrase towards running. I decided to borrow that mantra for RussVegas. Let me tell you- it works! every time I started to lose focus or get tired I repeated this mantra and it helped me get back on track!
The first mile was pretty crowded as most races are but then things really settled down. After the first mile I knew I was second female and this never changed. First female was far enough ahead of me that I never saw her and third finished a few minutes behind me so I never saw her either. I focused on trying to catch the men in front of me. Every few miles I would catch up to one and pass them but there was one male right behind me and on my heels the entire way. I found out later it was Alan who’s 58! He did an awesome job maintaining a 6:30 pace! He’s another AR Grand Prix runner who usually finishes right around me. There was also a 12 year-old boy in front of me until mile 11! I encouraged him to hang in there when I passed him. He was cruising at a 6:30 pace most of the race. He ended up finishing in 1:27- at 12 years old! There was also an awesome wheel chair participant who I could never catch up to! Around mile 3 we passed the Army officers who carried a wounded soldier the entire race. It was very motivating and inspiring.
This race also has an early start for those walking. There were plenty of bands along the way, tons of volunteers, and people cheering so I never felt alone.
Warning: There are many more race pics than usual! RussVegas provides FREE race photography! Just one more reason why this is an awesome race! They had photographers all over the place on the course! (I also had John and a friend sent me some as well!)
Race Splits and more:
Overall I really like the course. The race boasts that there is “only one hill” and that hill is at the end of mile 12. It is pretty steep and I knew better than to look at my watch during this stretch. Once I made it to the top I reminded myself the worst was over and this was the final home stretch. I knew it wouldn’t be a PR but it would be a pace PR since coming back from my injury so I felt good about that. It’s all about making progress, right? For the most part my race fluctuated between 6:34 and 6:32. (It ended up settling at 6:33.)
Splits: 6:32, 6:36, 6:27, 6:35, 6:32, 6:27, 6:32, 6:40, 6:31, 6:30, 6:34, 6:35, 6:41, 1:08 (5:54 avg) for last .19.
Official Time- 1:26:28 (2nd Female). Official Results can be found here.
Natalie, Jackie, Kaitlyn (the overall winner) and I all jogged 2 miles together to cool down. We had about an hour before the awards so John and I went back to the hotel so I could shower before awards.
As someone that races in Arkansas (A LOT!), I would definitely recommend this race to runners/ walkers- you name it! It was very well run and organized. Fun race environment and great course- you can’t go wrong! This is one Arkansas runner who will definitely be back!