It’s been three days since the Little Rock Marathon and I’m still feeling the love. Thank you so much for all the messages and comments after Sunday’s race! I really appreciate it. It’s still very hard to believe this happened. Ten years ago I had my first experience with the Little Rock Marathon. I went as a spectator and a very pregnant one at that! I was there to cheer on my husband. I NEVER imagined one day running in it myself- let alone winning it! That doesn’t happen to someone like me!
Typically I tend to be a runner who avoids hills. For my Chicago training last fall I chose the flat easy route just about every run. Not this time. This training cycle incorporated hill repeats and more challenging long runs. I wanted to be strong enough and confident enough in my training to tackle whatever hills I had to face.
The week leading up to LRM happened to be spring break for the kids. We made a family outing of going to the expo Friday since they were all out of school. The Little Rock Marathon Expo is one of my favorites. So many great vendors!! We spent an hour or two there and then got some lunch down the street from the convention center.
I paced the first couple of miles with a fellow Searcy Rush teammate, Kelli. From the mile 1 marker I knew I was first female in the marathon. A bike pacer came alongside me with her walkie talkie and every mile reported the mile number and my bib number over her intercom.
Mile 1- 6:42
Mile 2- 6:48
Mile 3- 6:42
Mile 5- 6:40
Mile 6- 6:38. Just after the 6 mile marker was a turnaround. I tried to notice how much of a lead I had on the second place female marathon runner but it was pretty hard to be certain among the sea of half marathoners.
Mile 7- 6:38
Mile 8- 6:42
Mile 9- 6:34
Mile 10- 6:49. Saw John and the kids for the first time at the 10 mile marker. Feeling good.
Mile 11- 6:44
Mile 12- 6:46
Half Marathon- 1:28:16
Mile 15- 6:59. My sweet sister who lives in Little Rock was cheering for me at this mile.
Mile 16- 6:54. Saw John and the kids on the top of Hillcrest.
Mile 17- 6:40. Big downhill. My legs were pretty beat from the hills climbs but I was still feeling like this was doable. Up until this point watch average was 6:45 pace.
Mile 18- 6:58. Now for the big out and back section along the Riverfront.
Mile 19- 7:00.
Mile 20- 7:01. Shortly after the 20 mile marker is the big turnaround. I knew I would be able to look for the second place female once I turned around so I kept watching when a runner went by in the other direction. After a couple minutes I spotted a female but I had no idea exactly how much time had passed. Was it two or three minutes? Did that make my lead 4 or 5 minutes? Immediately in my head I started trying to do the math of “worst case pace scenario.” I hate doing math in the last 10k.
Mile 21- 7:04. Struggling and knew I was hitting the wall.
Mile 22- 7:07. Right around this mile a runner came up behind me and I immediately recognized him- James Bressette. James is a very talented local Grand Masters runner and we’ve run together in a few other races. He seemed to be keeping a good pace and I wished I could stay with him. My first thought was to let him go. I was feeling awful and there was no way I could keep up with him. I still had FOUR MORE MILES which sounded like forever. Suddenly it hit me- I don’t have to stay with him for four miles. Why not just try to stay with him one mile? Surely I could hang with him for just one mile. This sounded much more doable so I forced myself to stay with James. He seemed to know everyone we passed going in the opposite direction. He shouted back and waved his hands to them. He seemed to have so much energy and I felt dead. I just reminded myself that I was only staying with him one mile. At one point I glanced down at my watch and saw I only had a half mile left. This was so hard!
Mile 23- 7:02. When we made it to mile 23 I was very tempted to give up and let James go but I challenged myself to see if I could hang with him for one more mile. I just needed him to get me to the last 5k.
Mile 24- 6:58. When I saw a sub 7 minute pace for mile 24 something changed in me. I could really do this! I only had two miles to go.
Mile 25- 7:21. The Dillard’s hill. Going up this hill I actually pulled ahead of James but two other guys came up and passed me. They seemed to have a great kick. I tried to keep them in my sight. I knew this mile would be slower because of the last big hill but I had no idea it was this slow.
Mile 26- 6:55. Pulled the pace back together in the last mile. In fact, this is my fastest last mile of a marathon to date. I knew a sub 3 was probably not going to happen but it would be close.
I was immediately greeted by Joyce Taylor, the Elite Marathon Coordinator and then seconds later John and the kids who had been waiting for me at the finish. I loved having them right there. I was able to hug them before all the interviews started. For the next 15 minutes I was interviewed by various Arkansas television reporters and newspaper journalists. This is not something I am used to at all! It felt very surreal.
Sunday night we went over to my in-laws after church and they had a little surprise for me.
Thanks again for all the marathon love! I’m so thankful for the opportunities God has given me and for my husband and family who support me and encourage me to do my very best. I always want to show my kids that they can do hard things. It just takes a lot of hard work and practice! The 2016 Little Rock Marathon is one I will never forget. It will always hold a special place in my heart.