Winning the Little Rock Marathon last year was an experience that I’ll never forget. I spent the next 12 months knowing that I wanted to run it again but it was very intimating. My 2016 race win would be a very tough act to follow but I knew I wanted to try.
Training for LRM started at the beginning of January. It was a short cycle since I ran the 3 Bridges Marathon mid December and my body needed the end of that month to recover. I averaged between 60-80 miles per week and tried to add in hills whenever I could to prepare for the climbs. Just like last year, I did all of my training outside. I wanted to be ready for whatever weather race day threw my way and fortunately it was not a repeat of the 3 Bridges Marathon!
I love a good race expo and the Little Rock Marathon does not disappoint. When at all possible I try to avoid doing a lot of walking the day before a marathon so John and I went to the expo Friday morning. It was great seeing our friends at 73Threads again this year! Love this company and they really do make the best shirts!
I found out a few days before the marathon that LRM was giving me bib #1 since the male winner from last year wasn’t returning. I was honored but boy did this add some pressure! I’ve only worn bib #1 once before- and I finished 2nd… (Talk about awkward!) I decided to embrace it because I knew I may never have an opportunity like this again.
My goal for the Little Rock Marathon was very similar to last year- break 3 hours! On this course this is no easy feat. This meant I needed to average a 6:50 or under which was going to require my very best effort.
I never know exactly who will show up at any given race but it does help knowing I am in control of my pace. The weather wasn’t ideal but it was very doable. I was just so thankful it was under 60 degrees! John and the kids dropped me off right by the start. They were going to get breakfast and find see me around mile 4. I walked over to find a porta-potty and fortunately there were plenty! No wait time at all which is rare at a race these days! I jogged around a little over a half mile and had some time to focus. This was it!
At the start I looked around at the other female bibs and the ones I saw in the elite corral were all running the half. That was good news for me! I knew it would be a fast start but my goal was to keep mile 1 around 6:50.
Within the first mile a guy ran up along side me and told me he was going to pace with me since he knew I had run it before and had finished right around 3 hours. Over the next few miles I learned it was his first marathon but he was a 1:17 half marathoner. I was running my splits (6:40’s) so I figured he would pick up the pace he leave me (which he did by mile 8). I found out later he finished 3rd overall with a time of 2:53. Nicely done!
I saw John and the kids around the Clinton Library (mile 4) and threw him my visor. I knew I was the first female marathoner but I wasn’t sure how much of a lead I had.
Mile Splits 1-13: 6:49, 6:44, 6:45, 6:45, 6:35, 6:42, 6:40, 6:45, 6:45, 6:46, 6:46, 6:48, 6:42
Half Marathon Split: 1:28:53. I knew a sub 3 was going to be cutting it close. The second half of this course is much tougher than the first half. I had tried to go out conservative so it meant I didn’t have a lot of cushion to slow down the second half.
Miles 13- 16 of Little Rock are pretty challenging. I watched my overall watch average go up a few seconds but I was optimistic that I could get it down after the hill climb. It helped seeing my sister at mile 15, as well as some running friends along this section. I also saw John and the kids which motivated me to keep pushing.
Once I made it to the top I tried to coast on the downhill and mentally prepare for the Rebsamen stretch. This piece of the course is flat but mentally exhausting as it is a long out and back. I really focused on keeping my pace sub 7 but it was getting hard. I saw John one last time around mile 18 and he yelled that they would see me at the finish.
The last 10k of any marathon scares me the most and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve thought and prayed about this part of the course. The day before the marathon a local Little Rock running friend, Tara posted a picture of the mile 22 marker on Instagram with a very sweet message that really struck a chord.
I looked forward to passing this marker as if it were a friend and when I did I smiled and waved. I could do this. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I could stay with it. Around mile 23 my friend Hannah and her friends were cheering and told me I was looking strong. Listen to them I told myself.
I just needed to make it through the last 5k now. The light rain actually felt good but the wind on this stretch (miles 21-25) was tough. I wasn’t prepared for a headwind but I just had to keep pushing. At mile 25 we hit the final challenge of the course… the big Dillards hill on Cantrell. I knew it was coming and as many times as I visualized this hill in all my hill sprints over the past year I could not pick up my legs any faster.
I really wanted this mile to be sub or low 7 but when my watch beeped at mile 25 it was a 7:22 (slowest mile of the marathon) and I knew I could not make up that time to go sub 3. Last year I ran a 7:21 for mile 25 so at least I was consistent. I did my best to pick it up in the last mile. I knew I was almost done and I’d get to see John and the kids. I just wanted it to be over. Once I rounded the final turn I saw the big finish tape and it hit me. I was really about to win this thing again! It seemed so surreal and it all happened so fast.
Miles 21-26.3: 6:49, 6:59, 7:01, 7:06, 7:22, 7:06, 6:39 avg for last .30.
Official Finish Time: 3:00:44 (1st female)
Official Results can be found here.
As soon as I finished I was greeted by the elite coordinator, Joyce Taylor who hugged me and led me to John and the kids who had been watching on the side. It was so good to see them!!
After left the finish area we headed over to the convention center. There was plenty to eat and I had a post race massage. I was also able to meet up with Amy who had just finished and set a 9 minute PR!!
While I did not hit that sub 3 goal I am extremely proud of my attitude and effort. I stayed positive and focused. I am going to keep trying for this goal. I cannot thank everyone enough for all the love and support this past week. I appreciate all the comments and messages. I couldn’t do any of this without my friends, my running family, my awesome coach, and especially John and the kids. Thank you!! ❤❤