This last Sunday I ran the Little Rock 2015 Marathon and it was a great race even though the weather was not pleasant. Cold temperatures mixed with rain did not make for the best running conditions. However, the race was mostly organized very well and the large number of spectators made this a really great race. While I have mixed feelings about Little Rock itself, I did enjoy the race and considering the circumstances I was very happy with how things turned out. I did not run a PR, but I ran a negative split with the second half being faster by over 5 minutes.
As mentioned in my last blog post the weather forecast for the race did not look good. I woke up way too early on Sunday morning and when I looked outside I saw the rain falling, but it had mostly tapered off by the time I left the hotel. I drove towards downtown and then parked my car outside of the Wyndham Hotel in North Little Rock. There was street parking right at the hotel (outside of their parking lot) and I figured it would be a fairly safe spot to leave my car with all my luggage. It was a short walk across the bridge into the River Market area of Little Rock. I had signed up for the perks package offered for this race which provided me with extra food, shelter, a private race bag check, and “private” bathrooms so that I did not have to wait in line near the finish line. This was one of the best decisions I made because at around 7.00 AM it started raining and I was happy to be protected and dry.
Besides being in my running gear I was also wearing some throw-away jogging pants that I ditched shortly before heading out to the start line. I grabbed a couple of gels that were offered inside the perks pavilion and then headed over to the start line.
I was assigned to corral C, while corral A and B were for the more faster runners. The corrals A and B seemed smaller compared to other races while corral C was huge and I assume the same applied to corral D. I think would make more sense to keep the corrals a bit smaller than what they were. There were bigger than those at other races, but in the end it did not matter too much because this was not going to be a wave start. However, I think it would have mattered to really “protect” the corrals for people who really belong there because once the race had started there were already several walkers and groups of walkers we runners had to weave around. Not cool. As mentioned it was not a wave start and it made for a very slow and crowded start.
The rain had stopped about 10 minutes before the start and I was hoping it would last. I took of my rain jacket that I had put on before walking over to the start area. I was carrying my Ultimate Direction Running Vest and stowed my rain jacket accordingly so it was out of the way.
The race started and it took about 3 minutes to reach the start line. The course lead us through several parts of the downtown area in Little Rock. This section of the course was filled with many spectators and it was fun running there. After about a mile or maybe two the rain start up again. It was a very misty type of rain and I decided not to bother with the rain jacket (=good decision). All my gear was protected through water repellant and this worked out very well. I can highly recommend this strategy if you have to run a marathon in the rain.
I felt a bit sluggish for the first 5-6 miles, but one bathroom stop later it was all good. I started running and suddenly knew that this would be a good race. The legs no longer felt sluggish and I was happy to do what I love – running. The course continued on into a more residential area of Little Rock and just a little bit later we ran by the governor’s mansion with the governor at the gate greeting runners. The miles went by quickly and suddenly we reached the point where the half-marathoners would separate and head towards the finish line while the marathoners continued on. The rain situation had not really changed. Sometimes it was a little less and then a little more again, but it never turned into a hard rain or a down pour which was much appreciated. I slightly switched up my fueling strategy and that seemed to work really well. I usually carry Gatorade Chews and did so again this time, but I had also several GUs with me and used those first. I always suspect that I do get the fully amount of gel from the pack and so I reduced the number of miles between having a gel and surprisingly that worked very well. I never felt a lack of energy during the race. I felt tired for a maybe one to two miles around mile 16, but I got through that hole and by mile 18 I decided to speed up a little bit. I started passing more and more people. When the race had started I had thought about running with the one of the pace groups, but due to the corral situation and having a non-wave start I never got close to any of the pacers for the 4 hour or the 4:10 groups and so ran my own race. Well, by mile 17 I had reached the 4:10 pacer girl (hi Tinkerbell) and left her behind me. Her group was down to two runners at this point and I was not sure how much on track she was to hit the 4:10 mark. I wanted more and as mentioned passed her and continued on.
After a flat stretch along a park area near the Arkansas River the course lead us back into town and with that several hills and steeper bridges came back into play, but none of them really slowed me down anymore. I was able to hold my pace and to push up the hills passing even more people. Some runners gave me motivating comments when I passed them which I really appreciated – I love the running community and how we motivate others even if they are better than we are. I came closer to the River Market area again and saw my average pace dropping. I knew that my A goal (= finish in under 4 hours) was gone, but I wanted to come in as close as possible to the 4 hour mark as possible and that kept me going strong. I finished the race in 4:03:42. I am very happy with the result – especially given that the outside circumstances were not ideal. Not looking for excuses – I know that I am hovering around the 4 hour mark at moment. I am extremely happy that I was able to run a negative split and that I was strong on the last 8 miles.
After the race I went to the perks pavilion to pick up my race bag. Having stopped running I started getting cold really fast and I knew I had to leave and get into warm clothes. I had started shivering and that was not good. On my way back to the car I struck a conversation with some other runners for a while and it was interesting to hear that the one guy I was talking to is also on the hunt to visit all 50 US states and he runs marathons in many states to have a reason to go there. I reached my car, changed into some dry clothes, and then turned on the heated seats in my rental car. It felt like heaven.
The Little Rock Marathon was very well organized and there are not many things I would feel that need to be changed or need to be addressed. I really enjoyed the large number of spectators and even though I did not hit my “A” goal I was happy with how the race went for me. The volunteers were great as well (Thank You!!!!!) I know there were complaints about the wave start last year, but the non-wave start this year was not much better in my opinion. While corrals A and B were “protected” very well, the entry check for corral C was non-existent and having to weave around walkers on the first mile is not funny. Overall the non-wave start did not work very well and slowed down many runners – including myself. For the finish line – please separate out lanes for walkers and non-walkers. I had to slow down because of walkers blocking the entire width of the finish line and also weave around a few just a bit earlier. It did cost me a little bit of time, plus it is super annoying when you are trying to finish strong and are slowed down and almost have to walk across the finish line. Bag Check: The last item did not affect me in person as I had purchased the perks package with a more private bag check, but probably the majority of people that used the public bag check were affected. Long lines and what seemed only one or two people handing bags out to people did not make a good impression. In addition – the weather was bad and having runners wait in line and freeze while waiting their turn is certainly wrong.
PS: Sorry for the lack of pictures. My hands were too cold and it was raining.