Little Rock, Arkansas is not a town I would have thought to visit if not for the 50 States Marathon Club. However, this past Friday I found myself waiting for a flight at O’Hare, headed to the state I would complete my 15th marathon in. And I have to say - if you want to cross Arkansas off your list, the Little Rock Marathon is the way to do it!
Due to delays and multiple gate changes, a bunch of us started chatting. Turns out, a majority of the plane was booked with runners headed to the event. I met two guys also trying to run all 50. For both, Arkansas would be their 10th state, getting them into the club. I also spoke with a very nice couple from Canada who chose Little Rock due to the huge medal.
And my God, is it a huge medal! But more on that, later.
Finally arriving, I met up with Nicole M. and we headed over to the expo. Leading up to marathon weekend, the organization was exceptional – but seeing it in person really showed off the magnitude of what this race is made of! The theme was “Lucky.” Backdrops, country music, and an impressive decor tied it all together. We picked up our packets and headed back for dinner and a drink before bed, but not before running into Dave Mari in the hotel lobby!
The day before the marathon is traditionally the day we go exploring. Playing the role of senior citizen, we purchased an all day pass for the trolley tour around Little Rock. For a whopping two dollars, we could ride all day, learning about various historical sites. After snapping a few photos, we walked over to the capital building and checked out the inside before heading back. Dinner near our hotel and an early bedtime, we were all set for our 4:30 a.m. wake-up call.
I can’t say enough nice things about this marathon – catering to us back of the pack runners, the early start was two hours before the normal start. This meant more time on the course without the crowd and ensured an exciting finish line experience. Part of being a back of the pack runner means accepting that sometimes the food and the fun are all packed up by the time you come strolling in. And that’s ok. But it was awesome knowing there was no chance of that happening at this race! And knowing we had eight hours to finish took away a lot of nerves.
Starting at about 27 degrees, we took off into the dark, soon catching a sunrise over the first bridge. Up and around the town of North Little Rock, we headed back into Little Rock all before the main crowd was fully lined up. The course itself is scenic in a few parts and also winds through some run down parts – but this event was more of an experience vs. a scenic destination. We trekked up a lot of hills, stopped for (seriously delicious) pizza around mile 17 at the Mich Ultra tent, and shuffled on.
Somewhere around mile 21 or 22 we stopped on the course at a spectator’s home-made beverage station. This was no ordinary beverage station. This one just so happened to be serving mimosas. We figured “Hell, why not? Cheers!” A mile later, and we arrived at a similar set-up. Only this time we were presented with cold beer. Again, “Why not?!”
Clearly we were not concerned with our time at this point, and just wanted to have fun! We walked on, did a quick jog into the finish, and listened to the band for a few minutes before our quick walk back to the hotel with our INSANELY HUGE RACE MEDALS!
Showered, changed, and excited about another finish, we headed to the post race party not knowing what to expect.
You guys. The Little Rock Marathon Post Race Party is the coolest marathon post party I have ever been too.
Tons of food. An open bar. A dessert station. A photobooth, a DJ, and a live band! An epic party that fit into the theme of the race, it’s easy to see why this party sells out! We put our coats down and went to grab food. When we came back, sitting across from us was the Canadian couple I met in O’Hare! I also managed to run into another one of my O’Hare friends, saw Dave M. again, and even ran into Boonsom “Lipstick Lady” Hartman! A fellow 50-stater, I’ve seen her on course at other runs after reading an article about her. With all of the food, drinks, music, and friendly faces we had an amazing time.
Stopping at a bar on the way back for an appetizer and a beer, we spotted a good looking guy sitting alone. We decided to buy him a beer from across the bar and, like a gentleman, he came over to say thanks. He ended up sitting and chatting with us all evening. Turns out we bought a beer for Robert James Reese - executive producer for Runner’s World Online! He finished 19th with a time of 2:52 – a PR for him! For a guy who runs sub 3 hour marathons, he was seriously humble about his time, super down to earth, and very supportive of us back of the pack runners.
We left Little Rock the next morning with the hugest medal I have ever seen, new connections, great memories, and another state crossed off the list!