2016 Little Rock Marathon Weekend
Better late than never, right? Well, that’s what I’m hoping for! It’s been over two weeks now, but the 2016 Little Rock Marathon Weekend took place on Saturday and Sunday, March 5 & 6, and even though I had a lot of other things on my mind (like starting a new job on Monday, March 7!) I’m really glad that I chose to participate.
For one thing, Jonathan decided to run the 10K on Saturday, March 5, and I really wanted to be able to cheer for him. Last year, the 10K participants started alongside the half marathon and marathon runners on Sunday…it was just shy of a complete disaster: the signage was severely lacking; the course, which can already be rather congested in the beginning, was really crowded; people got lost; and lot of racers were frustrated and disappointed.
This year, the race directors took the feedback they received and made some positive changes; the 5K, 10K, and the Little Rockers Kids Marathon were all held on Saturday and seem to have been well organized; the 5K consisted of a loop downtown and the 10K runners simply ran the loop twice. It definitely made it easier to navigate the course and cheer on lots of runners; I had a blast!
Afterward, Jonathan and I met up with my Oiselle teammate, Liz, who was in town for the full marathon with some friends from her home state of Kansas; we walked over to Andina Cafe for coffee and I was so happy to spend time with Liz and Laurie!
We tried to assure them that they could handle the course (it is notoriously “challenging”), but I think they may have been cursing us in their hotel room on Sunday afternoon; I told them that was completely acceptable!
Another bonus this year was a return to corrals for the half marathon and marathon participants, but without the looooong wave start that we endured the past couple of years; for a race this size, there is no need to have such a long delay between pace groups. We’ve waited for almost an hour (well, those of us who start in the mid- to back-of-the-pack!) or more in the wind, cold and rain and that is not a fun way to begin a race.
In addition, the course reverted back (sort of) to its glory days and we didn’t have to do as much twisting and turning at the beginning of the race as we did last year; the Broadway Bridge, normally how racers cross the Arkansas River, is under complete renovation, so there have been several iterations of this course over the past couple of years…and many (including myself!) have been disappointed in the changes. While it’s still “challenging,” the course is a little more runner-friendly and I really began to look forward to it.
For the first time in about eight years, the weather was really nice on Sunday; it warmed up quite a bit (to about 70 degrees) while many were completing the marathon, which is not ideal, but the weather was good for the half. I had a race plan from my coach and no expectations beyond that.
I’d planned to use the first one to two miles to get warmed up (#thisis40), then settle in to a good pace of around 9:00 – 9:15 per mile and allowing for some fluctuations on the hills; the first few miles are deceptively manageable. In fact, I momentarily thought that I might have it in me to make a run for sub-2. The first six miles came in at 9:35, 9:13, 9:10, 9:15, 9:09 and 9:10.
Once the incline starts, it just doesn’t ever seem to let up; I was happy to be able to stick with my race plan and leave it at that! I think if I’d had my mind in the right place I might have been able to do more, but I was pleased with the result; the final seven miles came in at 9:10, 9:20, 9:13, 9:14, 9:04 and 9:13.
I ran my best recent half marathon on November 7, 2015, in 2:02 flat; I finished this one in 2:01:33, so I’m pleased that I was able to stick with it and have a decent day. I’m looking forward to my next goal race, the Russvegas Half, on April 23, and hoping I can channel some of my inner Courtney (of Eat Pray Run DC, who just CRUSHED her sub-2 goal at the Shamrock Half over the weekend!) and get it done.
While I’m usually pretty snarky and cynical about this event (after 14 years, we’ve earned our right to share our two cents!), but I have to say that it was a success and I heard lots of great things from runners who traveled to Little Rock to participate. Congrats to those of you who got out there to make it happen, including my friend Tia who powered through to cross the tape (woo hoo!!); you can read her amazing recap here.