Friday, March 13, 2015

Race Report: Little Rock Half Marathon

Pre-race shenanigans with
Crystal at the expo!
My milestone 20th lifetime half marathon brought me back to the center of the country, to Little Rock, Arkansas, home of some of the biggest race medals in existence.  I flew in early Saturday morning via Atlanta (where I had a tight 40 minute connection -- we landed clear at one end of Terminal A, and lo and behold, my flight to Little Rock was on the other end of the terminal.  Thank goodness I'm a runner!) and landed in Little Rock at 11am.  My friend Crystal, who was part of my Ragnar DC team last September, had arrived the day before, and was kind enough to retrieve me from the airport since the rest of my friends weren't to arrive until later that night.

We proceeded directly to the expo at Statehouse Convention Center, where I picked up my bibs, and was given permission to pick up the bibs of my four other roommates (the five of us, self-dubbed, "The Renegades") - three were doing double duty that weekend - Donna, Loan, and Hollie each ran the Phoenix Marathon on Saturday morning; Loan and Hollie were going to do the Little Rock full, and Donna the half on Sunday.  I picked up the race packets and then we proceeded through the medium sized expo, decked out in pirate chic decor.  I brought Crystal to the Real Time booth, where I got to show her the glory of this awesome recovery salve, and ordered the expo special which was to be delivered to my home in a few days time.

Feeling presidential at the
Clinton Library
After picking up a few more things at the expo (Balega socks!), I parted ways with Crystal and headed to my hotel to check in and grab a quick bite to eat before having to go back to the expo to get information about the early start, which Hollie and Loan were going to do.  The information was pretty much the same as what was already sent to us via e-mail, so after doing a little more wandering around the booths, I decided to kill some time by heading off to the Clinton Library before dinner plans with the Fifty States Half Marathon Club.

Fifty States Half Marathon Club Dinner at Ciao's
(Photo by Joan Roby)
Only a short walk away from the main downtown strip, the Clinton Library sits on the east side of downtown, on the other side of the highway.  The two floor library houses a museum of all things Bill Clinton, including a replica of his oval office and the presidential war room complete with his special leather chair, and other memorabilia during his two terms as president.  Also in the Library was a Peanuts exhibition, showcasing some of Charles Schulz’ work – which I am not so sure has anything to do with the Clintons, but oh well.

Reunited with members
of #TeamRenegade
I sped through the exhibits and made my way back downtown because the dinner was about to start at Ciao’s.  Quite a large turn out for our group, with members from all over, making their way to Arkansas for the race.  The food was good, though it took a while for it to come out… it was then when I got the unfortunate text that Donna and Hollie’s flight from Phoenix to Little Rock (via Dallas/Fort Worth) got cancelled, and they were not going to make it for their second race of the weekend.  After dinner I headed back to the hotel to wait for the two remaining members of our group who were arriving late – Kimberlee from Boise (via Las Vegas); and Loan, who luckily was able to get to Little Rock from Phoenix but through Dallas-Love Field and a different airline.
When they finally arrived, we were thrilled to see each other, but it was bittersweet because of the absence of two of our group.  We proceeded downstairs for a late night bite to eat (and shots of fireball, duh) before calling it a night since we had an early morning for the race, in particular Loan, who was doing the early start.

The Little Rock start line
The morning came, and I donned on my Rufio costume (complete with eye makeup!), and Kimberlee and I headed down to the lobby to meet up with our fellow "Renegade" Laura to proceed to the start line.  Already some of the early starters were coming up the street, nearing the six mile mark – but it was quite damp, already raining a little bit.  We walked to the start line and proceeded to get ready to get on the race course.  And then we were off!  I had my earphones in already, but supposedly, the announcers had acknowledged my Rufio costume as I ran through the start gates!

Bangarang!  Rufio is ready to get out on the half course!

Kimberlee, Laura, and I,
pre-race in the Holiday Inn lobby
The race course zigzags through the downtown area for the first four miles of the race, with long stretches heading westward along Capitol (toward the landmark Arkansas Capitol Building), then eastward on 6th Street, then westward again on 7th Street.  After turning right on Pulaski and passing the Capitol Building again, we had hit the 5k mark.  Turning right toward Markham, we went eight blocks before turning on Broadway and then right again onto 3rd, before looping eastward onto 4th Street and then back onto 3rd going further eastward again toward the I-30 underpass.  This was where we could see turn-off point for people heading toward mile 6 (which was just past our hotel), while proceeding straight would take you on a loop around toward the finish line.

The Couch Potato Corner at
the 10k mark!
(Photo by Crystal Aho)
Just past mile 6, at the 10k mark (turning onto Commerce Street), was a fun little spot that some locals deemed "Couch Potato Corner" where they actually had couches on the sidewalk!  Here, there were also some spectators handing out potato chips, and tater tots from Sonic, as well as donut holes - all of which I, of course, partook in.  There was even someone handing out plastic cups with a few ounces of beer in them - which I gladly took and was happily surprised to find contained stout beer!  This likely fueled me as I crossed over the Interstate 630 bridge (the first of three times) and made a couple more zigzags through residential areas along Cumberland, 9th Street, and then back onto Center Street.  At mile 8, we were greeted by newly appointed Arkansas Governer Asa Hutchinson in front of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion. We looped around more of the city's residential areas, westward on 16th Street, and then passed the iconic Little Rock Central High School, site of the landmark civil rights integration milestone in 1957, just before mile 10.  After continuing eastward on Daisy Gatson Bates Drive, we turned left onto Chester Street as we headed back toward downtown.  Around here was where we passed a group of students from nearby Philander Smith College, who were cheering us runners on... and I partook in a bit of twerking!  Hah!

The L'Oreal Lipstick Spot
(photo by Crystal Aho)
The last couple miles were a blur, as we once again headed through downtown Little Rock, eastward along the route we had passed from mile 4.5 to mile 5.5 earlier.  This time, we got to continue past the I-30 underpass, where I got to stop and check my rain-soaked face at the L'Oreal Lipstick Spot!  We looped around the Clinton Library parking lot, and then headed toward the finish line on Markham in the River Market district!

The rain slowed me down, but I finished in a respectable 2:28:53, to mark off state number 17.  Despite the rain, there was a great amount of crowd support on the course, and even an unusual amount of beer served to runners as well!  It was a great route, passing through much of downtown Little Rock's major landmarks.  Though we didn't receive the actual medals for the event due to the delays on the west coast from the longshoremen's strike, the proxy medal that was created for us was a nice touch, demonstrating the generosity of Geneva and Gina, the CIC's (Chicks in Charge) of this wonderful event.
Bling and Fireball 

Crystal and I going all out on the Little Rock Marathon's pirate theme!

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