I flew into Little Rock on a Friday morning so that I would have plenty of time to go to the expo and then get out an explore a bit before I had to get settled at the hotel. In good social media fashion, I had connected with someone I met at the Yellowstone half marathon in 2015 who was also going to be running the race and she offered to let me split a hotel room with her and her friend, so three of us found a room just a few blocks from the start line of the races which was amazing since we were all running the challenge – 10k on Saturday and half on Sunday.
In the few weeks leading up to this race, I was kicking myself for not moving up to the marathon distance since I had to run 24 miles that weekend, but by the time I had thought about it, all of the races were sold out. I headed to the expo on Friday and it was really easy to pick up my packet with different lines for those running the individual races and a separate area for those running the challenge. Overall, the expo was a fairly good size and had all the standards, but I didn’t find anything that I just had to have (with the exception of some more Bondi Band headbands). Since Sarah and Jennifer were driving in from Missouri, I had the hotel room to myself until around 8:30 pm when Jennifer arrived and then Sarah didn’t get in until almost 1:00 am.
Saturday morning we left our hotel room about 30 minutes before the race started which gave us plenty of time to catch the elevator downstairs and walk the couple of blocks to get to the start line. There was a 5k and 10k on Saturday, so there were a lot of people milling about in the morning, but we were able to get into the starting corral and settled ourselves for our start. Since I was adding a bunch of other miles onto my race day, we decided we would all just meet up for dinner later so that they weren’t waiting on me to go to lunch and I didn’t feel like I was keeping them from enjoying the rest of their day. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a race this short, so I just tried to keep in mind that even though everyone around me was running 6.2 miles, I was going to be adding on an extra 18-ish to that, so I didn’t want to go out too fast.
There was a lot of course support with spectators spread out across the course which was nice. The course itself wasn’t very scenic, so it was nice to have people around as a distraction. I ended up finishing the 10k in 1:09:19 and after making my way through the finisher’s chute, I headed down to the Arkansas River Trail where I would spend the rest of my miles. After getting down to the water, I made a quick stop at the Junction Bridge to take a photo with my medal and then headed west towards the Clinton Library and Museum before crossing over the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge to the other side of the river.
Obligatory post-race medal picture! There were several of these “post card” type setups around town which were pretty cool.
Once I got to the other side, I was in a really industrial area and was virtually the only person on the road (definitely on the sidewalk and for most of the time I didn’t even see any drivers either). I had a general idea of how far I wanted to go and knew that I would pretty much be able to stay on this “trail” – it’s a paved path near the water – through some industrial, residential and park areas before crossing back over the Arkansas River and head back towards downtown. When I got into Emerald Park, I tried to follow an actual trail that looked like it went to a quarry or potentially just through the woods to the other side of the park before re-connecting to the River Trail.
After spending some time going in circles, I got to see some fun scenery, but couldn’t find my way through the trails, so I headed back to the main trail and got to run beside the water for a bit.
Soon I made my way through Burns Park, made a pit stop (yay real bathrooms!) and re-filled my waters. Then I was off again towards the Big Dam Bridge where I would make my turnaround. It ended up being a really popular spot where I finally saw other people walking and biking.
After the bridge, I got back on the Arkansas River Trail and headed towards downtown, eventually running into the end of the marathon course, finding mile markers 21-24 before veering off course again.
When I got to about mile 18 or 19, I realized that it had gotten quite warm out, there was no shade and I had no sunscreen… so I had a nice farmer’s tan and a line across my forehead from my headband for dinner that night. I guess I had expected to have more shade on my route and didn’t even think to pack sunscreen for my early March trip. Lesson learned on that one!
As I was getting to mile 22, I realized I didn’t want to continue following the trail since I was only trying to get 24 miles and I still had to make my way back to my hotel. I ended up finishing downtown at the expo with exactly 24 miles which was really awesome. I hit up the expo to grab a few more gels for the half marathon on Sunday and then headed back to the hotel for a much-needed nap.