On the drive down from Fayetteville on Saturday, I re-read my account of last year’s Little Rock experience. And as the snowy, icy winter weather flew by outside our car window, these words I wrote a year ago rang truer than ever:
That’s part of the deal with marathons. You sign up to run in the elements — sometimes those elements are sunshine and a cool breeze, sometimes they’re a headwind, rain, and bitter cold. This ain’t no treadmill.
This ain’t no treadmill.
YES. THAT. I needed that.
With winter weather sweeping across the state, we woke up Saturday with plans to leisurely spend the morning doing laundry, gathering our things for the weekend, and leaving town after Colt’s midday basketball game. Instead, Jeff saw the forecast and told me, “if we’re going, we need to leave. Now.” So we scrambled to pack the car and we headed to Little Rock. We braced ourselves as we passed a dozen or so cars in the ditch, but we took it slow and had no trouble driving. In the passenger seat, I kept a close eye on the dialogue happening on Facebook — runners decided when/if to leave Northwest Arkansas and updates on the roads.
Weather for the race was forecast to be soggy and cold, but not quite as soggy or as cold as last year — and I was only doing the half this year so my anxiety level was overall lower.
We did the expo then settled in for what would be a looooooong wait for a hotel room. We’re still not sure what the problem was, but the Doubletree in the River Market had us waiting with dozens of other runners for over two and a half hours in the lobby — waiting on a room. That’s like 17 hours in 6-year-old time.
Finally, we got a room and got cleaned up. Ready for dinner with friends.
Runner friends! We carbed up, proteined up, and chatted about the next day. During dinner, someone asked me what my goal was for the race and I kinda sorta said, “2:40…5?”
Confession: I had no plan. I had no expectations. I knew the weather would be crappy, and I knew I hadn’t trained for a specific time. But I knew that I LOVE the Little Rock Marathon — the energy, the course, all of it. So I had registered and showed up.
My friend Patty suggested we run together, and that was that. That was all the plan we really had.
The next morning we met in the lobby of the Capitol Hotel before walking to the new start line.
The weather was dicey and unpredictable enough that I knew I might not see my boys again after the start — and if it had been raining any harder that morning they wouldn’t even have made it THAT far. They are such good sports, and the best cheering section there is.
The weather held out! It was cold and raining, but we were feeling awesome and the boys found us several times. We got a high-five, a kiss, and a “Go go go!” a handful of times in the first few miles as the course wound around downtown, then again at Mile 12 as we headed to the finish line.
Patty and I felt strong. We honestly had no expectation but to run strong, and we were lovin’ it. We walked through the water stops, and we walked for a minute at mile 10 to make a phone call about our (faster than anticipated!) finish time — but otherwise we were RUNNING. The course was different this year, and while this race is known for hills, I thought the course was perfect. Every time I felt my legs getting heavy, I’d look up and see a downhill coming. It’s a bummer the course doesn’t cross the bridge to North Little Rock and back anymore, but I didn’t miss it like I thought I would. I truly enjoyed this race, and Patty and I agreed in the final miles that we carried each other through. I KNOW I would’ve walked more those last few miles if I’d been alone out there. I KNOW I would’ve let the heaviness and the tight calves get to me, and I KNOW I wouldn’t have even sniffed a 2:27! What?!
These finish line photos are priceless. Officials were funneling the half marathon into one half of the street — reserving the other side for the full marathon. And we got bunched up behind not one, but TWO hand-holding couples posing for photos. So much smiling and frolicking cuteness!
I smiled as we walked through the finisher chute, grabbing all the chocolate milk we could carry, about how things just work out sometimes. I had no plan. I had no expectations. And it all just kinda fell together. Patty and I had never run more than a few miles together on the trails, and here we were racing a Half together, pushing each other to keep going and hammer out the last few miles.
We saw more friendly faces at the Finish Line, met up with my boys, and headed back to the hotel and the car ride home.
So, Little Rock, you redeemed yourself. Last year, my expectations were high, my training was intense — and my spirit was broken when it all fell apart. This year, I went in with nothing more than the energy to run and it turned out to be exactly what I needed to get me outta the running funk I think I’ve been in since this time last year. I’m real proud of this one. Truly, a good run.