Arkansas

If you are going to run in the state of Arkansas, I would imagine Little Rock would be the location of destination. I debated which Arkansas marathon to run (there was one named Hogeye – yes, the name had me) but ultimately any marathon runner knows Little Rock is one of those marathons that every runner must do. They really go all out and make the event exclusive usually selling out two months in advance. Like you would never expect Fargo to be a destination for runners, you could say the same about Little Rock, Arkansas. I arrived in town and was invited to dinner with my buddy John Wayne…

Is there comfort in numbers I thought to myself while sitting down to dinner before the marathon. Here I was at a table with 18 other people and I know of at least 13 of us were getting ready to run yet another marathon – 2013 Little Rock. There we were about to enjoy an Italian meal, which is comfort food at least, before another big run and I was wondering if I even belonged at the table? Did I belong in a group this exclusive?

No one outside of marathoning would probably think I could be impressed by other racers when I have already put down 15 states and 19 marathons overall. But this was one impressive group of individuals! There were at least  five runners from the Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners! I mean these people have prizes and awards for people who run the most miles per year! This group makes 15 states seem miniscule – like something they would do in one year. I am friends with more than a couple of them and they all have a run every other weekend if not every weekend.

I log maybe, maybe 25 miles a week. Then there was Dave Mari – that guy has run at least a half marathon every weekend this year so far and if you are a marathon runner, how do you not know Dave? He takes pictures of everyone – he celebrates running like most people do bars. I would call him running’s biggest cheerleader actually. Dave just makes you feel good to run

Shannon Hayes was two seats down from me – 40 states and all sub four hours and several a marathoner’s dream girl. Along with a couple fast friends who were all hoping to qualify for Boston.

Chuck Engle was sitting kitty corner (actually it’s kaddy corner but that is beside the point) and who is he? They introduced him before the marathon saying “Chuck Engle is here today!” and he has won a marathon in every state. When you are Chuck Engle good? They pay you to come to the marathon – you don’t worry about paying that entry fee.

And who was I with? My buddy John Wayne. Oh yeah just 43 states and all sub 4. He is currently on a streak of 19 straight weeks running a marathon. After dinner Chuck and he discussed how he would become the youngest member of the 50 sub 4 club to finish the feat. He is just 23.

To say I felt a little intimidated would be an understatement. Was there comfort in numbers? To be honest I was just happy to be there. The group was honest, genuine and Chuck really had some interesting insights. One thing he did say to me later was that he thought runners were not taking the sport seriously enough and acting like running was just a goof or perhaps a lark – acting silly while walking or jogging along. I have to say I understand how he feels but his words “run more” at the end of his message probably hit truer than any other words he said that night or in our conversations since.

For Christmas my mother bought a book for me called “Born to Run”. I thought it was a nice thought and decided to read it when I got on the airplane to Louisiana and the book has shaped me ever since. I just liked the ideas – running does not cause injuries, running wrong causes injuries. Running should be enjoyed because it is natural. And mostly there is no such thing as too much running. I now run every day rather than every other day and put it two a days whenever I can.

But as we sat there talking and enjoying marginal food, I was just happy to be there. Next up, was the marathon the next day and seriously, if you want to consider running 26.2? Little Rock is a fantastic place to do it. They pride themselves on the largest medal – seriously the size of a good sized saucer. They theme every year – this year was disco and celebrate the year before was Greek. They have permanent mile markers set up in the city showing you just how important the event is and the crowds are quite good. The expo was fantastic and I only wish I could have spent more time looking at the booths. They even had a lipstick event so your end photo could be better! That was a first.

The race started off and I was just off! I did not think I was going that fast but when I hit the 10K point at 41 and a half minutes I knew I should really start to pace myself. Sadly, I only dropped off after that. The run went along fine and the trick hip that slows me down on every marathon did kick in around Mile 14 which was fine because miles 13-16 were pretty much a steady uphill climb. That seemed just about right. I would just never be the same after that – slowing down and struggling to get my form. I made it to Mile 18 and ran into marathon friend Dave Mari from the night before who started snapping crazy pictures of me with his friend and almost made me stop. I loved the fact they were both like no go and waving me forward when I started to slow down.

But there was one truth Chuck warned us about the night before – you think the race is over after that 3 mile climb but two the large hills at miles 24 and 25 really kill you more than that long three mile climb – almost like kicking you when you are down and think the beating is almost over. But I made it over the climbs eventually and completed the course in 3:18 – not even close to a personal record but my goal for this day was below 3:20. I had been running a lot of flat courses lately and to complete a tough course within 10 minutes of my personal record was certainly reward enough. Overall I was 66th and anywhere under 100 in a race with almost 2,000 always feels good. I do need to run more.

I ended the run, got that huge ass medal and looked for other finishers. My aunt was there and she had already completed her half. But everyone else I knew was nowhere to be found except for poor, poor Paul – one of the Ozark runners. He had a sprained ankle and could not complete the race on this day. I really felt for him – what would it feel like to drive five hours and then not finish and get the medal? I don’t think my thoughts could compare to what he felt. I wanted so bad to stay and see John bring in Shannon and the other girl he was pacing to come in but time is a cruel mistress and I had to go to get back home by midnight. Sigh.

Overall, I would say Little Rock is an impressive and fantastic marathon. The marathon is twice as large as the half and it is one place where they really put an emphasis on running the full boat versus the half. I ran the race without headphones and thought the they had more than enough entertainment to get me through. My aunt would later comment that it lacked the party atmosphere that she thought it would, but I disagreed. Was it Fargo (yes I know, Fargo)? No it was quite Fargo but I got to run by the state capitol, some pretty good hills, and some nice little neighborhoods. I saw a nice park and an impressive view of downtown Little Rock. I had a fantastic time! Thank you Little Rock. I hope to return.

As for the comfort in numbers? I would say yes, a marathon is definitely a lot of number of people so there is comfort there but then again I feel much more comfortable up front where there are fewer of us. Perhaps I just seem to have comfort in smaller numbers. Oddly enough, that brings me back to my writing. After the race I saw three or four other runners blogging about Little Rock and I thought maybe it was time to give it up? Does the world need another writing runner? It seemed so cliche. But I will go with the comfort in numbers and continue to write. Once again comfort just in smaller numbers.

Hopefully I can just Write More.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Helen on March 24, 2012 at 4:15 am

    Cade I love reading about your marathons – your writing rocks, so don’t stop!!

    Reply

  2. Great recap. There are a lot of running blogs out there (mine included). So why keep writing? Everyone has a different story to tell. Though the race and the run are shared experiences, what we take from it is unique unto each of us. Aiming for the 50 is impressive. Good luck and keep on running!

    Reply

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