Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Marathon- Little Rock Style

The Little Rock Marathon in Little Rock, AR was fantastic! It was a great marathon race put on by an amazing group of staff and volunteers from the Parks and Recreation Department and local community members. It was a welcomed surprise to my marathon schedule for the year and a "must go back" for next year. I would have to rate it as one of the top five marathons that I have ever done. Very well organized and plenty of things to do before and after the race. One of the things that impressed me the most was just how glad they were that you were there and had chosen to run in their race. It was mentioned several times from hotel staff to the restaurants that we went to. Organizers wanted everyone to have a great race and to have a fun time in their city. It was also designated as a "walker friendly" race. Many people took them up on the walker invitation which included a two hour early start option.

We stayed at the Peabody Hotel which was an incredible experience. Wonderful service and the outstanding food at the Capriccio Grill Italian Steakhouse was a big plus. If you ever get a chance to stay there, check out the duck parade. From the minute we were picked up at the airport by the hotel shuttle to arrival at the hotel, we were treated to a historical conversation from the driver about the sites and sounds of the city. We were greeted upon arriving with cold, rain and wind. Yes, I was worried at that point and it was just Friday night. Rooms were large and like I said before, the food at the hotel was amazing. Hotel: A+

Registration and Packet Pick-Up was very easy as it was located next to the hotel at the Expo. Packet pick-up was well organized and fast. All directions were spelled out clearly and the tickets for the Pasta Dinner and Post Race Party were easily purchase without any hassle. Participant shirts and timing chips were easy to get and check out. Volunteers were very informed about the race course and gave me very worthwhile tips on navigating the hills and out and backs. Registration and Packet Pick-Up: A

The Expo was not large but there was enough there to get you by and also be able to purchase things that you might have left at home. Vendors were not especially energized to be there though and a few looked like they were just waiting for Saturday evening to come. There were only a few booths with really good sale deals on merchandise. Others seemed a little high priced. Some shoes were half price. There were no major vendors there from running related companies though. That to me is a real negative. Expo: B

The Pasta Dinner was catered by the Peabody Hotel and it was simple yet very good. The buffet set-up provided an easy access to get seconds and also to get in and out of the dinner if you wanted to get back and rest. The bread was fantastic! It was great to have runner/author Bart Yasso there to say a few words of encouragement and to recognize a few groups and individuals that deserved the recognition. It was my first introduction to the Marathon Maniacs group of which I sent in an application today to become a member. Pasta Dinner: B+

The race day organization was very well done. This was the first year that they used the corral system and it worked very well. Everything (Information signs) was very well marked and there were plenty of porta potties available. The start was smooth and with the cool temperatures and overcast skies, it was a great start. Starting Area: A

The race course was hilly and challenging. After saying that though, it was strangely fast. There was some circling around downtown around historic sites and then off we went over a bridge to North Little Rock where we did and out and back kind of circle thing and then back over the bridge where we then did a true out and back with a turn around at about mile 21. The course was beautiful in many paces and also very normal "city looking" in others. The aid stations were staffed with very good volunteers that really knew what they were doing. Lots of on course support: people giving directions and medical staff. Race course, aid stations, and volunteers: A+

Finish Line events were excellent with a band playing, a pre-made goodie bag of food plus other food items available to choose from, plus getting the biggest marathon medal I have ever seen. The really amazing thing is that Bart Yasso and another person announced every finishers name as he or she crossed the line. He was there at the finish line to high five and greet everyone. The local FOX network station also provided finish line footage of each finisher and can be accessed by anyone wanting to see people finish that they knew. It was really a great finish area. Finish Area and Volunteers: A+

The Post Race Party was held at the Clinton Presidential Library with BBQ and Bands plus a free tour of the museum. If there was one glitch in the whole experience, this was it. People had to wait in line for food from an hour to an hour and a half. There is nothing worse than making marathoners and their families have to stand for that amount of time. It was really not a good situation at all. I hope that they reconsider for next year. The BBQ was outstanding but too little to late. Post Race Party: D

Monday was a travel day and with a late afternoon flight departure we were able to just have a great time in the River Market area and sample great food and have a great walk to stretch out my sore legs. We toured the Old Statehouse Museum which was interesting. Little Rock has so many things to do. It is really a great area to visit and also a great area to race.

I had a great race experience and enjoyed every minute of the trip. I qualified for the Boston Marathon for the second time this year with a time of 3:39:00. The course was tough and hilly as I said, but my race strategies, training, and Hammer Nutrition supplements helped pave the way to a strong race. These are all important components of my preparation. But like many other runners, my faith also provides me strength and endurance.

Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!

1 comment:

Andy Woolard said...

love the grading system. nice run, dad. also, who the heck serves BBQ after a marathon anyway?