Posts Tagged ‘Little Rock Marathon’

Heartland Road Runners and Walkers Club lined up pre-race at the 2012 Little Rock Marathon.

Interesting fact: The 25 members of the Heartland Road Runners and Walkers club who traveled to the Little Rock Marathon last weekend completed 11 half marathons (13.1 miles each) and 14 full marathons (26.2 miles each) for a total of 510.9 miles run.  510 miles is also about the distance between the cities of Quincy and Little Rock!  We could have lined up as a relay and made it from convention center to convention center with the miles we put in.  There’s something very poetic about that coincidence.

My race report starts with a big thank you to the group that traveled to Little Rock for this outstanding event.  If it weren’t for the HRRWC, I wouldn’t have even started the journey that put my Adventure Foot on asphalt in Arkansas for my first half marathon.


We’d arrived in Little Rock Saturday afternoon and, after spending some time and money at the Expo, my husband and I headed over to the Clinton

Presidential Library to see what there was to see and then went out to dinner with a few of the other club members.  At times, I just felt like a tourist on vacation.  At other times, I was pumped and ready to race.  And then at other times, I’d be overcome with nervousness and my knees felt like they would buckle.  As it turns out, a decent enough way to get over pre-race jitters is having a local brew at a local bar with some good friends.  I highly recommend Diamond Bear IPA from the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium if you’re ever in Little Rock… but just one.  It is race day after all!


I started my day at the hotel with a breakfast of oatmeal with loads of pecans, a couple of glasses of OJ, and a banana.  Several of us walked to the

At the Little Rock Marathon Expo

start about an hour before the race and met up with the rest of the club to snap a group photo and take our places in our starting corals.  I was placed in the open coral, and club members Jeremy Grootens and Dave Poland were nice enough to start there with me.  I ditched my $2 thrift-store jacket near a tree, had my VI Fuel (a gel), and stood among the 10,000 other runners to wait for the countdown. 3…2…1… *pow!*   The starting gun didn’t signal the start for us exactly, as we were many thousands of people behind the elite corral, but the excitement buzzed through the crowd.  We ambled forward for 6 minutes before we crossed over the starting pad and got underway.


2012 Little Rock Start

Jeremy and Dave stuck by me during the chaotic first mile.  The three of us weaved around other runners to find our own space.  The beginning of the route had us winding around downtown, and if I had any complaint about the course at all, it was that the roads had trolley tracks in them and I couldn’t seem to stay away from them.  It would be a damn shame to twist an ankle in the first half mile, so I was extra careful.  Right around the mile mark, the guys and I got separated a bit and Jeremy clearly was feeling good, so I waved him on and was on my own from there on out.

The river of runners turned right from the downtown district and passed under two fire truck ladders that were extended over an intersection and served as hangers for an enormous American flag. There was a band playing and the atmosphere was electric.  Even though it was more than a mile in, crossing under this arch felt like the real start of the race to me.

After the fire truck arch, the route went over the Arkansas River.  The lead male full-marathon runner was already headed back across the bridge towards me while I was crossing.  He was escorted by four cyclists and I had 2 thoughts:  1. Wow that runner looks graceful.  2. I would really like to borrow that pretty Cannondale for the rest of this.

Oh! I can’t leave the description of the beginning without telling you about one of my favorite spectator signs of the race: “Run Faster… The Zombies are Closing In!”


Crossing the Arkansas river.

Once I settled into a groove, the miles started to tick away.  The route meandered through residential and business districts in North Little Rock and was occasionally punctuated by a band playing blues or rock or gospel or country.  I enjoyed watching other runners and occasionally someone would notice my cap and yell, “Go Hawkeyes!”  I have always loved Iowa fans away from home!

The weather was absolutely lovely.  I think race temps were in the 50s at the start, and the clothes I picked out were just right.  Every time I’d feel a little hot, a light breeze would kick up enough to cool me down.   I carried my own water bottle, but sometimes I still grabbed a Gatorade at the water stops.

This is a good time to mention that it’s easy to tell that this race is set up by a couple of women.  They clearly understand that there’s nothing worse than needing a potty break while you’re running, so they put bathrooms every 2 or 3 miles.  I never availed myself of the facilities during the race, but it’s nice that they were there.

Somewhere in that middle section we passed a truck that had a sign that said, “Free Beer for Bill and You” and had a bunch of Dixie Cups of beer set out for runners.  I thought, “Heck, why not?” and gulped down a lovely swig of amber as I ran by.

Around mile 6 of the course, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe was standing outside his mansion shaking hands and posing for pictures.  Though I didn’t stop, I thought it really added to the hometown feel of the race to have him out there with the athletes.


Everything was going pretty well and I zoned out for a lot of the middle of the race until things went sour around mile ten.  I was trucking along a few blocks ahead of the 5:10 marathon pace group when a little sore spot I’d been noticing in my hip suddenly turned into a really bad cramp that radiated down my leg.  The pace group passed me and I grimaced with each step.   I walked/waddled for a half a block and decided I better just stop a second and try to stretch this thing

Occupy Little Rock was supporting the runners!

out a bit.  This wasn’t the first time I’d had pain in my hip flexors, so I went to the side of the road and did a few of the stretches I’d been taught to deal with it. I downed my entire water bottle and then got back on course.

I’m not going to lie, that mile wasn’t pretty.  I walked more of it than I would have liked to, but I kept on going hoping I’d just work the cramp out.  I was jogging again after a while, but I finally said a couple of expletives out loud  when it seemed like mile ten was never, ever, ever, ever going to end.  But then…


But then I saw the sign for mile 12!  What!??!  I never saw mile 11 I guess.  Maybe I was zoned out when my GPS had announced that mile.  Maybe I was looking at the other side of the road when I passed the sign.  Heck, I don’t know what happened!  All I know is that I only had 1.1 miles left and I wouldn’t have cared if my damn leg was falling off;  1.1 miles was not that far and I had bling to get.

First Half Finish!!

Little Rock 2012 Half Marathon Medal

My hip was still hurting pretty bad, but I managed to make a little surge and ran it on in.  There was quite a crowd when I turned down the last stretch, and lots of them yelled out my name (which was on my bib) and that was really encouraging.  There were photographers and announcers at the line and even though I was one of thousands of runners that went by, they made me feel like a rock star all by myself.  I dashed past, grinning and throwing my hands in the air, and it felt great.  I retrieved my medal from a volunteer, posed for a finisher photo and grabbed a few snacks including a heavenly chocolate snack cake, and wandered out of the chute.

Another runner and I were walking down toward the perks pavilion and we both made a painful little noise as we took our first step down the stairs.  It was a funny moment that really sticks in my head.  We didn’t know each other but the shiny medal around our necks and our common enemy- the stairs- made us friends.  We actually hugged at the bottom of the small flight.

I texted a friend back home with a smiling photo of my finish and then set off to find the rest of my group.  Justin, Jeremy and Dave were all there waiting.  All had run great times.  Justin finished in 1:59, Jeremy at 2:06 and Dave at 2:16.  I was 2:44.  Maybe it’s not a quick time, but it is my very first finish and I’m okay with it.


It’s Tuesday as I’m writing this, and I’m still a little unsure about my reaction to the whole experience.  My hip is still sore, but not terribly, so I might go for a walk or short jog tonight with the club.  I’ve got my second half on the calendar in

Justin Sievert, Laura Sievert, Jeremy Grootens and Dave Poland at the finish.

late April, and I’m pretty confident that I can trim some time off of my Little Rock finish.  I’m looking forward to the Illinois half, but I’m not sure what I’ll do after that.

Some of the people that were with me in Little Rock love to run and it shows.  I’m okay with not being that person.  I don’t feel passionate about running the way I do about cycling, but I’m happy to be able to do a little of both.

My main feeling is probably satisfaction.  I set a decently tough goal, worked hard and got there.  I made some great friends along the way, and we’ll have more adventures as the years go on.  I wouldn’t expect to see my name on a full-marathon list any time soon, but I could probably be talked into doing a few 10K races or another half after Illinois.  We’ll just have to see.  The point is, if I want to run, I know I can do it, and there is something to be said for having that confidence in myself.

Jason Asman, Roger Mckenzie, Clifton Anders, Doug Seebers and Jon Owen with their full marathon medals!

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Jason Asman, Melissa James, Laura Sievert and Michelle Bickhaus at the Thanksgiving Turkey Run

When I started on my training plan for the Little Rock Half Marathon I told my friend Jared that I would write little weekly updates to tell everyone how my training was going.  Well friends, I didn’t do it.  I meant to … but I was busy. Mostly I was busy running.  So instead of weekly updates, I’ll share my training with you a month out from my first half.

I guess when you sign on to run a distance race you expect that it’s going to be tough, but when it’s 4 months away, time to train seems unlimited. Life’s like that, isn’t it?  One day you’ve got 4 months to train, and the next you’re staring down a short calendar and wondering how it became February so fast.

I’ve learned a lot of really important things about running over the course of this training plan that I’d like to share.

The biggest surprise of training is how much short runs do for overall fitness.  My plan consists of three- 3 or 4 mile runs a week and one long run on the weekend.  I didn’t know that the gains you make in those little runs could translate into being able to keep going for 9 miles, but it turns out they really add up.

Good advice.

I’ve learned that sometimes you have to take a day or two off and you can’t beat yourself up about it.  I’m starting to know the difference between pains that are just soreness and pains that need rest.  Several times during the past few months, I’ve needed to move a run around or go for a shorter distance when I just didn’t feel right.  I also had a lovely week vacation from running when I managed to get some kind of upper-respiratory-walking-pneumonia crap that was going around my office.  I was very upset about getting behind on my training while I was sick, but after I got back on my runs, I really hadn’t lost much ground.  The key is: Don’t Panic!

I’ve learned that it’s important to run with people who have been running a long time.  They’re a wealth of knowledge and sometimes can give you one little tip that makes all the difference.  For example, my friend Jared noticed that I was bending at my waist when I ran uphill.  Simply learning to stand up and to shorten my stride has improved my hill running immensely!   [An aside: he also told me to “love hills.” I haven’t reached “love” yet, but I am swearing at them less, and I think we’ll put that in the win column.]

I’ve learned some new vocabulary since I’ve been training.  “Tempo” in particular is becoming a bit of a dirty word…  I’ve tried tempo and speed work several times on my own, but my first really good tempo workout was actually just last night.  For those unfamiliar, tempo runs are designed so that you run an easy pace your first mile, then slightly faster each subsequent mile.  This is easier said than done!  I ran my tempo run with my friends Dave and Denise yesterday.  They’re both experienced runners and they selected a great 1 mile circuit for this run.  Quincy is conveniently laid out in a grid, and our route was neatly divided into quarter miles.  The reference points made judging speed much easier.  Dave had a stop watch and we made adjustments to achieve the speed we wanted for each lap.  During my solo attempts at tempo runs I was only checking time every mile, and that just wasn’t working.

I’ve learned recovery is something you have to plan for.  Long runs were kicking my butt in the beginning.  I’d run 7 miles one day and then feel like I couldn’t walk the next.  Well, the fact of the matter is you have got to have a plan for getting the kinks out.  My post-run routine now consists of some targeted stretching (particularly in my hip flexors), a foam roller for my calves, 20 oz. minimum of water and usually some juice or something too, and ice if I need it.  Also, a brisk walk can do wonders to alleviate overall soreness.  Oh! And bananas.  I eat lots of bananas!   Sometimes I even eat bananas on peanut butter sandwiches.  Mmmmmm …

4 feet are better than 2.

I’ve learned that I’m a runner who needs a partner as often as possible.  Even if we’re not talking, I really appreciate having someone else close.  Some runners love the alone time and enjoy clearing their heads on the road. I’m just not there yet.   When I’m alone, I spend a lot of time thinking of things like where I’m sore, why I’m still not very fast, if I can make the distance, or whether  8.3 miles is good enough if I’m aiming for 8.5.  When I’ve got a running partner, I actually can clear my mind better than if I’m alone.  We talk a little, and run a lot.  Having a partner is like a spoonful of sugar to help the miles just go down.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to tackle the road with a clear head, but for now, 4 feet are better than 2.

On any given day a run can feel wonderful, terrible, long, short, frustrating, or triumphant.  My half marathon isn’t very far away, and I think I’ll be alright.  I’m starting to believe I can do it.  What I’ve really learned is just to keep making a little headway each day. Continual forward progress.

Little Rock: T-minus 30 days and counting…

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Before the 11-11-11 Veteran's Day Run with Doug Seeber, Michelle Bickhaus, Justin Sievert, Glenn Swick, Denise Poland, Jeff Spencer, Dave Poland, Jeremy Grootens, Dee Friye and Ali Berti.

Sunday, I laced up my shoes and left my house for a run, and somewhere around the door of Second String Music Store on 8th street, the odometer on my running career topped 100 miles.  100 miles ago Sunday, I met the Heartland Road Runners Club at Kelly’s Restaurant. 100 miles ago Sunday, I huffed and puffed through a nearly-three mile run.  100 miles ago Sunday, Doug Seeber said to me, “You’re going to look back on this run in a few months and think about how easy 3 miles has gotten.”  I didn’t reply 100 miles ago Sunday. I would have… but 100 miles ago Sunday, I couldn’t catch my breath.

Sunday was not only the marker of 100 miles run, but was also the herald of a new tone to the reason I’m running.  What before was a just-for-fun endeavor has now shifted to a goal-driven enterprise.   I’m already registered for my first half-marathon in Little Rock, Arkansas on March 3rd, and my second half-marathon is likely to be close behind.  Events like the Chicago Marathon next fall seem far off enough that “possible” starts to sound like “probable” and registration fees are less expensive if you sign up early, so “probable” starts to sound like “yeah, let’s do it.”

The shift to goal-focused running has come with a rigorous education on how to be a runner.  My good friend Jared has become my long distance coach (ha! Long distance coach… that works on several levels…’cause he’s far away and he ultra-marathons and he’s teachin me to run far…) and he’s helped me to craft a 6-day a week plan that will keep me on the path to not just finish a half-marathon, but also to enjoy it.  Race day is going to be a lot less stressful when I know I’ve put ample training to get me to the finish line.  I’m beginning to see that the race is not the work, it’s the reward.

It was also 100 miles ago Sunday that I met my comically mismatched training partner, Ali.  It’s kind of like I play on a pick-up basketball team at the Y, but I train with Michael Jordan on the side.  While running on treadmills with her this week, I actually finally confirmed that she’s able to run three steps for every one I can get in.  Her far-superior running skills don’t get in the way of her being a terrific training buddy though, and whether we’re cross-training at CycleLates or grabbing a beer after Roadrunners After Dark, I’m glad to have a female runner to look up to and a friend with positive energy to train with.

It’s nice to think of how much I’ve grown since 100 miles ago Sunday, but looking ahead to 100 miles from Sunday, where will I be?  Well, The Plan has me hitting that mark on Friday, January 20th.  The Sunday after I cross my second century mark will be my first 10 mile run ever. Double-digit miles.  I’m not that worried though. The people that I’m training with are some of the most energetic, warm, talented people I’ve ever met, and they (I can’t believe I’m saying this…) make running fun.   I hope I can help them to reach their goals as much as they continue to help me to reach mine.

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