It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

March 04, 2014

The Little Rock Half Marathon - An Epic Mess

The Little Rock Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K was this past Sunday. Jim and I have done this race a couple of times and always enjoy the city of Little Rock.  We were excited for our race weekend even with the looming forecast.  The race theme this year was  all about super hero's and the race slogan was "Epic".  Unfortunately, for many reasons, the race and weekend turned out to be anything but Epic.

The forecast for the race was looking pretty had been on our minds for days leading up to the race.  Cool temps, wind and rain - never ideal race conditions.  As the race got closer and closer Jim and I monitored the weather like it was our job.  It changed multiple times, but one thing remained constant - we were going to get wet and it was going to be cold.  We hoped for the best, but were planning for the worst.  In really cold weather you can bundle up and stay pretty warm, when it's raining and you are soaked through, no amount of layers can keep your warm.  But more on that later....let's start at the beginning.


Jim and I both did the Little Rock Half marathon in 2012 and stayed at the Peabody hotel - the "host" hotel for the event.  We had such a terrible experience there we vowed we would NEVER stay there again.  When we decided to do Little Rock again this year I was pleased to see that the Peabody wasn't even on their hotel list, and that they had selected a new "host" hotel for the event - the Marriott.  I usually like the Marriott and it was a good rate so we jumped on it.

Imagine our surprise when we rolled into town and got to the hotel, which seemed so familiar....wait - was this the Peabody???? Why yes it had been bought out by the Marriott....but upon check in - clearly nothing had changed.  We were handed a letter at check-in - that stated "due to our hotels sold out status on Sunday we are not allowing ANY late checkouts Sunday.  You may store your luggage and take a shower in our fitness center if necessary.  If you are in your room past noon we will charge you the regular rate of $164 plus tax."  Because everyone wants to get up on race morning, pack all their things, then come back dead tired and stand in line to shower.  With a race start time of 8 am (and for some up to 9am) this is almost impossible if you are doing the marathon.  Even if you are doing the half it is still difficult - I got back to the room about 10 minutes to noon.  This was the exact problem we had at the Peabody two years ago - and apparently from some comments I received after complaining about it on FB - was also the situation last year.  I totally understand that no hotel can guarantee late check out for every guest, and that it is never something that is guaranteed...but when you are the host hotel...there is an expectation that you will be flexible - especially with a marathon in town.  Their no exceptions rule was just ridiculous!  They couldn't possibly have housekeeping staff posted at each door at guess what I bet you could accommodate some late checkouts with proper planning and a desire for customer service.  So the weekend was not starting off on a positive note.


On Saturday, Jim and I didn't have anything on the agenda except packet pickup.  We got up fairly early and had breakfast, then hit the expo.  The expo at this race is really pretty nice.  It is a pretty typical expo, with the typical vendors but with a race of about 8000 total participants it's actually pretty big.  With the race theme of super heros this year they had lots of fun blow ups like Spiderman and Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles.  Just the kind of thing Jim and I live for lol.

After packet pickup we wandered around the river area of Little Rock.  The weather was overcast and gray but just about perfect.  It was about 55 degrees and light winds.  The 5K and Kids race were going on Saturday morning and I thought, man they have perfect racing weather - if ONLY our race were today.  In 24 hours the weather would deteriorate quickly!

Around noon we made the mistake of having lunch at The Flying Saucer - which is actually a chain we have in downtown KC too, but we'd only eaten there once.  In an attempt to eat "healthy" we both ordered the chicken salad.  Ordering a salad at a bar is generally never a good idea and it certainly wasn't this time.  It was literally all we could do to eat it.  The lettuce mix itself was actually pretty good but whatever came on it that they were calling "chicken" was....not chicken.  It was some kind of processed, pressed chicken meat and the more and more we ate, the more and more we had trouble eating it.  When you don't eat a lot of processed foods anymore and you get fake can be pretty hard to choke down. 

Jim & I messing with balloons...
After that we headed back to the room to chillax and get off our feet before dinner.  Later we headed to Boscos Restaurant and Brewing Company, a local restaurant in town that we actually ate at the last time we were there for the race.  We had chicken again, this time it was real chicken.  The food was good.  It would be a beautiful place to eat in the summer. They have a nice outdoor area that overlooks the river.

We finally made our way back to the room and began looking at the weather again and trying to decided what on earth we were going to wear.


Race morning finally arrived.  We checked the weather once more...yep still gonna be cold and rainy.  The weather was projected to be about 50 degrees at race start with light rains.  Honestly this isn't horrible, but by 11 am it was supposed to be in the low 40s with 20 mph winds, with increasing rain.  The "feels" like temps were projected to be in the 30s by the end of the race and when you are wet, and you have wind blowing in your face....that is going to be cold!  No way around it.

Pre-race dry and warm
I decided on capris, a long sleeve running shirt, visor, and a rain coat with a hood.  I had actually bought a lighter weight coat the day before at the expo, but it didn't have a hood or pockets.  I decided it wouldn't be enough and went with the one I had brought.  I knew the hood wouldn't stay up during the race, but thought it might help keep me dry prior to the start.  I have never been so happy with a decision!

Jim and I pre-race...coat already wet with rain
For the first time, Little Rock had incorporated a wave start for this race.  None of their race material told you what the wave intervals would be, just that you would be released in pre-determined waves.  If I had known how long it would be I would have waited to go down to the race start.  The wave start was a total DISASTER and I really think in light of the conditions (which were only expected to get far worse throughout the day) they should have eliminated the wave start and let everyone just go.  I am generally a fan of wave starts because they do help aid congestion, but we were already lined up in corrals based on finish time, so it would have been fine...again we are only talking about a race with about 8,000 people.  Jim and I get down to the start and find out corrals around 7:45.  The gun goes off promptly at 8am and the race begins.  I was in corral G.  Much to my dismay I realize they are releasing corrals about every 4 minutes.  At this rate, I wouldn't start the race until around 8:30.  The rain really starts coming down around 8:10 or so.  Everyone is standing around shivering.  I am soaked through despite my rain coat, but know that I am warmer than some of those around me who chose not to wear one.  As we are waiting for what seems like forever to get started, I chatted with a few people around me.  The guy beside me was wearing shorts and a sleeveless rain coat, trash bag nothing.  He was shivering and I felt bad for him. This was his first marathon.  I kept thinking about how glad I was to be doing the half.  He estimated his finish time to be around 4:30 or 5:00 - I'm sure he didn't end of finishing (we'll discuss later).  What a miserable first marathon experience.  All around me I see people shivering.  People were just completely soaked and every now and then a huge wind gust would come through.  It was bad....the wave start was so stupid.  The last wave did not cross the finish line until 8:51 - I'm sure most people got to the race start at least 10 minutes before - so those people at the end were out in the rain and cold for an hour before the race - expending totally unnecessary energy trying to stay warm.  This added hour would also eliminate many of them from finishing the marathon......EPIC Fail Little Rock!


At 8:30 I was finally off and running.  It felt good to be moving.  My body was so cold and I just wanted to warm up.  In spite of the cold weather and delayed start the race day excitement takes over and I of course find myself running way to fast and finishing my first two miles in the 10s (too fast for me and my current training).  Finally at mile 3 I settled in to a more comfortable pace of around 11:30.  After a few miles, I'm warmed up.  I feel like I am appropriately dressed and I'm having fun.  I'm not too hot, not too cold and I feel pretty good.  I am actually surprised by the amount of spectators and volunteers on such a crummy day.  I totally expected the volunteer tables to be half staffed, but they weren't.  Those volunteers were out there encouraging us and doing their thing!  They were AMAZING!!!  I made an extra effort to thank them as I went through every aid station that day.

The first five or six miles flew by and I felt pretty good.  At about mile six though, you could definitely feel the weather changing.  The winds were picking up and the temps were dropping.  I was also getting tired and fatigued.  I wasn't sure what to expect with my new diet and basically having no pre-race carbs...and I was starting to "feel" the race (I will do another blog about my diet pre-race and how I felt during the race).  My muscles were aching - I think begging for carbs, but I don't could have been the weather, lack of outdoor training, or a number of things, but I was definitely "feeling" the race.

I kept trudging along, but my paces kept dropping.  By mile 9, I was really getting cold and tired and started counting down the miles.  The temps were dropping fast, and it seemed like no matter what direction you turned you were heading straight into the wind.  At mile 11 we break off from the marathoners and I can't tell you how happy I was to be going right instead of left.  I was so happy to know that I would only have to endure this for about another 25 minutes and not another 2.5 hours. 

I had intentionally ran the entire race without gloves.  I had a pair stashed in my coat in a plastic bag.  I knew my hands would get cold, and I thought a nice warm, dry pair of gloves would feel magical.  Wet gloves in the late stages of the race would be pointless.  My hands were completely numb, so I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out those gloves...ahhhh.....what relief....for at least 10 minutes I felt warm again.  LOL. 

I was really freezing and literally couldn't feel my legs anymore.  I could tell it was getting colder because as I ran by people their hats and gloves were frosted.  I passed one guy and asked "hey, can you look and tell me if my legs are still here?  I can't seem to feel them anymore".  He laughed and just said, "well you still appear to be moving forward so I think you are ok". 

At mile 11 I decided I didn't care how bad my legs were aching, I wanted to be done.  So I picked my pace up and finished those last miles strong...well at least back into the 11s again...miles 9-11 had been in the 12s.  My legs ached like never before in a race but I tried to push out the pain and coldness and just get done.  I finally see the finish line in sight!  I run to the finish and smile, so glad to be done!  My Garmin read 13.38 miles, over as usual.  My Garmin pace had been 11:37 which I was pretty happy with, but my official pace would be 11:51.  I finished in 2:35 - not my best or worst time.  As a matter of fact, I did 10 half marathons in 2013 and only broke 2:35 in 3 races.  So all in all considering the conditions, my diet, and my lack of training outside due to weather, I was very much ok with my time.

A very large medal for a half marathon!
I proceeded through the finish area to get my awesome medal and a little recovery food and almost immediately headed back to the hotel.  I had the hotel key and expected to be back well before Jim, but with the 30 minute delay in my start I actually figured we'd be done at almost the exact same time, and honestly thought he would be done ahead of me.  I was cold anyway, so I power walked back to the did that hurt, but I just wanted to get inside, get warm and get a shower.

I managed to beat Jim back to the room and the second I sat down for a second I just started shivering uncontrollably.  I was so cold and wet.  I began stripping my clothes and turning the shower on to its hottest setting (which wasn't particularly hot).  A shower has never felt so good!!!  When Jim didn't show up shortly behind me, I figured he must not have had a great race.  I knew he wouldn't be's bad enough to face the elements, but worse when your race doesn't go as planned.  But it was certainly not a PR or even good race kind of day.  As a matter of fact, I had heard the same person who won the marathon in 2013 also won in I was curious about the time difference.  He won race in 2013 with a 2:19 - in 2014 a 2:25.  That's 6 minutes for an elite runner!!  That is huge.  I think that tells the story right there.  It was tough racing conditions for everyone.


Jim and I got our things together and got out of town as quickly as possible, trying to beat both the hotel checkout time and the weather.  Temps were continuing to drop and an ice storm was rolling in.  We knew we had snow/sleet and ice in Kansas City and pretty much all along our path home.  We began our drive out of Little Rock in pouring rain.  We were thinking - oh those poor people still on the course.  About that time, I was checking FB and started seeing lots of comments about the event being canceled.  People were livid about the wave start and how it had probably cost them a finish.  Apparently there was a ton of confusion about the even been canceled vs "re-routed"...which means they cut off several miles of the course and bused people to the finish.  But volunteers were shown with signs that clearly said "Event Canceled" and from all the comments from the 500 or so people that it affected it sounds like volunteers and police clearly thought the event was canceled.  The Little Rock race officials are claiming it was simply a miscommunication and that it was just re-routed....either way, many people did not get to run 26.2 miles that day whether they received a finishers medal or not.  And to hear some of the stories from the participants were awful.  To be pulled off the course at mile 18 - told to walk/run about 3 miles to a Wal-Mart and wait up to an hour and a half soaked and cold for a bus.  If they had a plan, it wasn't well executed or communicated. the event is not cancelled???
Jim and I tried to make the 6 hour drive home, but after about 5 hours of very, very dangerous icy conditions and only making it about 2 hours from Little Rock, we finally decided to call it a night and get a hotel.  Conditions were just as bad the next morning and it took us about 6 hours to get home.  It was a long, long trip after a race.  But we made it safely to KC yesterday around 4 pm.


So here's my take on the Little Rock marathon.  It is a fun event.  They are known for the huge marathon medal, and very large half marathon medal.  It has usually seemed well organized, except for the hotel issue, but this year was a mess.  Yes, I know there is absolutely nothing they can do about the weather.  But communication and a better contingency plan are key.  The weather wasn't a surprise and was expected all week.  It was supposed to only get worse and worse through out the day.  If they were going to go ahead and try to have the event, they should have moved people across that start line as soon as possible.  Would some people still not have been able to finish - yes, probably so, but far more would have.  Neither Jim or I were affected by the cancelation, but as runners we can feel their pain. I know it would be very difficult to be in the Race Directors shoes, and I don't envy them at all.  They did what they had to do for the safety of the participants and I get that and I respect that.  But, have a better plan.  Communicate that plan better and eliminate a wave start when you know the weather sucks.  And then DON'T get hung up on semantics like "the race was never canceled"....well maybe you didn't tear down the finish line and evacuate...but the event was canceled early...let's call a spade a spade.  Just own up to the situation.

In the end, Little Rock is a great city.  Jim and I still had a good time in spite of everything, but we certainly won't be doing this event again any time soon.  I hope they regroup after this and get some things figured out.

Lastly, I can't believe how SORE I am after this race.  I didn't run it fast but I am so SORE.  Still 2 days later and I feel close to how I do after a full marathon.  Not sure if it was the tenseness due to the weather, the long tense drive home, the diet or a combination of things...but man that one hurt!


  1. Races like this one are the ones you remember and makes you seem more like the bad woman you are! Great job finishing in horrible race conditions. I grew up in Arkansas and I have never doen the LR marathon...yet!

  2. I did LRM last year it was chilly and cold on the sat before but sunday started out pretty darn chilly but ended up being a fairly nice day.Glad you and Jim got to finish the half and the marathon.

  3. GEEZ! That's awful! I can't even believe you got through it!! Very impressive that you hit the paces you did, given the conditions. Your training must be going very well.

  4. That sounds absolutely miserable! I don't really like the wave start even in good weather so I can't imagine how awful it must have been starting already soaked and freezing, knowing it's only going to get worse. I'm just glad you guys made it out alive! I think given the conditions, your pace was excellent!

  5. That sounds awful but way to push through! Great job to you and your husband on finishing in those conditions. Bad Ass!

  6. Man, what an experience! :-/ Smart decision to wear the jacket, and I know that feeling of getting warm after you've been cold and wet for so long.

    I'm interested to read your write up about pre-race nutrition. In my considerably less-restrictive diet I've had a really hard time figuring out Paleo-friendly fuel for race days of tough training days, so I tend to just eat whatever good works for me and then go back to regular eating later. Maybe not so smart, but at least it gets me through my event.

  7. Man. It is just so nuts how bad weather has been at some of these races, where it is typically fine! Gah. I am happy you got to take a shower before you got kicked out of your room. Your stomach must have fa-lipped when you saw it was the same hotel, just rebranded. Man. What a nightmare weekend, and with the drive back, too!

  8. What a weekend! I'm glad you both made the most of it and that you got home safely!

    A race of that size should not have corrals seperated by 4 minutes! Even 1 minute would be too much. I've done bigger races where they just had us line up by time and let everyone go at once and it worked out just fine. Even in nice weather 30+ minutes is a long time to be standing around waiting to run. Sounds like they have some changes to make before next year!

  9. At least the medal was amazing. And when you look at it in future years it'll be a race that you remember clearly.

  10. Congratulations on finishing. That sounds tough. And miserable. I hope you're feeling back to normal by now. I'm sure the cold has something to do with your soreness.

  11. I'm so sorry, Michael, but the silver lining is your time was really good considering that dreadful weather (and I've seen the course profile for this race--NOT easy even in good weather). Glad you guys got back safe--I'll read Jim's report later (sneaking blog peaks at work).

  12. Great job on a tough race! Oh if only we could control weather! Sucks about the hotel though.

  13. Wow. Sounds tough in so many ways. And we willingly pay money for this??? But you did great on your time. Way to go. Glad you got home safely.

  14. Well, it sounds like it lived up to its 'epic' branding! Congratulations on finishing in a respectable time! Reading your report vs other race reports of the same event (eg Arkansas Running Mom) really drives home how different the experience can be for someone who is elite/ sub-elite vs a middle-of-the-pack runner. I think race organisers should really make sure the entire field has a good experience, not just the people who podium, and I think they frequently forget that. After all, 99% of the entrants will be paying 99% (or more) of the registration fees.

  15. What a race and adventure?? Glad you guys decided to crash for the night at a hotel. Good call. Sweet medal too!!

    I did see the icy beards on Runners World. I submitted mine, but they didn't choose it for whatever reason.

    Sorry about the whole #beardtoboston2015 ..... LOL

  16. I think you did amazing under the circumstances. A great event so it is a pity about all the issues. I think the cold weather and the long drive home is partly responsible for your soreness. Enjoy some good rest.

  17. First of all great job pulling through in those conditions and finishing, it doesn't sound like the funnest race ever! Second that's so sad for all those people who didn't get to finish. I am interested to hear about what you are doing with your diet.

  18. Great Job!!! I laughed out loud at some of this. What an experience, seems like you and Jim had the right attitude, this is going to suck and well lets make the best of it! I kept getting colder as I read this and was so glad you put your gloves on my hands even felt better!! Thank you for sharing!

  19. I was hoping to was about how it all went for you. Next race will be better, I bet.

  20. That is some seriously HUGE bling.


  21. I really enjoyed your recap. I can really relate! I also started in corral G and finished in 2:34! And I recently changed my diet to completely gluten and dairy free. I had about 3 weeks to get my nutrition down and think I did ok for the most part until it came to the post race food. I wasn't thinking or I would have brought some with me. I was also very sore after the race. I think it was due to the cold! I look forward to following your blog :-)

  22. That race sounded like an absolute disaster - should they really even have this event on this date every year with the possibility of rain/snow? Seems like they should push it back 1 to 2 months, or simply not even have the event.

    And lol on getting confused on my race report - I like to post links to other people's things in my first line, so maybe that's why haha.

  23. As soon as I heard about this, my thoughts were with you and Jim. Glad to hear neither of you were affected. What a terrible situation.