Is there a better way to start the March marathon season than your first ever Shamrock Shake? I didn’t think so. (Note: I think these are just vanilla shakes with 2 dabs of green food coloring; I was disappointed to not taste anything different.)
Beth and Ron picked us up in their giant suburban Saturday, March 5, and we drove to Little Rock (with the aforementioned McDonald’s stop). A quick stop at Ron and Beth’s hotel, and it was on to the expo!
The expo was about the same size at St. Jude’s. Bobby bumped into his running buddies David and Richard who were pacing the 3:35 group. They regaled Bobby with the perks of being a pacer: race fee wavered, free admittance to VIP areas, free hotel room, free neon yellow PACER shirt and best of all – a small sign on a dowel rod. I had actually always wondered if those pacer signs were heavy, and I was allowed to hold it. It was surprisingly light and the pacers said it had never given them a neck or shoulder cramp during a race.
Where were Bobby, Michelle and I staying in Little Rock? The Governor’s Mansion, of course! The governor is Michelle’s dad’s cousin (practically a brother; they grew up very close). We got a tour of the place from Mike and Ginger. Michelle stayed in a guest room and Bobby and I stayed in a 1 bedroom, 1 bath guest house outside.
We stuck with tradition and ate at Olive Garden again for a pre-race dinner. It was packed.
The race was Sunday, March 6 at 8:00am. It was a little colder and cloudier at the beginning (30’s and 40’s) than we all expected. I had luckily brought a throw away hoodie to keep warm, and Bobby wore a new toboggan he had bought at the expo. We saw Katherine while waiting inside a crowded restaurant near the start. This race is definitely smaller than St. Jude or a Rock and Roll Series. There were 4 corrals, but after the wheelchair start we were all off!
At this race you could put your name on your bib. It was a great touch and total strangers would yell your name out during the race. Bobby decided to be funny and put “Roberto” on his. If we go again I’m going to think of a funny name.
The first half had zero hills. I had thrown off my hoodie by mile 4. We grabbed some Mardi Gras beads a church was handing out near mile 12. It was at mile 13 I saw a young guy in dark dress pants, suspenders and black dress shoes running the whole marathon. That would be tough (and he finished too not far after me).
The crowd support in Little Rock was the best I’ve ever seen – it was like the whole city was out. People were cheering and giving away free food and drinks the whole race course (Krispy Kreme doughnuts, oranges, frozen margaritas, Sprite, beer, candy, etc).
Missy and Billy were waiting at the top of a big hill around mile 16 (in the “Midtown” of Little Rock) with a sign saying, “Go Memphis Runners!”. Missy ran a couple miles with us and chatted with us the whole time – that was such a boost.
The down and back (miles 18-23) was flat, but tough. The sun came out, and it was getting hot and Beth’s knee was hurting a lot too. Here we saw a solider in full uniform with backpack jogging/walking the marathon – wow! We were hurting, but getting close to the end now…
Michelle set a new personal record in the half marathon at 2 hours and 22 minutes! Bobby also had a new personal record for the marathon at 3 hours and 13 minutes. He had started with his buddies in the 3:35 group, but just kept working his way up. He came in 50th overall for the entire marathon (out of 1,814 marathoners)! He was even handed an embossed card inviting him to visit the Capitol Building on a weekday to receive a special gift from the Secretary of Arkansas.
I finished at 5 hours and 9 minutes (A little longer than at St. Jude, but I felt a lot better at the end of this race). My running buddy Beth was not far behind at 5:21.
Beth said, “Never again,” but I have to say, it was the best race I’ve had so far, and I’d do it next year!