I woke up yesterday, the morning of the Little Rock Marathon events, like I have for the past six years. A little groggy but excited to join the thousands of runners for my hometown’s biggest road race. My clothes were laid out, Garmin charged and my new fun accessory was ready to be worn. My aunt Lue and I had eaten a light breakfast and were sipping coffee. It was 6:47 a.m. Start time was 8. I looked at the clock and said, “We better quit acting like this is a lazy Sunday morning and get our butts in gear!”
We were out the door a little later than we had anticipated, but the race is only about 10 minutes from my house, so aside from finding a place to park, I wasn’t fretting about not getting there earlier. It was 29 degrees, after all! No need to wait around in the cold. We found a good parking spot, stopped and talked to the firemen who had their fire engine ready at the Broadway Bridge. They set up every year with the American flag hanging high from the fire truck’s ladder so participants run under it before crossing the Arkansas River.
One of the firemen was nice enough to snap our pre-race photo. We’re sporting our new shamrock headbands, which worked great for keeping our ears warm and blocking hair and sweat from our faces.
After one last stop to the girls’ room, in the mighty fancy Capitol Hotel I might add, we made the trek to the start line. As 10K participants who hadn’t trained too vigorously (I usually do the half marathon but for various reasons didn’t train for it this year), we were OK with being far back when the gun fired “GO!” Well, I’ll never do that again. It took us 20 minutes to get to the start line after the gun had gone off! 20 minutes!
See all the people! But Lue had fun dancing as we waited to start moving forward. I think the grooving kept her warm too.We finally made it to the start line, where I was happy to spot my yoga instructor on the sideline cheering all of us on as we began our race. What a pretty start line and morning it was! After we crossed it, Lue told me to take off! And take off, I did. I snaked my way through a lot of walkers and slower-paced runners, and finally found my groove about mile 2! Once I found it, however, I was set. I felt great. I had so much energy. I felt strong, centered and balanced. My legs weren’t dragging at all and they picked up the pace and carried me through the 6.2-mile course.
I always love it when the wheelchair marathon participants pass me on the other side of the street. Such a wave of emotion overcomes me, and I become so inspired to keep going. I feel inspiration for all of us, really. I haven’t been running as much since last year when I was injured during marathon training. But that feeling of accomplishment, hard work and dedication emanating from everyone is truly tangible for me during a race, and I don’t think it will ever get old for me.
The spectators deserve just as much praise as us runners. The clever, funny ways they entertain us is priceless. My favorite gesture yesterday was the booth someone assembled. It’s sign read, “$1.00 shortcut maps sold here!” The folks that sing, play instruments and clap along the way — they perform a vital service to us and motivate us when we need it the most.
As I approached the finish line, I looked to my left and noticed a man in race shorts passing me on the other side of the street. He was finishing the half marathon as I was finishing the 10K! Amazing. And he wasn’t the only one. I was passed by about three other men who were on their way to completing the half marathon in under one hour!
I kicked it into high gear at the end. The adrenaline rush came over me, propelling my legs fast and forward. My arms were pumping and an out-of-this-world feeling circulated throughout my body. I crossed the finish line at 55 minutes, 28 seconds. Yep. That’s right. I placed No. 1 in my division!!! I was so ecstatic. In the athletes village area, I screamed and jumped with joy when I was reunited with my aunt.We were both happy and ready to celebrate! 10 a.m. isn’t too early for a Michelob Ultra, right? A shot of the finish line and medals galore … they’re ready to be placed around the necks of the thousands of runners. This year’s marathon medal weighs 2 pounds, by the way. Wowza.As we headed to our celebratory brunch we ended up on the marathoners’ route. They were at about mile 15-16, I think. I opened the window and clapped and cheered for them as we slowly drove by. I hope I gave them the motivation they may have needed at the moment. Rock on, Little Rock Marathoners. We are lucky to have such a great marathon organization and event in our little big town. Until next year …