Thursday, March 6, 2014

EPIC: Little Rock Half Marathon report

One of the earliest things that i did when i got to know that i will be traveling to US was to check are there any half marathons near me. And Lo and Behold, just three hrs away, on a convenient Sunday, in a town neither too big nor too small, named Little Rock, there is Little Rock marathon with motto of this year titled 'EPIC'. I instantly signed up.

Little Rock is the capital of Arkansas state in USA. It is the home town of former president Bill Clinton. Every year it organizes a marathon race.  About fifteen thousand people participated in full and half marathon this year.

Two days before the race, i got to know that there is a snowstorm warning in the area. The race was at 8 am in the morning and it was predicted that there will be showers after noon with snow falling in the evening or night time. At 8 am, the temperature prediction was about 6deg C with chance of precipitation pegged at 20%. I was not bothered but it was cold outside. So, i decided to wear two shirts, one over the another on the race day.

Toenails are overrated
I was there at the start point at 7 am with the race to start at 8 am.  The enthusiasm of runners was overwhelming. So many people were wearing costumes. And there were more with capes on. I do not know if this is true for other running events in US but the build up before the race was quite interesting here. First, they had a priest at the start point who read a small sermon, asking God to wish luck to the runners, and may god keep us strong, brave and happy, and thanked volunteers for such an incredible effort. This may be the due to the fact that Arkansas is a little conservative state but standing in the cold there, it did feel good to hear those kind words said with such warmth. This was followed by American national anthem. Few minutes before the run, they also brought in those big beach balls and people were throwing them at each other. It was fun.

The sky was dark with thick clouds hovering above. I was feeling the cold but manageable. At 7:40 am it started drizzling and by 8 am it was a proper shower. Even though i knew that there was going to be rain, i did not intentionally got my poncho thinking that it is fun to run in rain. Running in rain may be fun but running in cold rain - not so much. The race had a staggered start and i was down in the end waiting for my turn.  I was getting wet and cold. And then comes one of the event organizer angels distributing those long garbage bags. I quickly grab one and convert it into a make shift poncho.  Life is suddenly much better! At the start line, they had written in big words - "Toenails are overrated!!!"

At about 3 miles or so, the rain had slowed down to a drizzle, i was much comfortable with the coldness.  I decided  to throw out the poncho as i was getting bothered by the constant rustling of plastic as i was running. There was a lot of cheer along the way. People were standing even in rain, playing music, distributing water. We passed couple of churches and they have their own aid stations set up.  People were also holding all kinds of interesting signs. Some of them read as -

Run as if you are in Hunger Games.

You think you are tired, try holding this sign for three hrs.

(Another variation)
You think you are tired, this sign weighs 26.2 grams.

Run faster, Justin Timberlake just went ahead.

The E in EPIC
The first half of race included crossing a river over a bridge. Rain had persisted throughout the course changing its mood from drizzle to slow downpour.I thought the first half would be colder and it would get easy as we run near the downtown. But, in downtown, with tall buildings on both sides, it created a wind tunnel effect causing cold winds.  Boy, it was really cold. I was all wet and cold as i crossed the finish line.  They were distributing large cold blanket sheets at the finish line. Good bless whosoever came up with that idea!  It took 2:26:03 for me to finish the race.

Overall, I think the crowd support was phenomenal and energy level of participants was superb. The event route was modified at the last minute due to bad weather yet event was organized pretty smoothly. Full marathoners also started at 8 am and i can only imagine how they had the strength to persist in that cold.  For me, it is a 'been there done that moment' to run a half marathon in rain :) . As the official T shirt of this marathon said - "I put the E in EPIC" :D

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