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#23 – Little Rock Marathon

Australia's Marathon Man Trent Morrow chasing the World Record for the most marathons in twelve months; marathonman; running man; little rock marathon

3 March 2013 – 4 hrs 38 min

It was interesting on arrival into Little Rock Airport to find the Airport deserted at 9pm with not a person in sight at the gate and no one in the terminal. It seemed like everyone had called it a night in Little Rock and clearly had somewhere better to be. Perhaps this was the party capital of the US and everyone was already out on the town or then again maybe everyone had chosen to get some rest before the Marathon early in the morning.

After walking past many deserted departure gates it was nice to see some family members waiting for fellow passengers and when I mentioned that it was nice to see there were people in Little Rock to a Mother and Daughter this was recieved with a smile and a laugh. The attention now turned to finding my bags to see whether they actually had made the flight as assured. It was a great relief when I sighted my smaller bag and then had some confidence that the bags had made the flight especially when this was the second bag checked in at Phoenix. Well sure enough – I guess the larger bag must have been too large for the guys at the other end to pick up and it had not joined us for the flight.

Although more than a little frustrated I was pleased to be in Little Rock and the good news was that experience had seen me pack the majority of my running essentials in my backpack just in case this sort of thing happened. It was now closer to 9.30pm after collecting a missing bag ticket. I was informed that the bag would arrive the next day and that I would have to pick it up as it was checked in late.

I then made my way to the race hotel and was really fortunate to share a room with a real legend of the US marathon world in Chuck “Marathon Junkie” Engle and have the opportunity to catch up properly for the first time. Now arriving closer to 10pm the first priority was to see what was missing that would be needed for the marathon and it was soon apparent that items such as gloves, beanie, running belt with iPod and running cap were not going to be available in Little Rock. I was really lucky that Chuck had saved some salmon pasta for me and quickly devoured a late dinner while sharing some stories and then getting some sleep before another early start.

Now I had been warned by Chuck that the weather would be very cold on race morning with the possiblity of temperatures below 0°C. The first words from Chuck on race morning was that it was below 27°F which translated to close to -3°C in my language. The race start at the Little Rock Marathon was at the reasonable time of 8am with a shuttle service taking runners to the start line from 6.30am.

Australia's Marathon Man Trent Morrow chasing the World Record for the most marathons in twelve months; marathonman; running man; little rock marathonIt was not until arriving at the start line that the true impact of this weather was clear with the cold really going through me like never before! I have run in some cold conditions this year and in previous years although believe the chill factor with the wind must have made it even colder on race morning.

After checking in my bag I had attempted to drape myself in a silver space blanket and while this did help a little, still found it colder than ever on the start line. There were peoples teeth chattering and I was pleased that I was suited up as opposed to some others in shorts and singlets on this morning.

While the weather may have been freezing, the atmosphere with the marathon and half marathon competitors sure was starting to warm up. The tunes on the start line were playing loud with many people now jumping up and down to keep moving as the large crowd edged closer to the start line with the Race Directors and Announcers perched up high on Cranes overlooking and cheering on the runners.

It was quite funny looking back as I simply could not let go of the silver blanket wrapped around me as the race started and found myself continuing to try and hold this extremely thin piece of material around my shoulders for the best part of the opening 2 miles in an ambitious attempt to keep warm while the body adjusted and warmed up on the run. The opening stages of the race led us away from the River Market area through the surrounding streets where there were a number of family supporters on the side of the road cheering on friends and loved ones.

Australia's Marathon Man Trent Morrow chasing the World Record for the most marathons in twelve months; marathonman; running man; little rock marathonIt was not too long before we were crossing a bridge with beautiful clear blue water flowing either side. Two large new Little Rock Police Department Motorbikes passing by reminded me very much of the CHiPs TV show featuring Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox which was one of my favourites growing up in the glory days. The bikes were leading the 1st placed Wheelchair competitor who was flying along over the opening stages.

I soon spooted the leading Kenyan runner was passing on the road under the bridge as I worked my way across the bridge some distance behind. It was not too long before sighting the first of many performers on the course and let me tell you the lead vocals at this stage were amazing. It was like this modern gospel singer with an amazing deep female soulful voice that resonated through me and I would have been happy to pay money to hear more of this voice. I was so impressed I could not resist sharing my thoughts with a few surrounding runners and perhaps they could not understand me or were not interested. I pressed on with the hope that one day this girl would find a way to auditon for one of the many shows such as “The Voice” or American Idol”.

I then was spotted by Vince Robinson a native from Great Britain who had briefly shared the road with me in New Orleans and has now been living in the US for a number of years. It was not too long before we entered into some friendly banter about the upcoming Lions vs Wallabies Rugby series in Australia. I then had a not so uncommon although nevertheless extremely amusing experience happen since arriving stateside where the game of where is that accent from started. Now get this guy was totally convinced that I was from – get this “Brooklyn, New York”. It has been pretty funny really with the majority of people automatically assuming the standard “British” when they first recognise it is not an American accent although I can still be understood and then you get the wild ones such as Kentucky and Brooklyn. Got to love it …

Australia's Marathon Man Trent Morrow chasing the World Record for the most marathons in twelve months; marathonman; running man; little rock marathonIt was around the 6km stage that I spotted two girls monitoring each others progress and checking their watches. I discovered both girls were local from Arkansas and identified themsleves as Marathon Momma’s. Now it was soon apparent that Katrina and Stacey both had a few things in common as good friends often do having both run three marathons with the first taking place at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon New Orleans just over a year ago and both having three kids. The friends of five years both had a target time of 4:15 and were well on pace to achieve this goal early on to repeat the previous best marathon times. It was quite funny after moving on and mentioning that it was fun sharing the road together it was Katrina who kindly said “Well thanks Marathon Maaan” in a perfect southern belle kind of way …

It was not too long before I soon spotted Heather Zeigler from Chicago dressed in the bright yellow Marathon Maniacs shirt and frilly black skirt. Now Heather and I have been Facebook friends for some time sharing running adventures from the other side of the world and this was the first time we had actually met in person so it was real nice to quickly stop for the obligatory photo opportunity and say hello before pushing on. Heather was out to run a sub 4 hour time and although I could have tried to be a hero for a little while this was not my goal on the day so decided to wish her the best and hopefully catch up after the marathon.

Australia's Marathon Man Trent Morrow chasing the World Record for the most marathons in twelve months; marathonman; running man; little rock marathonIt had been a busy morning and the company was good fun in Little Rock. It was around the 10km stage that I spotted two girls running in matching florescent yellow tops, black headbands and long curly flowing blonde locks chatting loudly and hardly raising a sweat. I soon discovered that Julie-Ann and Tiffany were sisters originally from Arkansas with Julie-Ann now living in Utah and Tiffany in New York. Apparently the girls fought like cats and dogs growing up although as happens with the passing of time and a little space had grown to become best friends.

The Little Rock Marathon has become a tradition for the girls as they both have returned home to share some family time and run the marathon for the last three years. The next goal the sisters share is to run a marathon in all 50 US States together with Julie-Ann having completed five marathons and Tiffany seven marathons. It was interesting that Julie-Ann started to mention that she had previously completed 22 half marathons and that this was the equivalent to 11 marathons although I questioned whether the record books would  acknowledge such a feat it was good enough for me.

The most amazing revelation was still to come as it turned out the Julie-Ann was recovering from the flu prior to the race and Tiffany had just had a baby boy only a matter of six months ago. Now as it happens as soon as I found out this news we passed the Marathon Mommas from earlier in the race and it was the “Marathon Man running between the “Marathon Momma’s” on either side through the streets of Little Rock while the crowd called out ‘Marathon Man’.

There had not been much time pass by when I hear this very sweet girl talking about stealing my cape to fly home so decided to find out what all the fuss was about and see whether this may pose a danger. Now the reality of this taking place was extremely unlikely although soon found out that Andrea Sayers was a local girl from Arkansas who works in the fitness industry and owns a 24 hour health club known as Prevail Fitness in Cabot – Andrea was soon streaking away as she most likely had been training every day for this event in her line of work and was closing in on a strong Half Marathon finish and wished me well over the longer distance.

Australia's Marathon Man Trent Morrow chasing the World Record for the most marathons in twelve months; marathonman; running man; little rock marathonIt was great that I had found some amazing people to talk to over the opening stages as it was still extremely cold outside with the crowd and Police Officers well rugged up wearing many layers of clothing along with beanies and face protection to shield them from the icy weather on this otherwise beautiful Sunday morning in Little Rock. In the approach to the half way stage there was a tunnel of red and white balloons over the road and a local Church group was performing some Sunday morning Gospel tunes to entertain the runners under cover in the Center Street Service Center. I then sidled alongside a lady wearing a red cowboy hat that was running the half marathon who was enjoying the morning and all smiles prior to meeting Mica and Jenny taking on their first half marathon after previously playing Ultimate Frisbee together and now taking on the challenge to complete the half in under 2 hours.

Australia's Marathon Man Trent Morrow chasing the World Record for the most marathons in twelve months; marathonman; running man; little rock marathonThe runners soon split off in different directions with the marathon continuing straight ahead and the half marathon runners turning right towards the finish line. The surrounding streets were picturesque taking us past a number of local homes with the trees devoid of leaves in winter.

I then had the great pleasure to meet Nicole Fritz from Chicago and found out that she had taken on some familiar weekend travels and driven 10 hours to Little Rock for the marathon. This happened to also be Nicole’s first time to Little Rock and to Arkansas. The weather sure was perfect for this girl from Chicago and funny enough she was finding it a little warm which I guess is understandable when you compare it to the snow covered streets of Chicago. I was then sold on the Chicago Marathon that is apparently a little flatter than Little Rock and features some 45,000 runners with incredible crowd support.

It was mentioned that Nicole will be running her 10th Chicago Marathon this year with the Walt Disney Marathon in January this year and Little Rock Marathon the other events so far on the list. It seems clearly that this Chicago girl loves the Chicago Marathon or has been a little too busy to travel away for a marathon until this year. The big goal for Nicole in 2013 is to run 13 marathons with Carmel Marathon, Indiana Marathon, Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Luis Marathon, Wisconsin Marathon, White Rock Marathon in Dallas on the list to cover a total of 10 states during the year.

The course soon took us past the very impressive Little Rock Central High School perched high on the hill with the school band playing and some kids out helping at the drink stations although mostly the place was deserted early on a Sunday morning. I was then to meet up with Tiffany from Fort Smith in Arkansas who was very proud to be running her first marathon in the Marathon Maniac colours on home soil. This was marathon number four since October after originally not thinking that she could do a marathon, Tiffany signed up for the Kansas City Marathon and in her words “it worked out”. After doing the first marathon and loving it she decided to then take on another one at the White River Marathon in Arkansas before then running the Dallas Marathon. The goal for Tiffany was to be “shooting not be first and not be last” with a personal record of 04:14:47 and a previous time of 04:15 providing a very good consistent start to the marathon career with a real passion to continue running many more marathons over the years ahead.

Australia's Marathon Man Trent Morrow chasing the World Record for the most marathons in twelve months; marathonman; running man; little rock marathonThere was a unique Little Rock moment when spotting a large man sitting on his balcony smiling and waving in his rocking chair while cheering on runners passing by his front door. There were some creative signs along the course that read “You were born for this”, “26.2 Inches, Feet, Meters, Yards, Miles – You’re unstoppable”, “Pain is temporary … Internet results last forever!” The next sight of great interest was the very impressive historic Arkansas State Capitol Building. It was not too long before the first real hill climb on the course started that I met up with Melissa and Tracy from Oregon. Now these blonde girls were not all that shy with my attention first captured by the writing on the back of Melissa’s pink top reading “Enjoy the View”. It was good to share the rolling hills with the girls and have some fun company in the lead up to the road home.

I was soon to meet up with a number of familiar faces with a real character on the US marathon scene known as Endorphin Dude heading home after a early start at 6am. I then spotted Alisa who was running her first marathon and was a member of the “Black Girls Run” team. I actually met up with some of the girls when in San Antonio back at the start of the year and it was great to see close to 80 girls running in Little Rock that were members of Black Girls Run from all over the USA. Further details are available at The group started in Atlanta close to a year and a half ago and was providing a opportunity for girls of colour to get out there and get moving so this can only be a good thing. Right on ladies … The course continued to wind through some beautiful scenery where I met up with a few more characters on the marathon scene in Dave Mari and Louie Soriano.

Australia's Marathon Man Trent Morrow chasing the World Record for the most marathons in twelve months; marathonman; running man; little rock marathonThis certainly had been a entertaining marathon meeting up with lots of amazing people and in part this may be due to the fact that my iPod was still in transit. It was that time of the marathon with the finish line in sight that I put my head down to focus on completing the latest mission while this would normally be a time to turn up the music up and drive hard towards the finish line. This would be a little different today and I would call on the memory of 100 marathons to come across the line in a respectable 04:38:19 following the previous day in Phoenix. I immediately made it a priority to high five as many fellow runners as possible crossing the line to pass on my congratulations. It was great to meet up with a number of familiar faces for some fun photos at the finish line and receive the most incredible finishers medal in the shape of a horseshoe that is seriously the size of a dinner plate.

Australia's Marathon Man Trent Morrow chasing the World Record for the most marathons in twelve months; marathonman; running man; little rock marathonIt was great to meet Irlan Hebner and her husband Greg from the Westwood area in Los Angeles as I was heading to collect my belongings and make my way back to the hotel. Irlan had been running patriotically supporting the green, gold, white and blue colours of Brasil and was celebrating completing her final 50 States Marathon in Little Rock. This is a major goal for many running in the USA and was a significant achievement for Irlan. This was the 84th marathon for Irlan in a period of only 3 ½ years where she has also run across six continents. The final continent is Antartica with this planned for 2015. Irlan and Greg had visited Australia and New Zealand for 2 weeks last year with Irlan running the Sydney Marathon in September. I am sure that our paths will meet again on another marathon while in the USA.

Australia's Marathon Man Trent Morrow chasing the World Record for the most marathons in twelve months; marathonman; running man; little rock marathonI was now looking to get back to the hotel and find some warm clothes and food to relax a little and finally found the shuttle waiting with some good people on board. I met up with Dan who it turned out had lived in New Zealand and briefly in Rooty Hill, Sydney while his parents were travelling as missionaries a number of years ago. It was a coincidence that the Australian Prime Minister happened to be staying at the Rooty Hill RSL at the same time in the lead up to the election to win some votes in the Western Suburbs. On arriving back to the hotel I found it was nice and warm again. It was time to relax a little with pizza on my mind after a smallish pre race meal. I soon ordered a pizza and took some well deserved time out. I later made my way out to the Little Rock Marathon After Party to find lots of people on the dance floor, dressing up and taking some fun photos in the photo booth and posing for photos with a giant plastic horse and John Wayne cardboard cutout. The party had been going for some time when arriving around 6.30pm and after some time met up with some good people including Matt Wegenka with a 2:34:26 personal best marathon that I had earlier shared the shuttle back to the hotel. I really was exhausted after a big weekend and still had not had any sleep so was fading quickly with it clear that my party days may be behind me on this day at least.

Australia's Marathon Man Trent Morrow chasing the World Record for the most marathons in twelve months; marathonman; running man; little rock marathonThe next day I decided to check out the William J. Clinton Presidential Centre prior to making my way to Charlotte, North Carolina and enjoyed a very brief visit taking more photos to remember the experience than actually soaking in the atmosphere. It was the location where I had caught the shuttle back to the hotel following the marathon close to 24 hours earlier and as a massive fan of the political world I could not leave Little Rock without a tour. It was great to see the video of President Clinton’s time in politics, the replica Oval Office and the chronology of his career. Perhaps Hillary Clinton may one day have her own Presidential Centre should she decide to run for office in 2016. It was soon heading back towards the airport before I knew it with my time in Arkansas almost at a close.

Stay tuned for the next great adventure to the Columbia SC Marathon in South Carolina …

Little Rock Marathon Gallery

2013 Statistics:

Marathons Run – 23
Total Distance Run – 970.5 km / 602.6 miles
US States Completed – AR, AZ, CA, FL, LA, NV, TX, WA
Total Drive Distance – 3,833 km / 2,382 miles
Total Flight Distance – 20,396 km / 12,675 miles

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