The Race: The Midsouth Marathon was a nice, rural race. Having run Chicago a month before, the differences between the two were very apparent: There were roughly 175 finishers in this marathon, which takes place in a small town in Northern Arkansas. The race begins and ends at the local high school, and the course takes you through town and then out onto a two lane state highway. The roads are not closed for the runners, but there wasn’t a ton of traffic at 8:00 in the morning on a Saturday. Most of the vehicles that I saw during my run were associated with the race and were out patrolling runner safety. The course is described as having ‘rolling hills throughout,’ which is very accurate. (In fact, the course description that was available online was spot on for this marathon. Well done, sirs.) None of the hills are particularly bad, and the roads are winding, so we were never stuck staring off at miles and miles of lonely highway.
Of course, with a small race, you tend to have a lack of spectators and running buddies. There were handfuls of people out to cheer on the runners, but there wasn’t a ton of crowd support. This was perfectly ok with me, as I wouldn’t really have expected there to be in a town of this size. One excellent thing about this little race are the aid stations every mile. It really helped to break up the monotony of the country run, and the volunteers were all incredibly friendly. (I was also impressed with how many families with kids were manning these!) The course is pretty enough for rural Arkansas—nothing breathtaking, but the cotton fields are nice as is the fall foliage.
I thought that the race finish on the football field was well- done. The announcer was super- enthusiastic, and there was also a nice barbeque lunch in the cafeteria following the run. Overall, I’d say that this is a sold small- town marathon. Although, it is also my first small town marathon, so we shall see…
My Race: So first of all… Arkansas. I can’t say that I’ve ever spent too much time thinking about this particular state, so I was surprised how ‘southern’ it felt. (Although that might have had something to do with the size of the town as well.) My GPS was unable to locate anything here, so I was particularly grateful for the explicit directions listed on the race website. I was also grateful for the optional pasta dinner at the packet pickup location, as Wynne seems to only contain fast food restaurants. The best hotel option was a Days Inn, which was somewhat run down but still clean with a friendly staff. My only real beef were the paper- thin walls; I was next to a room of guys who got in at 2:30 AM and then proceeded to talk for the next hour and a half. (Which was awesome.)
The race began not only with the national anthem but also with the pledge of allegiance and a prayer. (Again, southern. I’m not saying this was a bad thing, it was just different.) I DID get the opportunity to pilot my ‘country music from the 90’s’ mix for this run, and it was every bit as fantabulous as I had hoped. Overall, this was a pleasant race. The weather cooperated, and even the wind didn’t seem to be directly in my face for much of the run. I wasn’t trying to do anything aside from finishing under 4:00, so my pace was more relaxed than it had been in Chicago, and I definitely slacked off a bit during the last five miles. I have no real complaints about this course, and I’m glad to be able to cross Arkansas off my list… Five weeks until state #3!
** Race Highlights: For a small, rural race, this was well- organized with a pretty course. The winding highway and rolling hills helped to keep it interesting, and we had nice fall foliage this weekend. The out and back setup also helped the run feel less lonely. There was an aid station every mile, which was fantastic. The course was also 26.3 miles. I appreciated it not being overly- long. The weather on this particular weekend was also just about perfect.
** The Downside: This is a small race, so there isn’t a ton of crowd support and not a lot of other runners on the field. We ran along state highways for the most part, so it is important to really watch for oncoming traffic. Wynne is not a large town, so there aren’t a ton of hotels or restaurants. People at the race weren’t unkind, but it did have a cliquish feel to it. (i.e. Everyone seemed to know everyone else….)
Sub 4:00 State #2, BQ State #2
Finish Time: 3:36:46
Overall Place Within My Gender: 8th/ 81
Favorite Race Day Song: Small Town Saturday Night by Hal Ketchum (Because I was in Arkansas)
Number of Snakes Seen: Six (five dead and one alive.) Fucking Arkansas.
Total Training Miles: 982
Shoe Total: 4