Dr. J on Running

19 Little Rock Marathon, Little Rock, AR

4 March 2012

I traveled uneventfully to Little Rock on Friday, a day in which 94 tornadoes devastated the Midwest. I drove from the airport to the Convention Center, and picked up my race packet. The short-sleeve technical shirt won the category of the ugliest marathon shirt ever. I walked around the expo, bought a few more 26.2 stickers, and retired to the Courtyard in West Little Rock.

I returned to the Expo Saturday morning to check out parking for race day. I saw Mike, Jenny and Tom, my Columbus friends, hanging out in the sun. We chatted as we walked to the Expo. I did not see any other 50-staters. At the Expo, I met Brooke, the pace leader for 4:55, and decided to join her team.

I spent much of Saturday resting. I napped after the trip to the Expo, ate lunch at Applebee’s, napped, drank cappuccino at Barnes and Noble, napped, went to church in the evening, then ate dinner at the Butcher Shop. Their sirloin steak and baked potato hit the mark.

I pinned bib number 130 on my Psalm 26:2 shirt, and stuffed a Builder Clif Bar and a Protein Powerbar in my short pockets. I packed four Ibuprofens for miles 10 and 20, and broke the ring that held the rental car keys. I mismatched my socks, and went early to sleep.

Glenda opened early for breakfast and got me coffee, a blueberry bagel and a banana. I grabbed a bottle of water, and drove downtown. I parked close to the start and finish lines, and headed towards the port-a-potties. I saw Mike, Jenny and Tom, and we chatted for several minutes. I spent the waiting hour in the car listening to K-Love on the radio. I felt a lump in my throat hearing Matthew West sang “Strong Enough”.

Brooke radiated at the start line as she rallied the 4:55 wannabes. The sun ushered a pleasant day. The field of 9,000 runners sang a cappella the National Anthem. A count down from ten to zero sent us on our way. I heard no horn, nor gun. We crossed the start line at 4 minutes, and shuffled onward.

A real life Memphis policewoman, our 31-year-old pace leader chatted cheerfully about war stories of marathons and underage drinking busts. She rode a bicycle on patrol, not unlike the Santa Ana police that Jeff Dunham’s Walter admired. I strived to throw my empty water cups in the garbage cans, not on the street, to avoid a charge of littering.

Bill Rodgers said that “any marathon worth its salt has a few hills, and the Little Rock Marathon is a bit salty.” The big hill started around 11 miles, and climbed steadily for the next five miles. I ran with Brooke and the pace team through the half in 2:22, well ahead of pace. I lost the will to chase her around 16 miles, and contemplated the last ten miles.

My left foot complained initially around mile 1, and got progressively worse in the following hours. I walked a quarter mile to loosen the foot, then alternated running with walking. We saw an ambulance speeding by, and said a quiet prayer. We learned later that a 37-year-old man collapsed around mile 11 of the half-marathon, and died upon arrival to the hospital.

I met first-timer Barbara around mile 18. We walked together to the turnaround at mile 21, where she stopped to visit with her family. We passed the 8-hour pace team – they started two hours before us. I saw Larry across the road, also an early starter, then I saw Brooke. I resumed running into the wind, and dug deep for the last five miles.

I crossed the finish line in 5:18-ish, for a 5:13:50 chip time. The finish medal exceeded my expectations. At 8 inches across, it weighed 25.2 ounces, by far the largest medal in my 19-string collection. I felt good about my time, but a bit concerned about my left foot. I also grew frustrated with my stubborn times north of 5 hours.

On the way to the car, I saw a table selling beautiful long-sleeve finisher shirts for $10. I carried no money, and could not fathom the thought of walking to the car and back for one more shirt. I drove to the Courtyard, showered and napped. I returned to the Convention Center for the post-race party. I partook in pulled pork and chicken barbecue with all the fixings, then returned to the Courtyard for a good night’s sleep.

Dr Kamal Jabbour ran his 19th marathon in 19 states in Arkansas, his 12th marathon in 12 months in his 50-state quest. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.

© 2012 Dr Kamal Jabbour