Little Rock, Arkansas

State #29

Where? Little Rock, Arkansas
State?  #29
Date?  March 1, 2020
Race?  Little Rock Half Marathon
Finish Time?   1:25:00
Pace?   6:30/mile

“Mom!! I have a BIKE BUDDY!”

After a late night of travel, my mom and I finally made it to Little Rock, Arkansas around 11 p.m. Thankfully for us, our Air B&B didn’t have any surprises in store like the one in Portland, Maine. We quickly settled into our place and turned out the lights to prepare for the next full day of adventure.

Saturday morning started slowly as we sipped our coffee together on the couch. Hours somehow seemingly passed within minutes, and before we knew it, it was already noon. With so much to do and too many places left to explore, we hurried into the shower and headed out. First stop: packet pick-up. 

After fighting through the crowds of the race expo to retrieve my race bib, we decided to stop for a quick bite downtown. Little Rock has shops, bars, and restaurants lining the main street along the river; which makes for an awesome little downtown that’s definitely worth exploring. With the sunny and 65 weather in full force, we chose a little local cantina and picked an outdoor table in the sun to enjoy some moscow mules and a snack. Now, I typically take my race prep pretty seriously…ish. The “if” being…if there are moscow mules on the menu, imma still have one; if my mom offers to get us tickets to the “blend your own wine tasting experience,” imma blend and taste; and if the waiter offers chocolate cake and ice cream after I finish my already-heavy pasta at dinner…well, I think you get the point. 

After an absolutely amazing day full of downtown eats, wine tasting, blending, and bottling at a place called An Enchanted Evening, and an absolutely delicious pasta dinner at a restaurant named Cache; we finally settled back into our apartment to get some sleep for the big day. ​

THERE’S THE A CORRAL!” My mom pointed towards the pack of approximately 20 men (averaging about 6 foot each in height). Intimated as hell by the fact that I was about to have to start my race amidst these long-legged creatures, I showed the security guard my bib, gained entrance, and awkwardly took my place among them. My mom and I nervously exchanged laughs as I settled in –  somehow they had all silently agreed to do a pre-race warm-up jog, as I just stood there and watched them, shrugging my shoulders and making faces at my mom. 

YOU GOT THIS!” My mom shouted, as I took off running (my short legs requiring at least 2 to every 1 step of the men surrounding me). As the pack fanned out, I noticed a man on a bike who had taken up residence to my left, following along with every step I took. “First female for the half marathon approaching the bridge.” WHAT DID HE JUST SAY?!  There’s no way he’s talking about me, I thought. But, after encouraging him to go look for the other females up ahead, he returned just to confirm that, yes, I was in fact the first place female. I was absolutely shocked. How did this happen? Where was everyone else? Was I being punked or something? But as we approached the third mile he radioed again, and I was still leading the way. 

My running has always been about joy, passion, a true love for the sport itself. It has never been about winning. It has never been about being “good” or being “better” than anyone else. I have always loved running for running; if I get better, it’s simply a sweet byproduct of that love, dedication, and the hours I devote to doing what I like to do. I do this because running is important to me – and I never want it to become something I “have to do” – rather I want it to remain something I “get to do.”  So being in first place, and having to maintain first place, put me in a bit of a mindset pickle – to say the least. I wanted to enjoy the run for the run itself, to have as much fun with it as I always do, but, damn, it would admittedly be pretty sick to win the damn thing. Plus, I really liked my new bike buddy! 

To combat this performance pressure, I decided to find other ways to simply run for running’s sake – I decided not to look at my watch. Not to look at my splits per mile or my pace. Not to look at the overall time on the clock as I passed each mile marker. In fact, I didn’t even look for the mile markers. I just ran. And I was completely myself while I did it. I waved at the other runners as they passed and cheered, I thanked the children in the cheering sections as I ran by, I handed out high fives & exchanged waves, I wished good luck to those around me, and when I saw my mom, I made sure that she knew about my real accomplishment today: “MOM LOOK! I HAVE A BIKE BUDDY!” 

“You’re on your own now! Go get em!” My bike buddy peeled off to the side as I looked up from the  street and saw the finish line corrals lining the tunnel up ahead. Fans crowded upon both sides of the street, screaming as I flew by in what felt like a dream: “THERE SHE IS! THAT’S THE FIRST GIRL! GO AMY!!!!” My heart fluttered and a wide smile spread across my face as I sprinted those last few hundred feet. The man instructed me to the left as I leapt through the ribbon. First female finisher. WHAT?! 

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