When we first heard Race 13.1 was hosting a race in Little Rock, Arkansas, we were eager to sign up. Registering for this event meant we’d check another state off our 50 states list, and we knew with Race 13.1 we’d experience a reliably great race.
Packet pickup was held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Fleet Feet Easy Runner in Little Rock on the day before the race. Anyone unable to attend Saturday's session had the option of picking up on Sunday morning (race morning) from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. The customer service tent was located mere steps from the start, making it easy to acquire one's bib and shirt mere minutes before the race. With that being said, we recommend making every effort to visit Fleet Feet for packet pickup. In addition to a staff that was super knowledgeable and friendly, the store was offering some great deals in honor of the race.
A number of hotels were located within one mile of the race start at the Clinton Presidential Library. We stayed at the Comfort Suites Presidential and could see the Holiday Inn Presidential just across the street. Be aware that while these hotels were located about a half mile from the start, that half mile leads to a dramatic difference between neighborhoods. We were advised only to walk to race start from the hotel as long as we were not alone. We did the walk with no problems. In spite of the questionable neighborhood, both hotels are rated excellent and/or outstanding on Trip Advisor. We were well cared for at the Comfort Suites, which offered a surprising number of amenities (including a shuttle to the downtown dining/bar area).
Once we arrived at the Clinton Presidential Park, we were greeted by a friendly, modernized part of town with pedestrian friendly bridges, and wide, expansive lawns. The starting line was set up mere steps from the Museum of Discovery, where giant animated dinosaurs witnessed both the race start and finish.
Places to Eat
Downtown Little Rock has a plethora of dining options within shuttle distance of the aforementioned hotels. Per the suggestion of hotel staff, we carb-loaded at Dizzy's Gypsy Cafe where we dined on some high quality pasta while watching football in conjunction with entertainment from live belly dancers. Many locals also recommended the Flying Fish. Both it and Dizzy's were two of the top-rated Trip Advisor restaurants in town.
Mere hours after the race we returned to Fleet Feet to spend some prize money and ate at the Panera Bread located just next door. Both Fleet Feet and Panera are a fifteen minute car ride from the Clinton Presidential Library and the race start.
The race took runners along the paved and scenic Arkansas River Trail. Volunteers and police officers manned every intersection, directing runners along the right path. Because so much of the race occurred on the trail, we saw few cars and had no need to worry about traffic. The out-and-back course offered us multiple views of downtown Little Rock from across the Arkansas River, as well as some more natural scenery further from the city. Aid stations were located approximately every two miles and were well-manned with volunteers distributing Gatorade and water.
The course began and ended with the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge, which led from the starting line to the trail, and the trail to the finish. After exiting the bridge on our return, we ran under the shadow of the two giant Museum of Discovery dinosaurs before rounding the park to the finish line. Runners were greeted by volunteers offering up water and finisher medals, while a personable DJ played all our favorite race music in the background.
While we've enjoyed all our Race 13.1 events, this one had the most scenic course of all. The ease of the trails and views from the course make it an event not to be missed. Additionally, Arkansas has some of the friendliest runners of all the states we raced in. So much so that runners at the back of the pack were still offering cheers and encouragement to middle-of-the-packers, halfway through the race.
This was the first Race 13.1 event we'd run that offered beer to finishers. Victory Brewing Company was on hand to pour two craft beers to any finisher of legal drinking age. Papa Johns was serving up pizza if runners wished for more than the standard post-race banana, and Caveman Bars had a table strewn with offerings of their paleo-friendly fruit and nut bars.
At the 10 a.m. awards ceremony, beautiful age group and overall winner medals were gift to presented to runners who placed in the event, along with gift certificates to the local Fleet Feet running store (site of packet-pickup).
While the Little Rock Marathon in March is famed for its dinner plate sized medals, we're glad our first Arkansas race was this Race 13.1 event. It offered us all the perks of a big race without all the crowds. Additionally, the late September race date meant the weather was just about perfect: low 60's at the start and upper 60's at the finish (making it perfect for racing and for perfect for hanging out at the post-race party). We thoroughly enjoyed the course's scenic views, which offered us a different sight of the city.
Tips for Running a Successful Race 13.1 Arkansas
There is very little one need's to do to successfully run this race. Race 13.1 makes it easy on runners to pick up packets, park at the race start, and enjoy the whole race experience. Our only suggestion is this: because there is no bag drop, make arrangements for your stuff (keys, extra clothes, etc.) We walked to the race start from our hotel simply because we would have nowhere to stash our giant rental car keys. If you have items to leave behind while you run, bring someone to hold them, or make sure none of the items are things you'd mind leaving laying around. We stashed some long sleeved shirts in a tree, and though they were there upon our return, we wouldn't have been heartbroken to lose them. Other than this, just enjoy a great race experience.