THE RUNNING MANN the running mann by STUART MANN
A Little ‘ Lost ’ in the USA
Due to the COVID-19 lockdown , I have not been able to get my usual marathoning and travel fix in for a while , but I do have some great memories of races I have run in years gone by . So until we can race again , you ’ ll have to make do with me taking running trips down memory lane , and this month I decided to go way , way back … to 2008 , when I ran the Little Rock Marathon in the USA . To be honest , I was lucky to even get there , given my dodgy knowledge of American geography !’
( Marathon # 67 / International Marathon # 13 / 2 March 2008 ) all the time that I was doing so in Arizona . I can tell you I was mightily relieved when my sheepish enquiries validated that there was in fact no Little Rock in Arizona , so “ I would probably be OK .” ( I also felt a bit better after the race , when the bloke I was sitting next to on the flight from Little Rock to Detroit said that he lives in a town with the same name as a town in Arizona , and his post “ constantly gets delivered there .”)
Crossing the Arkansas River
My standard process for entering
US marathons involves looking at marathonguide . com ’ s calendar and figuring out ( a ) which marathons are still open for entry and ( b ) can be reached fairly easily with a flight re-routing . For this trip to the US , I had to do the marathon planning whilst on holiday in Japan , so I did my best navigating of the web that
Ready to get started
I could on a Japanese keyboard . I managed to get onto the marathonguide site and found the Little Rock Marathon , and saw that I could still enter and easily route my flights via “ Little Rock , AR .”
Not being completely up to speed on American postal codes and state acronyms , I thought AR meant Arizona , so there I was thinking this would mean running in what I assumed would be distinctive desert terrain . I had never run in Arizona before and was really looking forward to the experience , and it therefore came as a bit of a shock to me when the pilot announced our imminent arrival in Little Rock , Arkansas !
I think I must have turned white as a sheet , because the flight attendant was asking me if I felt OK . The fact that the race ’ s main sponsor was the Arkansas Democratic Gazette should have been a bit of a giveaway clue , but to be honest , it was probably the biggest shock of my life . I think I would have looked less concerned if the pilot said that one of the plane ’ s wings had just fallen off !
Right Place , Right Time
Luckily , when I am stupid , I am consistently so , and I had managed to book flights , reserve a hotel and enter a marathon all in Arkansas , in spite of thinking
Little Rock is in fact the capital of Arkansas , it is close to the geographic centre of the US , and back then had about 180,000 residents , with 650,000 in the greater metropolitan area . It is Bill Clinton ’ s home state and you are constantly reminded of this wherever you go . The main tourist attraction is the William J . Clinton Presidential Center , which is actually quite interesting if you can get past the Bill and Hillary propaganda . Most of the other tourist ‘ attractions ’ have a Clinton edge , and every second shop sells “ I Miss Bill ” T-shirts . ( Now , in 2020 , after Hillary ’ s unsuccessful presidential run in 2016 and Trump ’ s presidency of the last four years , I wonder if those shirts are even more popular .)
The entry fee for the race was $ 85 , but if you wanted “ a little extra pampering and piece of mind on race day ,” for an extra $ 20 you could purchase a “ Perks Membership .” This got you into the VIP area with private gear check-in , toilets , food and beverages , a complimentary photo , personal cheerleaders – “ to calm your nerves prior to race start ” – and a pre-race massage .
Welcomed by the locals
Images : Martyn Mulder & courtesy Stuart Mann
ISSUE 134 OCTOBER 2020 / www . modernathlete . co . za