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Little Rock Marathon entering 22nd year

Runners cross the starting line of the 125th Boston Marathon last fall in Hopkinton, Mass. The Boston Marathon returns on Monday.
Mary Schwalm
Runners cross the starting line of the 125th Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

Hundreds of runners from around the world will take part in the 22nd annual Little Rock Marathon this weekend.

The route is designed to take runners across some of the most prominent sites in the city including the Arkansas Governor's Mansion, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Little Rock Central High School. There are also two shorter half marathons at 10 and five kilometers each, in addition to the main 26.2-mile race.

40% of runners this year will come from outside of Arkansas, including representatives from all 50 states and about eight countries.

Marathon director Mike Garrity says several things make this year's race stand out. The race, he says, is designed to be inclusive of different skill levels. Runners have eight hours to complete the route; less experienced runners can start 30 minutes early, and the more experienced runners can start at the front of the line when the marathon starts.

Garrity says that makes it a good challenge for people who want to walk, or who have never done a marathon before.

“And this year, actually about 25% of people running the marathon, it will be their first time running that distance,” he said.

Garrity says another part of what makes the race special is the huge medals they give out to winners. This year, the medal will be in the shape of a dinosaur.

“It's eight-and-a-half inches across and weighs three pounds,” he said. “In the running world, that's pretty massive.”

The marathon is one of the biggest public events of the year in Little Rock, with residents lining the race course to cheer on the runners. Garrity says workers and volunteers try to make the experience fun for everyone.

There is also a children's marathon at the same time as the adult race. Garrity says kids run or walk the first 25 miles on their own at home. Often they do it at school, with their family or church group. Then, the kids run the final mile as a group.

“We treat them just like all the other marathoners,” he said. “Because they’re completing their marathon. They’re just taking a little longer to do it.”

He said about 1,300 kids will participate from all over the state.

The marathon's start time was pushed back to 6 a.m. Sunday to accommodate for hot weather. The race starts near the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.