Race Recap: Three Bridges Marathon 2017

I’m an enormous fan of the small races put on by local running clubs that benefit the local community somehow. There is just something about being Erin and not runner bib number 13,572. So, while I was in Little Rock, Arkansas last March, local runners were raving about their little community marathon and mentioned that it ran along the trail next to the Arkansas River. They promised me it was flat. LOL I put it on my list of races and signed up the moment it opened.

img_0473You see, the timing worked out beautifully. It was a week after the Dallas Marathon and I knew that I would be working that whole weekend at Dallas, making the idea of running a marathon a really bad idea. But it was just a week later, which meant my training schedule could still line up nicely with my training group and I would just extend my taper by a week. Bada bing. Bada boom.

I didn’t have any idea that this would be my final marathon until late in the summer when my health challenges became great enough for me to relent and agree with doctors that maybe these long distances weren’t a good idea for me any longer. If I knew that it was going to be my last, I would have probably chosen a big bucket list race – New York or Chicago or Houston. A big race with a big race atmosphere. But I was committed, so Arkansas it was.

Since it was really tough to find good race recaps on this small race, I thought I would give some insight on the whole weekend. It should be noted that the race is a marathon ONLY. No chance of dropping to a half or having the majority of the runners finish before you and taking all the post-race goodies! Everyone there was going to slay 26.2 miles that December morning.

img_0740Packet pickup was at a local running store. It was efficient and full of volunteers. We got a bib with a timing chip and a long-sleeved shirt. The store had a super good sale on all winter gear being marked down 50%, which I took advantage of since it was wicked cold when we arrived. In and out in just a few minutes and there were no problems with picking up the packets for my friends that had not yet arrived.

The race provides a six hour time limit. However, if you think you’ll finish in 5 1/2 hours or longer, they encourage you to take advantage of the early start. They have a fairly large group that starts early, so it isn’t like you’d be the only one out there. There were a bunch of Marathon Maniacs and 50 Staters that took advantage and I would estimate it was around 75 people. Not too shabby. Because you start at 5am when you start early, you need to carry what you need for a couple of hours, as aid stations are only just then getting set up, and you MUST have a headlamp. Seriously, that trail is completely dark.

There is no parking at the race site, so you MUST take the shuttle from a church about a img_0479mile away. The shuttles were warm and roomy. Not much more to say, other than door-to-door service was kind of nice. When we jumped off the shuttle, we headed straight to the portos (there were plenty so the wait wasn’t long) and then into the big food tent that had some of the best portable heaters I’ve ever seen. They looked like jet engines and put off enough heat to handle the 20* weather outside.

Despite the early start, we were treated to exactly the same start line experience that the regular runners were given, so it was still special.

img_0745The race is called three bridges because, duh, you go over three different bridges. The first one comes up about mile 1.5. The Big Dam Bridge is the longest pedestrian-only bridge in the United States and is really beautiful at sunrise. That takes you over to a very wooded area with a narrow paved trail that you follow along, through a new neighborhood being built (I can’t help it, I window shopped new houses while I ran!). The only issue we ran into was when we got dumped onto a street. The course could have been marked a little better. We faltered a little and guessed, hoping we were going the right way for about a quarter mile. Thankfully, there were other runners out there that knew the img_0742course and confirmed that we were still good to go. The street was my least favorite part of the course, because it was a deserted area that was industrial and full of warehouses. It felt like it dragged on forever. We finally came to the next bridge about mile 9 1/2. Yeah, all that and it was only the first 9.5 miles. This next bridge was the Clinton Bridge which was also a pedestrian bridge paved with bricks of all the donors to the Presidential Library. The course dumped us right at the library, through the cul-de-sac, and then backtracked all the way img_0743back to the start line. At mile 19. Yep, the ultimate test of mental strength is to have to be that close to the finish line and still have seven miles to go. The course has a north loop that takes you across the Two Rivers Bridge and onto a sort of wildlife sanctuary island. It wasn’t really an island, but felt like it. There were no roads, just trail – lots of deer and bunnies and beautiful paved trail. This final loop takes you to the finish line and the FOOD! There are not a lot of turns in this course, so there is plenty of opportunity for some fast times if you’re up for it.

Aid stations are plentiful! The race has water stops about every mile and a half and almost all of them included water, Gatorade, and food of all sorts. Those last seven miles I was like a mountain goat. I took in pickle juice, just because I hadn’t ever done it before and wanted to try it, Oreos, candy, orange slices, banana slices. It was a miracle my body didn’t revolt and insist on a porto mid-race.


The post-race was all in a large tent and the food was insane! It was an all you can eat buffet of sandwiches, chips, cookies, crackers, candy, sodas, water, coffee, pastries, and cup-a-noodles with hot water. I felt like I was at a trail ultra marathon, not a road marathon! There were lots of tables and chairs and just a lot of hanging around. The shuttle stop was right outside of the tent, so when we were ready to head to the car, we just grabbed a shuttle and went straight to the car.

There was only one small disappointment about the course – there is an absolutely stunning, wide paved trail on the other side of the river from where we ran for a large portion of the course. That part of the trail has gorgeous sculptures and gardens and I was hoping we would run through that. This course was a little more natural and rugged.


All in all, this is a great local race that attracts a lot of runners from all over the country. Thirty-three states were represented in approximately 350 runners in 2017 and I would definitely encourage you to add it to your list of races to run.


“Gracious in Defeat”

Crazy? You bet!  Our sixteen year old son was looking for a 5K race for his benchmark this past weekend.  With it being 100+ degrees in Dallas these days, there are no races to be had, so if he wanted to race, we were going to have to drive.  Most people wouldn’t dream of driving for such a short race, but I am positively certifiable and thought it would be an adventure.  I found a race in Eureka Springs, Arkansas that looked promising.  The temperature would be at least ten degrees cooler than at home, so I jumped on the idea of getting out of town, even for two days.  Only after I registered him did I find a copy of the course map with the elevation.  Hmmm. I might have screwed up.  Apparently, this race is in the mountains.  Yikes. We don’t have mountains in Dallas and I’m not sure Alex is ready for a crazy steep climb over a span of a mile.  Well, we’ll just hope for the best, right???  (Insert Cheshire Cat-grin here..)elevation

The night before

While on the walk of the course the night before, Alex and I saw some great spring wells!

While on the walk of the course the night before, Alex and I saw some great spring wells!

After a nine mile long run with our training groups Saturday morning, we piled into the car and drove the six hours to Arkansas. We made it to the hotel and I got directions to the local Italian restaurant and we took off.  It wasn’t easy to find at first with all of the winding mountain roads.  My poor phone navigation was a mess. Ermilio’s doesn’t take reservations, but was highly recommended, so we put our name on the list and was told the wait would be an hour and a half.  We began walking around and I realized that we were on the course that Alex would run the next morning, so we passed by the hotel and changed into our running shoes to walk the rest of it. It was such fun to see the little town and all of the springs in town.  This is truly a historical little town with so many beautiful Victorian homes.  A tumble down the steep mountainside left Alex with a big gash on the back of his leg and us finding a grocery store for some band aids and Neosporin.  That’s about how our trips roll.  On at least two occasions in the course walk, I turned around a mouthed something inappropriate to my husband about the steepness of the climb.  Seriously, I was starting to worry…

Race day

The morning was beautiful!   Alex and I walked the quarter-mile downhill from the hotel to the start line to pick up his bib.  He did a short warm-up and then lined up.  I look over at the start and see him cutting up with one of the othereurekan start runners his age.  I always wonder what they talk about right before a race.  He started the race pretty conservatively, as everyone did, knowing what was ahead of him.  I texted Sean and told him to be on the lookout.  He and our daughter stayed behind at the hotel to cheer him on at the 2.5 mile spot which signaled the end of the uphill and the beginning of the 200′ drop in elevation in about a half mile.  I asked Sean to text me when Alex passed by and to tell me how many runners were ahead of him.  It was just at 16 minutes elapsed when he passed and I got the text that there was only one runner ahead of him by about 20 seconds.  I jumped up, excited that he would be approaching very soon.  But it took forever for him to come.  Five runners passed by and he was nowhere.  The only thing I could think of was that he fell.  But around the bend he came at a speed that was unreal.  He was yelling and clearly agitated.  The course wasn’t clearly marked, there was no lead car or bike, and the course monitor was apparently more interested in his phone rather than the race.  Both the lead runner and Alex took a wrong turn.  Alex made it about a quarter-mile before he realized he was off-course.  Thank goodness we walked the course the night before!!  He quickly turned around, but had to seriously climb yet another sizeable mountainside.  By the time he got back onto the course, he flew, picking off ten runners like they were standing still.  His Garmin topped him out at a 4 minute mile on that descent.  He finished sixth (second in his age group) with a course distance of 3.6 miles.

Lessons Learned

at the finish lineThe mother of the runner that veered significantly off course literally went grape ape on the Race Director in front of everyone.  She demanded that they give her son the first place win and change his finish time to what it “should have been.”  For a moment, I saw who I used to be as a hockey mom and it scared the living daylights out of me.  My son smiled and said that I wasn’t THAT mom and he felt bad for the kid because he looked humiliated and angry.  We discussed the race and I reminded him of a phrase we have used frequently by an old coach: “Humble in Victory, Gracious in Defeat.”  Alex would be measured not by his finish time of one single race in his lifetime, but how he chooses to react would form who he becomes in the future.

The Race Director was calm under pressure and, while he sympathized with the boy’s issue, he reminded everyone during the award ceremony that sometime this happens to the fastest of runners.  They don’t have anyone to follow, which is why it is so very important to know the course.  Does it suck that he didn’t win the race? Absolutely! Is it crummy that his finish time wasn’t what he wanted? Sure. But that’s why we race.  Any weekend, anyone can win.  That’s the beauty of it.

We would probably come race The Eurekan again.  It was a small race with not a lot of frills, but the course was challenging enough to want to tackle it again. His glutes might disagree, though. 🙂

Emma Grace and I at the Texas state line, Alex collapsed on the star

Emma Grace and I at the Texas state line, Alex collapsed on the star