Holidays and races compliment each other well. Valentine’s Day races give you the opportunity to share your love of running in February and Turkey Trots are a cornucopia of fun in November. For Arkansans, the Saturday before Labor Day means the Arkansas 5K Classic.
The race has gone through seven name changes and a course that has had a fair number of modifications. A few things remain constant with the race. It has always been in North Little Rock and the Arkansas Running Klub (ARK) has operated it since its inception. Other than the inaugural year, it’s been affiliated with the Arkansas Grand Prix Series.
No name or weather change this year. Unofficially, Labor Day is the end of summer, but the weather was not indicative of the end being near. On the other hand, a new course was used this year. The race headed back to the riverfront from Burns Park.
Using a course designed by Bill Torrey, the runners and walkers would start and finish beside Dickey-Stephens Park. Eventually making their way to the Arkansas River Trail, the participants would get a view of the river going out and coming back. The view was an appealing upgrade from the previous location.
Races are usually punctual, but this year it had to start a few minutes early. I was at the turnaround waiting and before I knew it the frontrunners came stampeding toward me a lot sooner than I expected. They made use of the relatively flat course as they sped through the turn and headed back east. At that point, they were a little over a mile into the race.
The course stayed on the River Trail for a while passing the two-mile marker and the USS Razorback. Since the proceeds benefit the River Trail why not have the majority of the race feature it? The third-mile marker was reached as the runners and walkers made it back onto Riverfront Drive. Rounding the last corner, it was a dash to the finish.
Imari Dellimore (16:40.12) now has three total Grand Prix wins with the last two being back-to-back. Barrett Kerth (16:59.15) was second and Chris Heaser (17.03.25) was third.
Leah Thorvilson (18:10.86) won in her first Grand Prix race since Run the Line Half Marathon in February, where she was also first. She now has the course record for Burns Park and the new course. Tracy Tungac (18:50.97) was second and Whitney Kerth (19:52.92) was third.
Linda House kept her Arkansas 5K Classic streak alive by finishing her 32nd consecutive race. This was the last year for Kirk Riley to be race director. He’ll still be around running in his checkered shorts. At least now he can run the race.
Two Grand Prix races take place in September. The next race is the Sara Low Memorial 5K put on by the White River Roadrunners. This will be the 7th and Final Lap for Sara. If you’ve been meaning to run this race, this is your last chance. Two weeks later, Saline County Striders host the Arkansas 20K.
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