WARNING! THIS COURSE IS NOT FOR BEGINNERS!
It climbs 2,000 ft. in 9.3 uncertified miles.
IT WILL BE HOT! Showers may be available afterwards.
Runners under 18 must have a parent at the race.
Still only ONE HILL!
These are the words of warning found on the registration form from years past… and they are TRUTH! This was one tough climb! It was HOT. The race didn’t start until 8:00 and it was 75 degrees, 89% Humidity, with Bright Sunshine! The race is put on by the River Valley Runners group. This year’s RD was Tom Aspell. Tom has run (and often won) this race in each decade since it was started in 1979 by Ralph Eds and Bob Wade. Since then, there were a few off years, but the tradition has continued…
Registration was at Western Yell County High School in Havana, AR. Havana is located on Hwy 10 southwest of Dardanelle, and it is an absolutely beautiful rural community. The wild flowers were blooming, and the animals were grazing. It was very bucolic and peaceful. We arrived early, paid our fees and signed the paperwork. We received a t-shirt at registration. The school gym was open for restrooms. All seems well-organized. The volunteers were great.
A few minutes before start time we were instructed to walk a quarter mile down the road from the school to the start line. We did so (it seemed like a long 1/4 mile), and the pavement turned to gravel. We took a quick photo of the Runnersville (Russellville WCR group) ladies in attendance.
We turned around and gathered behind the start line to run back past the school, to the end of the road, and turn right onto Hwy 309. We were to climb up Hwy 309 and finish at the First Overlook after entering Mount Magazine State Park.
The race director, Tom, gave us the starting instructions. He told us the 15K was a “Challenge Race,” and the objective was to conquer the hill… after all there’s only ONE HILL! In the past the race has been started with air horns, busted paper bags, etc. Today, it was started by his truck horn as he led us up the mountain. We took off, and the first couple of miles were pretty easy. .. but then I got really, really HOT. It was HOT. It was gorgeously sun-shiney, which was awesome after so much rain lately, but it was HOT.
The finishing record for males is 54:11 (30+ years ago) and Leah Thorvilson holds the record for women… but I knew I would be setting no records this morning. However, I was going to meet the challenge and CONQUER THE HILL! I quickly switched to a run/hike strategy and ran (jogged) shade and sunshine intervals. At about mile 5, they gave us Quencher. I LOVED it. It was easy on my stomach and really helped me make it to the end. I poured a cupful into my half empty water bottle and the diluted mixture was perfect. At the next water station, I told the little boy volunteer to throw water on me. It was delightful.
The scenery was pretty fantastic. The shoulders of the road were mowed, which I appreciate. (I DO NOT appreciate snakes!) There were however, plentiful flowers and trees and bushes. There was a sporadic wildflower-scented wind blowing, and the pavement was smooth. There were dripping cliffs and rock outcroppings and panoramic vistas…. all of which I was really able to enjoy during my walk breaks. I had conversations with a few ladies at my side at various stretches of the road. I met and had sweet conversation with a woman who works for ABBA, which is a fabulous organization…. until she ran off and left me. I spent the last three miles alone on the road. It was a lovely summer morning, and the heat/humidity was intense, but the breezes were sweet. At mile nine, the road was the most breath-taking, and I was the most exhausted. I passed the State park entrance sign.
The Mt. Magazine State Park brochure boasts: “Magnificent vistas of broad river valleys, deep canyons and distant mountains welcome lovers of beautiful natural scenery and outdoor adventure to Mount Magazine State Park. At 2,753 feet above sea level, Mount Magazine is the highest point in Arkansas.” Mount Magazine ranks 34th among state high points. I was so utterly thankful to see the finish line and reach the high point in our race!
In races past, trophies were given out. They were recycled and re-used. Now, however, everyone gets a finisher’s medal. That was one of the “93 reasons to finish” for me… I’m not sure what all the other reasons are, other than the ones listed on the t-shirt. But, as the t-shirt proclaims, I conquered Arkansas at the Mt. Magazine 15K!
We all did! Everyone did a GREAT JOB and it was a fun (in a brutal way) morning with running amigos. People came from Little Rock, Benton, and the River Valley to do it. It feels great to push your body – and to know that you have overcome doubt, defeat, and physical exhaustion to claim a victory over self!
There were sodas, water, and fruit at the finish line. We enjoyed all there was to be had, and then we stopped at a local diner for a victory celebration… and we all wore our new necklaces!
The Mt. Magazine 15K was a marvelous challenge race. It was well-organized, and the volunteers were great. We all made it – even when we didn’t think we could – and we were rewarded with medals, fellowship, and some of the most awesome views in Arkansas. It’s a delightful place to live and run! Thank You, Lord.
(Editors Note: Read more about Leslie’s running journey on her website. Photos by Tammy and Randy Allen)