Runners in the Little Rock Marathon and Half-Marathon were forced to take alternate routes to find their way to the finish line after the threat of severe weather forced the rerouting of a few thousand participants.
In a Sunday afternoon press conference during the event, Little Rock Marathon Race Director Gina Pharis said race officials made the decision to close part of the original course and send runners still on the roads in a different direction due to harsh weather that was moving into the area.
Pharis said that around 1,500 participants were on the course when the decision was made to reroute runners to difference roads due to the weather late Sunday morning.
Pharis said the decision was made after watching the weather throughout the morning and staying in contact with the National Weather Service in Little Rock. When radar indicated a line of severe weather, which included lightning, was entering the area from the southwest, race officials decided to reroute participants for safety reasons.
Those on the course were given several options. Firstly, those in the race that were close to the end of their run could finish on the original course.
"The decision was for the reroute the entire time," Pharis said when asked if there was ever a thought to canceling the remainder of the race. She added that as of 1:30 p.m., there were still participants on the roads.
The runners being rerouted were those who, at the time of the decision, were still in the first 13 miles of the race, Pharis said. Those in that area were rerouted to Chester Street, then onto LaHarpe Boulevard, which brought them to the finish line.
Those running on the section of the course near Rebsamen Park Road and Riverfront Drive were given the option of stopping at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, 2510 Cantrell Road, where a bus would pick them up, bring them closer and allow them to finish. Though those along that section were also allowed to finish on their own if they picked up their pace.
"We had to be proactive, to play on the safe side to protect all the volunteers we had out there, and all the athletes," Pharis said.
At 8 a.m., around 11,000 participants hit the course under damp and cold conditions, with the temperatures dropping well into the 30s over the next three hours. Rain became increasingly present in the area as the morning continued.
“We have been on the course and have been working with the National Weather Service and city officials throughout the day assessing safety concerns,” Pharis said in a statement. “Severe thunderstorms in the area have become dangerous for participants, forcing the closing of our courses and the rerouting of the remainder of today’s running and walking events.”
The reroute is the first in the race’s 12-year history. No refunds will be given to runners currently participating. The event’s post-race party is still scheduled to run from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m at the Wally Allen Ballroom in the Statehouse Convention Center.