LR Marathon field almost filled to limit

— This is a problem race directors don't mind.

Gina Pharis, who with Geneva Hampton is co-executive director of the Little Rock Marathon, said 1,513 have registered for the race scheduled to start at 8 a.m. next Sunday. Pharis said 87 more entries will be accepted.

2008 Marathon

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"We have 1,600 medals," Pharis said. "We will have one for every person who finishes the race, so we're cutting it off at 1,600. I don't think we'll make it to the expo before we're sold out."

Pharis said the field is limited to the number of medals ordered.

The Little Rock Marathon Health and Fitness Expo is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Statehouse Convention Center.

Pharis said the Little Rock Half Marathon has reached its limit of 2,840 entrants but that room remains for the 5K, relays, and the Classic Rockers 1-mile walk.

Pharis said eventually she would like to see thousands more entered in the Little Rock Marathon and the other events.

"We want to be like the big boys, except we're girls," Pharis said. "We want to see every hotel room, every restaurant filled, and every parking lot in the city filled. And we have the infrastructure to handle that. Look at the Race for the Cure. They take care of 40,000 women. We can do that, too, and hope to get to that point."

The Little Rock Marathon started in 2003 and had 842 finishers. Last year, 1,279 finished the race.

"We've tried to raise it about 10 percent from last year to this year," Pharis said. "We've seen a little bit more than that. We're getting tons of calls. We hear, 'What do you mean it's sold out?' Well, we can't produce medals over night. We have all the shirts ready. All the infrastructure's set."

The Little Rock Marathon course has changed for each of the six races. The most significant changes came before the third race, in 2005, and for this year's.

More than 4 miles of the course was rerouted in 2005 from Murray Park to downtown because of construction of the pedestrian bridge across the Arkansas River.

This year, the finish line was moved from Capitol Avenue near the State Capitol Building to Clinton Avenue in the River Market.

Hampton said there was not enough room for growth at the former finish line, and that the proximity of restaurants and parking in the River Market should benefit participants, volunteers and observers.

"I really think the new course is going to work better for everybody," Hampton said.

Little Rock Marathon WHEN March 1, starting at 8 a.m.

EVENTS Marathon, half-marathon, 5K, team relays and a 1-mile walk

Sports, Pages 39 on 02/24/2008

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