Boerger, Sorrick win 2023 Little Rock Marathon

Colin Boerger is the winner of the 2023 Little Rock Marathon men's race. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)
Colin Boerger is the winner of the 2023 Little Rock Marathon men's race. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

Colin Boerger and Jessy Sorrick are the winners of the 2023 Little Rock Marathon, according to the marathon’s Twitter page.

  photo  Jessy Sorrick is the winner of the 2023 Little Rock Marathon women's race. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

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10:52 a.m. | LITTLE ROCK MARATHON: Executive director Geneva Lamm is all business about the medals

Beginning shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday and continuing into the afternoon, finishers of the 21st Little Rock Marathon will trickle across the finish line on La Harpe Boulevard.

Their legs plenty tired after completing the 26.2-mile course, runners will take a couple hundred more steps, following the signs directing them inside the back of the Statehouse Convention Center.

The runners will pose for pictures, then go grab a snack to refuel or some more water. Others might go for a celebratory Michelob Ultra -- or two -- before seeking out their friends and family for a hug.

But before any of that, each finisher will find a smiling volunteer and bow their head, awaiting one of the hundreds of oversized, sparkly, brightly-colored medals that will be placed around their neck.

Since its third edition in 2005, the Little Rock Marathon has awarded those who complete the race with a distinct, intricate prize -- enormous in size while also extravagant in detail.

This year's medal is no different, measuring in at more than 8 inches wide and nearly 3 pounds. Inspired by the theme, "Peace, Love, Little Rock Marathon," it features an interlocking peace sign and heart surrounded by symbols associated with the hippie movement such as flowers, doves, music and a van, brought to life with an array of bright, sparkly colors as is tradition for executive director Geneva Lamm.

Year after year, Lamm attempts to one-up herself with a unique and elaborate design, ensuring that each runner -- everyone from Searcy native Tia Stone, winner in five of the last seven women's races, to the final finisher -- has something to appropriately commemorate their accomplishment.

The idea spawned from a race Lamm ran in southern Texas shortly after beginning her role with the Little Rock Marathon in 2002. Lamm had just finished the marathon and her friend had completed the 5K race.

"When we finished, we got the same medal, and I was like, 'Oh, no, no, I did the marathon. I didn't do the 5K,' Lamm recalled. "They're like, 'No, that's the medal for everybody.' "

That didn't sit right with Lamm. She believed that everyone should get a medal the size of their individual achievement.

So, Lamm set out to make that the case for her race in Little Rock. She sketched out what she wanted of the first medal -- mostly in stick figures -- but quickly discovered that the companies bidding to produce them had a different idea of what it would actually look like.

That led Lamm to teach herself how to use the Adobe Creative Suite so she could specifically design the medals on her own. In 2006, she produced a sparkly version of the race's corporate logo, which Lamm calls "The Shield."

From there, the medals took on a life of their own, and each year, Lamm tasks herself with designing something one-of-a-kind to fit that race's theme.

In 2008, it was "Six in the City" to celebrate the race's sixth edition. In 2012, the theme was disco. The 2015 race was pirate-themed -- perhaps Lamm's favorite to date -- and as is the case each year, Lamm and race organizers encourage runners to dress in costume.

But idealizing and designing the medals is one thing. It's another to produce them, especially as the race has grown as large as 10,000 total runners across the different competitions -- marathon, half-marathon, 10K and 5K.

Steve Hasty, owner of Hasty Awards in Ottawa, Kan., has worked in conjunction with Lamm on and off for the last 12 years. It's not guaranteed Hasty will be the one chosen to produce the medals each race -- because the Little Rock Marathon is a fundraiser for the City of Little Rock's Parks and Recreation Department, Lamm has to run an annual blind-bidding process to determine who will get the contract for a given year.

But Hasty holds a special place in his heart for Little Rock because the medals are such a passion project for Lamm.

"There's no question that the Little Rock Marathon is the most fun race," Hasty told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "[Geneva] is an educated customer, which makes it a lot easier."

The bidding typically begins in June, and for an early March race, Hasty likes to begin production no later than September.

For the marathon medals, the die-casting process begins by forcing each of the different colors of zinc-based alloy into the molds. Each of the different colors, many with glitter -- a Lamm specialty -- is allowed to dry before Hasty moves on to the next color.

All told, creating the Little Rock Marathon medal takes about 50 days. That's before the ribbon is hand-sewn on, all adding up to a cost of $13 per medal and leaving little profit margin for Hasty.

The goal is then to have all the medals completed and in Little Rock no later than January. Across the different competitions, that's between 9,000 and 10,000 medals -- almost a 400% increase from the 2,502 that participated in the inaugural race in 2003.

Lamm keeps a notepad on her desk at home with ideas for future themes, and she's already thinking about concepts and designs of medals for at least the next five years.

After 19 years, it's nothing but "a labor of love."

"It's always on my mind," Lamm said. "We're always trying to figure out how to do something better and new. ... The payoff for me and my staff is seeing those people cross the finish line."

  photo  2023 Little Rock Marathon

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