High temps affect start of marathon

FILE - Runners approach the Arkansas State Capitol during the Little Rock Marathon on March 5, 2023. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)
FILE - Runners approach the Arkansas State Capitol during the Little Rock Marathon on March 5, 2023. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)

In a news conference Wednesday morning, officials with the Little Rock Marathon announced the start time for Sunday's race will be moved up from 8 a.m. to 6 a.m. due to forecasts for above average temperatures.

With the high temperature expected to flirt with 80 degrees Sunday, the decision was made to move up the start time in order to mitigate the potential risks the high heat and humidity could have on the thousands of runners expected to participate.

"Based on the forecast and what we've seen predicted for this weekend, we've made the decision to start our races on Sunday a couple of hours earlier to make sure we're doing what's best for the athletes," race director Mike Garrity said. "Our early start is going to be at 5:30 for the athletes that need 6-8 hours to finish the race. Our general start for everyone else will be at 6 a.m."

While an outright cancellation of the event is unlikely, race officials didn't rule out the possibility Wednesday. The event organizers have been working with the Little Rock Office of Emergency Management, other city officials, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the National Weather Service to decide what changes and precautions needed to be taken.

"We are going to continue to work with our public safety officials and if the weather forecast changes at all, we're going to reserve the right to make any other adjustments that we need to make for the race to make sure that everybody is safe and we have the best race possible," Garrity said.

He also said extra help will available for runners along the 26.2-mile course.

"We're going to have additional ice on the course for the participants," Garrity said. "At each of our eight stations, we'll have cooling towels that we'll be handing out. Our medical stations that are on the course will have dunk tanks to rapidly cool the participants as needed. Any other issues or things that we identify, we'll work with our medical partners and our city officials to make sure we are addressing all of those."

With more than 40% of the expected participants coming from outside the state, race officials are making a concerted effort to keep all the runners informed and provide information as quickly as possible once it becomes available. There are 1,400 runners registered for the full marathon and 2,600 for the half-marathon.

"We're going to continue to communicate with our participants and our volunteers," Garrity said. "Any updates that we need to make, we will pass those along to them. Giving them as much information as we can to make sure they're aware and make sure they're able to make any adjustments they need for their schedule."

With the changes that were announced Wednesday, there is not expected to be any changes with the road closures that have already been planned. Race officials plan to provide another update to members of the media Friday afternoon at 2 p.m.

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