Our 12 Heroes This Year!

There are many reasons to enjoy The Season, and one of our favorite traditions is to recognize those who inspire others and make a difference by touching all our lives. 
So once again, for the 12 Days leading up to Christmas, we honored Our Heroes – people who have caught our attention with their contribution to the sport we love. You may have seen these heroes posted on our our facebook page.You may know some of these folks, or maybe you will strive to make their acquaintance in 2020, but either way we think you’ll be moved and inspired by all of them.  
We hope you’ll join us in letting them know how special they are. 

Day 1, Inspiration
There are few things more inspiring that listening to the National Anthem before the Super Bowl, a Traveler’s baseball game, or any other sporting event. Being a competitor with your toe on the start line while listening to the Star Spangled Banner sends chills down your spine and certainly gets the adrenaline pumping! If you’ve run in the Arkansas RRCA – Grand Prix Series or race locally chances are you’ve stood with your hand on your heart listening to Keith Knight, our Inspiration Hero this year.
We think of Keith as the ‘voice of running’. His beautiful baritone voice sings one of the best versions of the anthem we’ve heard, and he has the physical presence to match. Yet, surprisingly, Keith didn’t sing the National Anthem in public until he turned 60! Keith says, “I sing to honor those who gave to keep us safe and protect our Freedom”.
Not only does he sing before races, (and then jumps in to run), but he’s been known to sing before an Arkansas Traveler’s game, too. We’re thankful that Keith has chosen to honor us with his inspiring voice, and are happy to call him one or our Heroes for giving his time and talents to inspire us, and make our local races that more meaningful.

Day 2, Performance
There were many great performances in 2019 by local runners and teams, but one monumental win really catches our attention. Last month, on a cold, muddy course in Terre Haute, Indiana the Arkansas Razorback women’s team won their first ever NCAA Division 1 Cross Country Championship! The team finished their 5 scoring runners in 3rd, 4th, 16th, 21st, and 52nd with an average time of 20:29 for 6,000M, scoring 96 pts to better BYU’s 102. We congratulate the Lady Hogs for their hard fought victory. Coach Harter said, “From 4K to 6K, all five of them picked off one person here, one person there, and I think that was the difference in the margin to give us the win.”

This win also meant the Hogs swept all three National Championships in this calendar year – Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, and Cross Country – becoming only the 3rd women’s team in NCAA history to accomplish that feat.

With the NCAA track season right around the corner, we can’t wait to see these ladies in action once again. For fighting the elements, being tough to the end, and taking home the historic win, the Arkansas Women’s Cross Country Team are our Performance Heroes of 2019.

Day 3, Making a Difference
Our hero who really makes a difference is Elaine Gimblet (it’s really Ron who does it all!). She is always at the races (Ron drives her there) and for decades you’ve seen her energetic cheer-leading at any number of AURA aid stations (while Ron is taking care of food and drinks), or helping shovel ice into bottles or bras at the AT100 (while Ron is picking up trash), or congratulating finishers the next morning (while Ron is loading up the trailer).
Elaine takes part as well (with Ron there every step) “eating miles for breakfast”, doing a marathon a month (same number as Ron), doing her first 50 Miler at age 65 (so did he), and being a pacer at the LR Marathon for years (teamed with Ron!). Elaine is also a LR Marathon ‘streaker’ – the lofty title of having completed every one of them (so has Ro…… ooh, no he hasn’t!). One year, Elaine had the pleasure and glory of pacing her daughter Susy Chandler into the finish of the AT100 (after Ron had dragged her through her bad patch of puking, crying, and wanting to stop).

Our running community is truly unique and is made a better place with Elaine (and Ron) there to give us advice, a friendly cheer, or that much needed, perfectly timed confidence booster – always delivered with a smile. We love and thank our ‘Making a Difference’ Hero(es), Elaine AND Ron Gimblet.

Day 4, Barrier Breaker
If Go! Running had been around in 1954 we’d have honored Roger Bannister for becoming the first man to break 4 minutes for the mile. This year we just have to honor Eliud Kipchoge for breaking the 2-hour marathon barrier, covering the 26.2 miles distance in 1hr 59min 40sec!! That is a remarkable 14:11 per 5K eight times in a row, or 4:34 for each Mile – even more amazing when you consider only 5 runners in the Go! Mile this summer beat that for ONE mile!

We know this is not without controversy – it wasn’t an actual race, he had multiple pacers, he was handed nutrition from a bike, and of course the shoes! But the goal was to see if a human being could cover the distance in under 2 hours – and now we know it can be done. Hopefully, just like the first sub 4 minute mile it will inspire a generation of elite marathon runners by knowing what is humanly possible so now it can soon be broken in a race (our guess is Berlin). As Eliud said, “It is a great feeling to make history in sport after Sir Roger Bannister, I am the happiest man in the world to be the first human to run under two hours and I can tell people that no human is limited. I expect more people all over the world to run under 2 hours after today”.

What we also love about this guy is his sheer love and passion for the sport, you can see it in everything he does. Look at the pictures from that day and you can tell how much fun he’s having. For breaking the barrier considered ‘impossible’, Eliud Kipchoge is our Barrier Breaker Hero for 2019.

Day 5, Volunteers
Catholic High School’s charter is “to challenge boys academically while also teaching the truths of manhood – faith, integrity, and, duty”. Volunteering at events is a big part of those truths. So when we have asked Catholic High boys for help over the last 9 years they’ve always been there for us. These upstanding young men, under the guidance of principal Steve Straessle, help us collect thousands of meals at the Go!bbler Turkey Trot, The Go! Mile, and other events like our aid station at the 3 Bridges Marathon. It always seems like a cliché to say “we couldn’t do it without our volunteers” but it’s so true. The Go!bbler just wouldn’t happen without up to 40 Catholic High boys out on the course.

These young men learn those traits for life and as a result our city is full of Rocket alumni that carry on the CHS teachings to help and further the community we all live in. So, for providing us with generations of volunteers and men that better our community, we honor Catholic High School as our Volunteer hero of 2019.

Day 6, Going the Distance
We have it on good authority that Laura Kearns used to be a bit of a soccer player until she turned into a LOT of a runner!! And because of what she’s achieved, she’s this year’s Going The Distance Hero.

How much of a runner? Well, early in her running life she might have complained about a few hills on a 5 mile loop around Knoop Park, but now she’s into ultra trail races that last all day and preferably all night! Early this year she had a very strong run in the Ouachita 50 miler on a brutal, rainy day. Then the Sunset Challenge 6 hour race – where she won in a record 40.6 miles. Then, she turned her attention to the AT100, racking up some impressive mileage and running repeats up and down Rattle Snake Ridge! It was Laura’s first attempt at the AT100 and she ran it like an old pro. She was composed and smiling the whole way, never wavered, and clicked off mile after mile to finish 2nd female in an amazing time of 21:37. Her year didn’t stop there, and she jumped right back in – winning LOViT trail marathon and crushing some road races. These are just some of her races.

In true hero style, Laura somehow manages to balance all the racing and training with being a teacher, getting her miles in early before focusing on her students. On race days, it’s not unusual for her to have something motivational written on her hand, something for her to look at to keep her going. Well, today, we’d like her to write “hero” on that hand for being our ‘Going The Distance Hero’ of 2019.

Day 7, Community (#true)              
Helping someone you’ve never met is a true sense of ‘community’. Since The ACH Angels program started 4 years ago over 500 runners have done just that. For selflessly helping the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation we honor everyone who has been an Angel runner as a Community Hero this year!!!
If you live in or around Little Rock you know the reputation of The Arkansas Children’s Hospital as being the biggest and best pediatric hospital in the country dedicated to giving children from birth to 21 a healthier tomorrow. But they need help.
This program has harnessed the energy and passion of runners by offering race entry fees and other benefits in return for fundraising. Angels simply sign up, commit to raising $200 or more, and are entered into either the RussVegas Half or 10K, a Spa Running Festival event, or one of the Little Rock Marathon weekend races. The more money a runner raises, the more benefits they get. Through this, the Angels have raised over $250,000 in aid. Now in their 5th year, they’ll have a greater presence at the LR Marathon weekend and are looking to add more participants and more races in the future.

Arkansas Children’s Hospital does some amazing things for children who really need their help. We’re glad we live in a community where so many people are willing to be a part of a program like this. All 500+ of you are our heroes – please tag yourself here!

Day 8, Power Couple
Jon and Ashley Honeywell are two of the most selfless and considerate individuals you will ever meet. And because the two of them give to the sport, mentor and pace runners, and are involved in many races, they are our Power Couple Hero this year.

Apart from pacing and mentoring, a great example of their generosity is how they have been key players in the 3 Bridges Marathon since it began. Jon has always been involved with the course, set up, and logistics. Sometimes, using his position with the City to get things done for the course. Ashley has helped lead the charge with the Episcopal Aid Station at mile 23 every year, She’s also played a big role with the finish line and it’s needs. As if to show Jon’s commitment to 3B26, it has fallen on his birthday several times, but he just carries right on caring more for others than himself!

They are the kind of folks that will pace you to a PR, guide you through tough training, and are always there to count on when needed. For being such giving and generous people in our running community, Jon and Ashley are our Power Couple Heroes for 2019. (however, this picture is a cute one from 2011!!!)

Day 9, Giving Back
It takes a lot to slow some runners down, but even a near death car wreck couldn’t slow down our Giving Back Hero, Ryan Westin.

Starting his marathon journey in 2007, Ryan quickly picked up the pace and ran more and more marathons – running 11 in 2010 alone. He soon set his sights on joining the ’50 States Club’ (running a marathon or above in each of the 50 states!) and he knocked that goal out of the park in 2012 by completing all 50 in a crazy short time frame. By 2015, he was well on his way to achieving his goal of running 100+ marathon races when he was in a tragic, life threatening car wreck. He made the decision in the hospital to get back to living and immediately started walking laps of the hospital. Despite severe back and stomach injuries, he returned to his job as a kindergarten teacher only a few weeks after getting back home. Continuing on in Ryan’s motivating spirit, it was just months later when he ran a marathon, then another, and then 17 marathons later at the 2016 Little Rock Marathon – he hit 100!!
Remarkably, that’s not even our story! Ryan is a prolific Pacer. Jumping into marathon after marathon to help others achieve their own goals. In fact, most of the runs he’s completed since joining the ’50 States Club’ have been to pace others, even sometimes guiding blind runners (which he’s doing at 3B26 next week). How many exactly? Well, since hitting the 100 mark in 2016 he’s currently at 194 and on track to hit 200 by this coming LR Marathon – having paced 28 in 2019 alone!

Just scan through Ryan’s facebook and you’ll see picture after picture of him smiling and having fun during his pacing duties, but more noticeable are the smiles of those all around him completing their goals and having a great time doing it. When you get to run with Ryan, he makes everyone feel amazing. Around the country or around the block, the running community should extend a grateful thank you to Ryan for making the life affirming choice in the hospital to get back to doing what he loves, helping others. And for that he is our remarkable ‘Giving Back’ Hero of 2019.

Day 10, Indomitable Spirit
There is a quote on his Facebook page, “If you want peace, seek it, inhale it, and cherish it.” But, we think if you want fun in life, real fun, you need to live life like Curtis W. Tucker – our indomitable spirit hero!
Curtis moved to LR around 2016, and since then he’s been a part of anything and everything active, having tons of fun while he’s at it! Curtis has a huge welcoming smile and is always engaging. You name it, he’s doing it: running, biking, trail running, gauntlet races and mud runs, climbing, and much more. His cycling is often mixed in with other training but jumps in events like The Big Dam Bridge 100 as well. His running exploits are varied and range from the Go! Mile to longer trail races. Some of his training takes him up to the top of Pinnacle Mountain (often one of his favorite things to do in town). In fact, Pinnacle has become so much of a favorite, that he’s been to the top over 500 times – and his record is 8 times in one day!!
 
And there’s one more of his more remarkable feats we’ve witnessed firsthand. Curtis joined our 2019  #Resolution2Run challenge last year, where starting January 1st we challenged people to run or walk at least 1 mile per day for the first 100 days of the year. Hundreds of folks joined in, with many reaching the 100-day milestone accomplishment. Curtis was among them but didn’t stop there. His streak is currently at Day 356! And most days he posts fun, inspiring messages and pictures of his streak!! We’re sure he’s going to hit 365 – and beyond!

Curtis is that guy who makes everyone else feel welcome and happy to be at a race or event with his great attitude and big welcoming smile. He’s an easy choice for our ‘Indomitable Spirit’ Hero for 2019

Day 11, Legacy
We’ve heard it said, “You can’t make footprints in the sands of time, if you’re sitting on your butt,” and this year’s legacy hero would never dream of that. In fact, most of us can’t keep up with her. If you’re a runner or cyclist in the area, you’ve either met her on the course, or you’ve benefitted from her amazing support over the past 40 years! The incredible Linda House is our Legacy Hero this year.
There’s not enough space here to list all that she’s done, but suffice it to say she’s been a central figure in running and cycling in Arkansas for over 40 years. Here’s ‘ just a few’ highlights. She’s worked and/or volunteered at most of these races since their inception – the Arkansas Traveller for 29 years, the ARK 5K Classic for 39 years, the Little Rock Marathon for 16 years, the 3 Bridges Marathon for 5 years, and the Capital City Classic 10K (which was formerly the Pepsi 10K in downtown Little Rock) – and guess what, Linda was the race director in 1992! A lifetime member of the Little Rock Roadrunners Club, she was once the president of the club and has been the editor of the newsletter since the mid ’80’s. phew!
An accomplished runner herself, competing in several marathons including Pike’s Peak!!, she is known most recently for her selfless volunteering. Organizations such as the Red Cross, American Lung Association, and Easter Seals have all benefited from Linda’s generous spirit. And rightly so, a few years ago she was awarded the RRCA ‘Volunteer-of-the-Year’. She’s truly a wonderful, caring person who always has the time to chat, make you feel welcome and part of the event. AND, truth be told, she’s been known to snag a margarita from us at the Marathon Expo too a few times.
For always being there, helping, guiding, and being you, we are proud to honor you as our Legacy Hero of 2019.

Day 12, The Next Generation      
Christmas Eve is all about the excitement of kids, so our ‘Hero honors’ today go out to two young runners you’ve seen at many of the local race – our Next Generation Heroes – Parker and Preston Mollette!!
These two young men love running and they certainly come by the love of running most naturally – the Mollettes are one running family! Catching the running bug and being inspired by their mom and dad’s love of the sport, these two young dudes now do it all! Racing cross country for their school (Parker was the Parochial League MVP for K-3rd grade), running in all kinds of local runs and races with mom and dad, and trying many of the RRCA Grand Prix races as well! Happy, active and loving it out there. Not only that, did we mention they’re pretty fast! Parker was first home in the Go! Mile Mini Mile this year, and Preston wasn’t far behind (see pictures). What we also love to see is how they enjoy it so much together – they’re best buddies. And although their still pretty young, they’ve also made lots of ‘grown up’ friends through our sport. This year, they even asked their mom if they could have a joint birthday party with the Little Rock Roadrunners Club!!
We all know you don’t really grow in this sport if you’re not a student of the sport. This comes pretty naturally. They watched Kipchoge run his sub 2 marathon, they regularly tune in to the Diamond League races, and of course, follow the heralded Razorback XC and track teams. Hopefully all this inspiration does the trick and they keep dreaming big! We look forward to seeing these guys running and competing for many years to come; can’t wait to see what they achieve!

We hope you enjoyed honoring some of our local running heroes as much as we did.  
You can see all the good wishes and read or contribute to the conversation 
around each by day on our Facebook.