For some competitors, Sunday's marathon in downtown Little Rock was their first race ever. For Rick Weisbrod, it wasn't even his first race of the weekend.
Weisbrod, the 67-year-old Texan who peddled the race in a hand-cycle, said the Little Rock marathon was the second he's completed in a two-day period. He rode 26.2 miles at a competition in Beaumont, Texas, on Saturday and was the first person roll through the finish line of Sunday's race with a time of 2:26:36.
Weisbrod said he's participated in about 28 marathons in the past three years. He said he started running when he got out of the Army in 1970 after serving overseas in southeast Asia. He used to run with his prosthesis, he said, but then his “good leg went bad,” prompting him to start hand-cycling.
Weisbrod decided to make the the jaunt to Little Rock because the capital city typically has a good amount of people and a good reputation, he said. And he was not disappointed. He said he loved the crowd and the course, especially going downhill, he said.
When asked how he feels after logging more than 50 miles in 48 hours, Weisbrod just said, “Tired.”
And what does he plan to do with the rest of his day?
Running 'is what was left'
Runner David Kuhm finished Sunday's marathon in Little Rock without being able to see the road in front of him.
Kuhm, a 64-year-old blind runner and Iron Man from DeKalb, Ill., completed the race flanked by two running guides. He's finished more than 50 marathons in his lifetime, though Kuhm said he didn't start running until after he started losing his eyesight — a process caused by accident with a drunken driver in November 1981.
Once his eyesight started to go, Kuhm said, he had to give up driving, so he took to biking. After he was forced to abandon biking, running “is what was left,” he said.
At Sunday's marathon, Ryan Davis and Deana Richmond served as Kuhm's guides, running on either side of him to help navigate the course. They stay connected by holding onto a thick, knotted rope about a foot-and-a-half long. It's one of the various methods used by blind runners, Kuhm said. He doesn't ever go out for a jog by himself.
“If I run alone, you'll read about it,” Kuhm joked.
The trio coordinated with Hobbit Singleton, a race official, so they could start earlier than the rest of the pack for Sunday’s race and not get bogged down in the mob of runners at the starting line, Richmond said. She met Kuhm through a running club in 2014 and said the first time she was asked to be his guide, she was a little “terror-struck.”
But the run went smooth, she said, and a friendship grew. Sunday's Little Rock marathon was their third race together. The three runners said they enjoy each other’s company and chat about all sorts of things while running alongside each other, including "every run we've ever done" and "every run we want to do,” Kuhm said.
Though running is a stress reliever for Kuhm, during a marathon he sometimes ends up thinking, "Why am I doing this to myself?” he said.
But "as soon as I cross the finish line, I'll be thinking about my next one."
Flag carrier draws praise
Michael Kumiyama, another marathon competitor, also attracted some praise from spectators out on the course. He's been stationed at the Little Rock Air Force base as a career assistance adviser for the 19th Airlift Wing for the past two years, and he carried a pole and waved a large American flag for the entirety of the race.
When asked why he chose to run with the flag, Kumiyama gestured toward the crowd and said, “Americans. That's why.”
It does get tiring, he said, and he has to shift the flag's position and change his grip based on prevailing wind. But the practice also makes him feel “humble” when fellow runners or random people on the street thank him for carrying the symbol.
“It's hard to complain about being tired when people are thanking you,” Kumiyama said.
He said he sometimes responds by saying: "Thank you for allowing me to carry it."
Superhero for the day
Joe McDaniel took a more whimsical approach when choosing his racing accessories. The Sherwood resident's racing bib listed his name as “Batman.” He donned a Batman mask and wore a trash bag with a yellow bat signal printed on it.
McDaniel said he knew he wasn't likely to set a personal record this year, so he decided to have some fun. He dressed up as the superhero to “make other people's day and put a smile on kids’ faces,” he said.
And also “because I’m Batman,” McDaniel said.