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Firecracker Fast 5K – a 4th of July Tradition By Nicole Hobbs, Saline County Striders President  When you think of 4th of July festivities, fireworks, cookouts, and the lake are probably high on the list. If you are a runner in central Arkansas, the Firecracker Fast 5K is also included. The race has been an Independence Day tradition among central Arkansas runners for almost four decades. In its 39 years, the race has evolved from a seven mile hilly course around Cammack Village to what is now one of the fastest 5K courses in the country, and one of the largest races in Arkansas. The course is one of few “point-to-point” races in the state, meaning that the start and the finish line are not in the same location. This allows for the fast, mostly downhill course. The 3.1 mile route begins in the Heights area of Little Rock, just west of the intersection of University Avenue and Kavanaugh Boulevard. It winds down Kavanaugh through the Heights and Hillcrest, down Van Buren Street past War Memorial Stadium onto Zoo Drive, up the infamous “Zoo Hill,“ after which it makes its final descent into the finish line on Monroe Street. The point-to-point scenario adds an extra step of logistical planning on race day. Every runner has a preferred method of travel between the start and finish lines. Some like to park at the finish line, and run to the start as a warmup. Others prefer to make the uphill trek back after the race is done. Neither is required though, as there are trolleys available at the finish line to give tired runners a ride back to their vehicles.             As with any July tradition in Arkansas, heat is always present. Water and watermelon are provided at the finish line to provide some much needed cooling hydration. This year, runners got some unexpected pre-race hydration though, as heavy rain started pouring down as soon as they were lined up at the starting line. Luckily it was a short summer storm that was all but gone before the national anthem was done and the runners were given the go. The wet streets made for some tough traction on the downhill though, but the fast course still allowed for many personal records (PRs) to be set. Many racers hope to be able to run fast enough to get one of the coveted Firecracker trophies, which are only given to the first 50 men and the first 50 women to cross the finish line. With 1,259 finishers this year, you can imagine how difficult that can be. Awards are also given to the top three finishers in each age group, in 5 year spans. The overall male and female winners this year boasted impressive times of 16:03 and 16:07, respectively. Many members of the Saline County Striders ran the race and several set their own PR.             As much of a tradition as the race itself, is the after party at the Go! Running store in the Heights. After their 5K finish, runners are invited to the store for some food and fun, with chicken and waffles with berries and celebratory beer as well as a fun photo booth and lots of great company.             The Firecracker 5K is definitely an event to consider adding to your 4th of July festivities – always on Independence Day. For more information and race results, go to fleetfeeteasyrunner.com.

Striders from L to R: Nicole Hobbs, Greg Davis, Lynn O’Neal, Jeffrey Grove, Chris Yarberry, Jayme Butts-Hall

Beth Warren, Susan Beckwith, Jo Ann Mills

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