Jack-N-Back Half Marathon

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents - Story by SEAN SAUN­DERS

T“This is not an easy race. If you can run 13.1 miles of Jack Moun­tain, you can run 26.2 miles of the Lit­tle Rock Marathon.”-

he Hot Springs area has al­ways been known as a tourist desti­na­tion, but Dr. Dow Stough and Eric Weg­ner want it to soon be­come a run­ning desti­na­tion.

Co-di­rec­tors Stough and Weg­ner, friends through fit­ness, col­lab­o­rated to form the Jack-n-Back half marathon, which will de­but Feb. 8. The 13.1-mile race be­gins at the junc­tion of Arkansas high­ways 84 and 128 west of De Roche in Hot Spring County, trav­els up 128 to its junc­tion with 290 in south Gar­land County, and then works its way back to the start­ing point.

And right in the mid­dle of each trip is the 974-foot Jack Moun­tain. The ridge pro­vides a sig­nif­i­cant amount of the high­way’s el­e­va­tion, which to­tals more than 3,000 feet when fig­ur­ing in the re­turn trip.

“You have this road, be­tween 84 and 290, that’s 128, and it lends it­self to a very unique set of cir­cum­stances for walk­ing, jog­ging and bi­cy­cling and all that,” said Stough, an

Dr. Dow Stough

avid run­ner who prac­tices at The Der­ma­tol­ogy Clinic of Arkansas.

Ac­cord­ing to Stough, the peo­ple who make use of the area the most are first and fore­most hunters and ATV en­thu­si­asts who take ad­van­tage of the Ross Foun­da­tion.

“They go down the back on what is called Camp Road, and they take ad­van­tage of this whole area,” he said.

But it’s not un­com­mon to see peo­ple on horse­back Stough said, as T Bar M owns a lit­tle store on the back­side of the moun­tain where peo­ple can stay in the cab­ins.

“… It’s very well-known for peo­ple who do all that, but it’s not well-known among the rest of the Hot Springs pop­u­la­tion.”

The Arkadel­phia-based Ross Foun­da­tion “strives to main­tain its char­i­ta­ble hold­ings of land and tim­ber as ex­em­plar forests through the use of man­age­ment tech­niques which in­te­grate the value of all for­est re­sources, to al­low pub­lic ac­cess to th­ese forests for re­cre­ational uses as long as such use is not detri­men­tal to the re­source of the for­est, and to gen­er­ate rev­enue to fund its phil­an­thropic pro­gram,” ac­cord­ing to its mis­sion state­ment. Re­fer­ring to its Hot Spring County hold­ing as the “Jack Moun­tain Unit,” the Foun­da­tion as­sures that High­way 128 will be a scenic lo­ca­tion for the race.

The chal­lenge and scenery have Stough and Weg­ner, a per­sonal trainer at Hot Springs Health and Fit­ness, dream­ing big be­fore the race even gets off the ground. Weg­ner calls it “the Pikes Peak of Arkansas,” but Stough goes even fur­ther, call­ing it “the Pikes Peak of the South.”

Pikes Peak, the fa­mous 14,114foot moun­tain out­side of Colorado Springs, Colo., pro­vides the set­ting for two of Amer­ica’s most gru­el­ing races, which will be Aug 16-17 this year. The Pikes Peak As­cent is a lit­tle more than a half marathon, climb­ing 13.33 miles and

7,185 feet of ver­ti­cal gain to very near the sum­mit — well above the tree­line around 12,000 feet. The Pikes Peak Marathon goes up the moun­tain and back down, earn­ing the moniker of “Amer­ica’s Ul­ti­mate Chal­lenge.”

De­spite the ex­treme dif­fi­culty, Stough said this year’s Pikes Peak races filled up in a mat­ter of min­utes once reg­is­tra­tion opened, call­ing the marathon a “desti­na­tion” race. “It’s harder to get into than the New York Marathon,” he said, stat­ing that he even tried to en­ter the marathon once. He hopes that in five years, the Jack-n-Back will be­come the desti­na­tion for up­hill run­ning in the south­east­ern U.S.

The big­gest race Hot Springs hosts is the Spa 10K ev­ery Novem­ber, which tra­verses 6.2 miles of down­town and West Moun-

“To have mor e races pop up, I think that is cer­tainly won­der ful.”

tain. The Spa 10K at­tracts mostly run­ners from in the state, and Stough wants the Jack-n-Back to draw run­ners from out­side of Arkansas.

“The Spa 10K is great and won­der­ful, but they don’t re­ally care about na­tional recog­ni­tion,” Stough said. “This is dif­fer­ent. We want to fill up ho­tel rooms. We want peo­ple com­ing into Hot Springs to do this thing.”

And the date for the Jack-n-Back was strate­gi­cally de­cided to be three weeks away from the state’s pre­mier dis­tance event — the Lit­tle Rock Marathon. The 12th an­nual run­ning of the Lit­tle Rock Marathon is March 2, cov­er­ing 26.2 miles of the cap­i­tal city’s bluff roads.

Both Stough and Weg­ner said they want the Jack-n-Back to be­come “the prep race for the Lit­tle Rock Marathon” in hopes of draw­ing marathon par-

tic­i­pants from around the state for one last ma­jor test be­fore the race.

“This is not an easy race,” Stough said. “If you can run 13.1 miles of Jack Moun­tain, you can run 26.2 miles of the Lit­tle Rock Marathon.”

Both will have to set­tle with just be­ing the un­of­fi­cial prep race, as the Lit­tle Rock Marathon has its own train­ing pro­gram it of­fers for par­tic­i­pants that be­gins in Septem­ber the pre­vi­ous year. The reg­i­ment has var­i­ous small runs through­out each week be­fore do­ing a ma­jor each Satur­day. Feb. 8 is the pro­gram’s long­est run, a 20-mile jour­ney.

“When we started the race a long time ago, our goal was to get peo­ple healthier in our state and to ob­vi­ously pro­mote cen­tral Arkansas and our spon­sors,” Lit­tle Rock Marathon di­rec­tor Geneva Lamm said. “To have more races pop up, I think that is cer­tainly won­der­ful. We cer­tainly have enough peo­ple do­ing it in this state that can sup­port a race ev­ery weekend, but I think that if it’s well done, more power to them. I love run­ning over in Hot Springs my­self, so I think it will be good.”

Weg­ner said the Jack-n-Back half marathon is way more chal­leng­ing than the Lit­tle Rock Marathon’s half of­fer­ing. Lit­tle Rock also of­fers a 10K and 5K on its big day, but the Jack-n-Back wants its chal­leng­ing race to re­main as one.

Aside from run­ning, the Jack-n-Back also of­fers cat- egories for walk­ing, race walk­ing and team re­lays. For those mak­ing New Year’s res­o­lu­tions for fit­ness, 13.1 miles of walk­ing up­hill will pro­vide plenty of ex­er­cise.

“We’re invit­ing walk­ers to come do it,” Weg­ner said. “We’re also invit­ing speed walk­ers to do it. I think we might run into them not re­al­iz­ing how chal­leng­ing it’s go­ing to be. Peo­ple don’t think the half marathon as be­ing that dif­fi­cult, but it’s all up­hill. A lot of it has to do with up­hill run­ning, but you also have to learn how to run down­hill with­out risk of in­jury. We al­low walk­ing, but it will be a chal­lenge.”

Adopt­ing a don­key mas­cot in ho­mage to Jack Moun­tain’s name, the race or­ga­niz­ers don’t take them­selves all that se­ri­ously. Re­lay teams, up to four, pass a tail as a ba­ton, and the an­chors get to pin the tail on the don­key at the fin­ish. There is also a team run of any­where from six to 10 par­tic­i­pants where peo­ple can reg­is­ter at a dis­count rate of $45.

But what the of­fi­cials do take se­ri­ously are the char­i­ties that ben­e­fit from the nor­mal $60 en­try fee — Our Prom­ise Can­cer Re­sources and Cooper-An­thony Mercy Child Ad­vo­cacy Center. Our Prom­ise supports can­cer pa­tients in Gar­land County, and Cooper-An­thony pro­vides ser­vices to vic­tims of child abuse.

And or­ga­niz­ers hope that as the race grows each year, they can give more to char­ity each time.

Pho­tos by MARA KUHN

1/2 Start / Fin­ish

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