Running and Walking

In Arkansas, running and walking have long been used for exercise and fitness. Enthusiasts support each, especially as Arkansans become more health conscious. Arkansas also is home to a number of events and organizations devoted to running and walking.

Walking draws the largest percentage of people exercising, but, beyond basic fitness walking, there are also speed walkers (sometimes referred to as power walkers) who walk at paces ranging from ten to sixteen minutes per mile. There are also race walkers who must abide by specific USA Track and Field (USATF) rules when it comes to form and style of walking. They can be very speedy, often walking faster than many runners. One club in the state is dedicated only to walking, the Ozark Hill Hikers of Arkansas Walking Club, which is part of the American Volkssport Association. This group sponsors 5K (3.1 miles) and 10K (6.2 miles) walks in several areas of Arkansas, some of which are one-time walks, while others are self-guided, year-round events.

Runners make up the largest number of people entering races of all types, commonly outnumbering walkers more than four-to-one in races in Arkansas. There are three types of running: road, trail, and ultra running. Road running is by far the most popular and is done on different types of surfaces and difficulties of courses, including hills and sharp corners. Racing is a popular type of road running with most races being 5K and 10K, though there are many half marathons (13.1 miles) and full marathons (26.2 miles). Road races are both social events and competitions, and nearly all participants are amateurs. Road races are becoming more popular in Arkansas, and there are now well over 100 each year. Some of the more popular road races include the Firecracker 5K in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Arkansas Runner 2-Mile Race in Benton (Saline County), and the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival 10K in Fayetteville (Washington County).

Races often raise money for a local charity or support a cause, such as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which is held in multiple cities across the world every year. The sixteenth annual Race for the Cure, held in 2009, occurred in 122 cities, and the Little Rock race was the fourth largest, with more than 45,000 people participating. This race is always the largest one in the state.

Trail and ultra running are the two other types of running popular in Arkansas. Trail running takes place over hiking trails and more challenging terrain. Some Arkansas trail runs include the Sylamore Trail 50K and 25K Run in Allison (Stone County), the Big Rock Mystery Run in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), and the White Rock Classic 50K in Cass (Franklin County). Ultra running is any race longer than a marathon and can be more than 100 miles or last for multiple days. Ultra runs in Arkansas include the Syllamo series consisting of 3 Days of Syllamo and the Syllamo 100, both taking place in the Ozarks; the Ouachita Trail 50-Mile and 50K; and the Arkansas Traveller 100 out of Perryville (Perry County) in the Ouachita National Forest. Arkansas has a number of ultra and trail running events each year.

Arkansas draws participants nationwide to its races, particularly the marathons. There are four USATF-certified marathons in the state: the Mid-south Marathon in Wynne (Cross County), the Hogeye Marathon in Fayetteville, the Little Rock Marathon, and the Mountain Home Marathon for Kenya. All of these are qualifying races for the Boston Marathon. In addition, there are over twenty running clubs in the state, where runners, walkers, and often cyclists advocate fitness and group activities. A few of these clubs include the Conway Running Club, the Little Rock Road Runners, the Ridge Rider Athletic Club in Jonesboro (Craighead County), and the White River Road Runners in Batesville (Independence County). Arkansas also has an organization called Women Run Arkansas, which promotes the special needs of women’s fitness and health through walking and running and sponsors a 5K run/walk at the completion of its clinic each year.

For additional information:
Arkansas and Surrounding States Ultra and Trail Events Calendar. (accessed March 1, 2022).

Arkansas the Natural State Hike and Climb. (accessed March 1, 2022).

Arkansas Ultra Running Association. (accessed March 1, 2022).

Ozark Hill Hikers. (accessed March 1, 2022).

USA Track and Field. (accessed March 1, 2022).

Laura Downing
Arkansas State University


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