White River Half Marathon, Cotter, Arkansas-44th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Arkansas was my 44th state.

If you want to run a marathon, half marathon, or 5k on a blazing fast course, run one of the the White River races in Cotter, Arkansas. Seriously, this group of races is well-organized, has great volunteers, has technical long sleeve shirts for all runners, huge medals for all runners, and medals for age group winners in addition to the fast courses.

When I ran this race in 2018, packet pickup was quick and easy the evening before the race at Cotter Schools, and there was also the option of packet pickup the morning of the race. I got my shirt, bib, and chip shoe tags (I hadn’t seen those in quite a few years) and was out in less than 10 minutes. Shirts and some other things were being sold there but honestly I just wanted to get to dinner so I didn’t spend any time looking around. There was a pre-race pasta dinner but I wanted to try some local barbecue instead.


Race morning, November 17, was even chillier than I was hoping, at 31 degrees. Someone mentioned how it was 70 degrees at the start of last year’s race, so I was thankful it wasn’t that warm (but I think 70 at the start is unusual). Runners for the 5k, half marathon, and marathon all started together at 7 am but fortunately the course never felt crowded, even at the beginning.

Here’s part of why this course is so fast. The first mile was downhill, and the course leveled out after that. We turned around at about mile 7.5 so we didn’t have to go back up the hill from the first mile. The course was along quiet, country roads and while the course was open to traffic, the handful of drivers we did see were courteous and gave runners a wide berth when passing. We got a couple of glimpses of the White River but mostly we saw fields and rural homes. There was a field with a couple of horses watching us at one point too.

Tailwind, water, and Gu gels were offered on the course. The volunteers at the aid stations were friendly and did a good job but there was almost no crowd support on the course, as would be expected for a small race in a rural area.

The medals for the 5k, half marathon, and marathon were all personalized to each distance

If you follow my blog, you may recall that I recently found out I’m anemic. Just a couple of weeks before this race, my hemoglobin was 6 (normal for women my age is 12-15). Despite that, I still managed to finish in 1:57:31, 4th in my age group, 61 overall out of 287. I haven’t run a half marathon this fast since 2015. Needless to say, given my poor health, I was thrilled with my result. Unfortunately I forgot to hit save on my Garmin at the finish so I have no idea what my split times were. I also made a point of not checking my watch during this race because I just wanted to run more by feel.

As I mentioned earlier, the race medals at the finish were huge and pretty cool-looking. There were also space blankets, which was a nice touch given how cool it was that morning. There was chocolate milk, water, donuts, bagels, bananas at the finish line, and then there was even more food at Cotter School.

The finish!

My daughter ran the 5k and came in 2nd in her age group, so my husband and daughter went to get her age group medal at the school, where the awards ceremonies were. There were sausage biscuits, bananas, lemonade, Gatorade, coffee, hot chocolate, chili, and a variety of soups when they went at 9:00 for the 5k awards. I showered and changed after the half and went to the school around 10:00 and then they had pizza instead of sausage biscuits but everything else was the same.

To be a small race, this is one of the best I’ve been to. While the course wasn’t one of the most scenic I’ve ever run on, it wasn’t bad and it was definitely one of the fastest courses I’ve raced on. The volunteers were great and the food afterwards was good and plenty of it. There was also a shoe recycling area and it looked like quite a few old running shoes were collected. If you’re looking to cross Arkansas off your list, I highly recommend this race!

Just a portion of the shoes collected at the race


Do any of you have plans to run a race in Arkansas or have you already? If so, which one do you want to run or have you run? Do you like races in small towns along back country roads or do you prefer racing in bigger cities with big productions like the Rock n’ Roll series for example?

Happy running!





Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US, which I completed in 2021. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

22 thoughts on “White River Half Marathon, Cotter, Arkansas-44th state”

    1. Thanks! I thought of you after I saw the results and how you would have crushed this course. If you’re ever looking for a race in Arkansas, this one might not be the easiest to get to, but it’s a great course and the people are super-friendly!


      1. Ha! I took a look at the results. Certainly based on this year’s results, I would have placed high. I will keep this race in mind when I’m looking to do Arkansas. I’m just barely ahead of my friend in the 50 states race and I’ve decided staying ahead of him should be my new goal.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Should you be running races with anemia? Anyway great recap – sounds like a very manageable race in all aspects. I think I prefer the bigger races with all the accompanying hoopla but anything flat and fast sounds good to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely should not be running races with anemia and wouldn’t advise anyone else to do so, but I’m about as stubborn as they come and nothing was going to stop me from running this race! The bigger races do have some nice perks that small races don’t.


  2. Great race for both you and your daughter! The course sounds nice and post food sounds even better. I love rural courses that pass farmland. My first half marathon was an out and back on a rail trail but the two after were both in the country and much more scenic to enjoy. I’ve done a 5k and 5 miler in York city but it’s not the same as running in a huge city. I’m still hesitant to consider a major race as hearing about my friends’ experiences in NYC while definitely exciting, does not sound enjoyable to me. I don’t mind having sections of races that I’m running alone; I’d prefer that to having tons of people around me the whole time. That said, a part of me thinks it’d be neat to run a half marathon in Disney World.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess it all depends on what you’re used to. If you routinely run on rural, quiet roads then a race in a big city might be a bit too much. You should try a Disney race and see if you like it. I’ve never run one but I know they’re hugely popular.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have never run a race in AK, but you make this one seem very appealing! I love smaller races with easy logistics. They are usually easier on the pocketbook, too! That said, I ran Marine Corps Marathon with 30,000 of my best friends in October, and had a great time. Congrats to you and your daughter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! This race really was a great one. I’ve run big , medium, and small races. I think my favorite of all are the medium-sized ones because you tend to get the best of it all. It does depend on how well the races are organized, though.

      Liked by 1 person

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