Local residents braved the cold to support runners in the fourth annual Fort Smith Marathon on Sunday.
As the runners made their way through the course that was laid out on the streets of Fort Smith, residents congregated at various locations to assist them along their way. Despite the freezing temperatures and overcast skies, the volunteers cheered on the participants as they passed by, offered them refreshments and displayed signs showing words of encouragement, among other activities. Some even blasted upbeat music as a way to lift the runners' spirits.
Samantha Cole, director of the Fort Smith Marathon, said there were 24 officially sponsored watering holes throughout the course.
One of the watering holes was located at mile 10 on Mile Tree Drive. Residents who lived in that neighborhood, including Lucy Coleman and Roger Meek, came together to offer what they could to runners navigating through the area, such as sports drinks and water. Coleman said the neighborhood has served as a watering hole in all the Fort Smith Marathons that have been held so far.
"It's just fun for the neighborhood to get together and support the marathon," Meek said.
Meek estimated about 15 people were present at the watering hole on Sunday.
Another watering hole situated deeper in the marathon course could be found in Ben Geren Regional Park. The site was sponsored by State Farm Insurance Agent Emily Bassham, whose agency opened in June. A runner herself, Bassham said she had many friends running in the Fort Smith Marathon, and sponsoring this sort of activity was one of the things she wanted to do when she became a State Farm agent.
"It's a great community event," Bassham said. "Runners bring commerce to the area as well, because when these come in, you know, other people will come in to visit here."
Bassham said it is also good to encourage people to exercise and run.
Located near the end of the marathon at mile 23 on Old Greenwood Road was a watering hole co-sponsored by Mercy Clinic and Armstrong Bank. One of the people present there was Linda Sloan, mortgage lender with Armstrong Bank. Sloan said watering holes are important for the people running in the Fort Smith Marathon because they have to keep themselves hydrated and their protein levels up, especially in the cold.