Renowned for their antics and beloved as the “Chicks in Charge” of the Little Rock Marathon, Geneva Lamm and Gina Pharis work tirelessly 365 days a year to exceed all expectations with this race for every pace.
By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Ashley Murphy | Hair by Raven Baxter with Face Your Day Xpress Makeup by Cassie Oaks with Face Your Day Xpress | Wardrobe from Barbara Jean | Shot on location at Riverfront Park
The Little Rock Marathon is a signature event in the Capital City. Welcoming participants from all 50 states and more than 33 countries for a fun-filled weekend of festivities, it’s become as popular as its daring directors – generating more than one million dollars to support Little Rock Parks & Recreation. Renowned for their antics and beloved as the “Chicks in Charge” of the Little Rock Marathon, Geneva Lamm and Gina Pharis work tirelessly 365 days a year to exceed all expectations with this race for every pace.
Gina initially joined the City of Little Rock team as events coordinator for the River Market and transitioned into a development position with Little Rock Parks & Recreation under the leadership of former Director Bryan Day. Bryan remembers the trip to Nashville that sparked his interest in developing a race weekend in Little Rock. “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon is truly a citywide event – including great crowd participation, local business support and amazing entertainment. With the revitalization of our urban neighborhoods, the timing seemed ideal for a Little Rock Marathon. I knew Geneva had racing experience and Gina had the event experience – a winning combination, no doubt. We scheduled a preliminary meeting.” Everyone realized the potential for this formable partnership. Geneva adds, “I said YES on one condition: I had to have Gina on the team.” With a wealth of experience – Gina served as a Riverfest volunteer for nearly two decades and Geneva’s tenure at the Arkansas Arthritis Foundation coordinating international racing expeditions – the two combined their personal strengths and tenacity in a shared vision.
And the rest is miles left on the road, as runners often say. This dynamic duo has produced the Little Rock Marathon for nearly two decades. It’s earned a reputation for its clever themes and outrageous costumes along with its sizeable medal. From Big ‘N Bodacious, reminiscent of the iconic Animal House movie, to The Medal of Mythic Proportions – each year guarantees an unexpected approach to a Capital City tradition.
Geneva and Gina admit their propensity for hilarity, but it’s sheer determination + attention to details that continue to deliver accolades in the running community. “Little Rock Marathon is considered a top-tier race in the country – compared with Boston, Chicago and New York. We’re not just a local race.” Geneva explains. “And we set new standards with the size of our marathon medals.” It’s the local support – businesses, churches, schools and the running community – that provide the momentum for the success of this Little Rock Parks & Recreation fundraiser.
Little Rock Parks & Recreation exists to improve and strengthen the community through meaningful city amenities. “Parks are what make Little Rock so livable. Stepping into a park is the best way to breathe and calm down. Without them we would be less beautiful, less healthy and far less green,” notes Gina. There are more than 60 parks and dedicated green spaces throughout Little Rock as well as golf courses, community centers and sports facilities. Hundreds of miles are contained in the trail system for bikers, runners and walkers to experience the Natural State. Little Rock Parks & Recreation Director John Eckart realizes a critical component of the mission fulfillment work is providing accessible, affordable communal opportunities for all the city’s residents. “We are stewards of our city’s resources and we believe it’s paramount for every community we serve to have safe, recreational and educational outlets. Parks and community centers add economic value as well as health and environmental benefits to neighborhoods. The Little Rock Marathon has become a great example of the camaraderie that happens when people come together with a purpose.”
Recognized as the race for every pace, the Little Rock Marathon invites participants – from newbies to seasoned walkers and elite athletes – to join the fun. Hosted the first weekend in March, Little Rock Marathon Race Weekend includes a marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K, a children’s mile and a two-day health and fitness expo. “More than 210,000 individuals have participated in a Little Rock Marathon race, event or free training program,” Gina explains. “That is a testament to the quality of our events and our passionate grassroots promotion.” It also reflects the inclusive nature of the Little Rock Marathon and its appeal to the community at large. “We’re always proud to celebrate the accomplishments of our participants, volunteers and sponsors – it takes a community of support to make it happen! Our race and our community know no boundaries,” Geneva laughs. “Our next race odyssey will be one to remember.”