Soaring Wings kicks off training

More than 200 turned out Saturday for the official kickoff of the Soaring Wings of Conway marathon and half marathon training program.

The celebration was held at the Conway Regional Health and Fitness Center.

“The First Mile was so exciting! It was great to watch so many come out and kick off their training and celebrate running!” said Amanda Castillo, who is co-directing the race with Marla Watson. “The participants really loved the unveiling of the medals… being able to see and touch them. It was motivation for all the scheduled runs on early Saturday mornings, humid afternoon and days they would rather just sleep in or rest. It was definite motivation.”

First Security Bank is the sponsor of the Official Training Program for the Soaring Wings of Conway Inaugural Marathon & Half Marathon.

The training kickoff celebration included 5K and 10K fun runs as well as the reveal for all the event medals. There was also food and music.

Training sessions for the marathon begin 7 a.m. Saturday, July 11. Training for the half marathon begins 7 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8. Registration is $10 and includes a technical T-shirt.

Organizers announced last fall their plans to expand the annual Soaring Wings Half Marathon to a full marathon. This year, the event will include the marathon, half marathon and a two-man relay beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at Conway’s McGee Center, which has been the location for the half marathon the last seven years. Events begin and end at the McGee Center. The event features a USATF-certified course.

Representatives of TLC Pediatrics with this year’s Soaring Wings Half Marathon medal which will be awarded. TLC Pediatrics is the sponsor for the half marathon and Kids Run.

Nearly 800 have already registered for the marathon weekend. Registration for the full marathon will be limited to 500. The entry fee is $95 for online and $100 for mail-in through Sept. 1. Beginning Sept. 2, the entry fee is $105 and $110.

The Presenting Sponsor for the marathon weekend, which includes the marathon, expo and pasta party, is Crain Automotive. TLC Pediatrics is the sponsor for the half marathon and Kids Run. 501 LIFE is the official media sponsor. Hilton Garden Inn is the official host hotel. The Sporty Runner is the GU energy gel and pacer shirt sponsor. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available.

Marla Watson and Amanda Castillo are race co-directors.

Proceeds support Soaring Wings Ranch, a Christ-centered family and home that provides security, love and hope to children who need a chance. The staff meets each child where they are and challenges them to develop spiritually, intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically.

Soaring Wings is located on 195 acres in the Holland community, north of Conway. The half marathon has represented the single greatest fundraising event for the ranch.

The slogan for the event and the ranch is “Giving Children A Chance to Soar!”

Brett Berry of Crain Automotive with the Soaring Wings Marathon medal which will be presented during the inaugural event.

In addition to the running events, there will be a free expo, Kids Run for Kids, and a pasta party Friday, Oct. 23, at the Conway Expo Center and Fairgrounds. The expo will feature a variety of vendors from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the pasta party at 6 p.m. Only 500 tickets to the pasta party will be sold. Packet pickup will also take place during the expo.

According to Marla, organizers plan to incorporate the Kids Run into the expo to create a family event. Amanda explained that for the Kids Half Marathon, youngsters log 12 miles on their own and complete the remaining 1.1 miles with other participants at the Kids Run. The event also features other distances for other ages, with all young people receiving medals.

The half marathon has sold out at 2,000 the last three years and will be capped at that amount again this year. Only 100 teams will be accepted for the relay.

The Conway event will be the 11th marathon in the state and only the third in Central Arkansas. Few are held in the fall.

For more information or to register, visit