For 30 years, runners have been flocking to Conway for the annual Toad Suck Daze Run, and those who have been a vital part of the race’s success prepared for the anniversary race and celebrated the past.
The Toad Suck Run is actually comprised of three races: a 10K, a 5K and the Tadpole Trot, which is available for children and run anywhere from 200 meters to 400 meters. The race has grown so much that the local group who originally put it on, the Conway Kiwanis, partnered with what was then known as First National Bank. The bank had its own race in remembrance of former employee Randy Baker, who died of cancer.
The Randy Baker 8K was conducted for two years, with proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society. In 1986, the Conway Kiwanis Club approached Regions Bank, and the two races were combined. Regions Bank has served as primary sponsor of the race ever since, and each year the Toad Suck Daze Run is held in memory of Randy Baker, with proceeds benefiting non-profit agencies in the Faulkner County community.
The past was sometimes a bumpy road, according to Randy Sims, former president of Conway Kiwanis. There have been races that resulted in what seemed to be world-record times, races that brought two sets of runners through different courses, and even a simultaneous hot air balloon launch that resulted in a crash into a UCA building.
Today, the race includes a wheelchair event, and the 10K is a Grand Prix Series Event. In 2011, the run raised more than $27,000 for local non-profits.
Almost every one of the t-shirts from the past 30 years were shown off for the Kiwanis crowd as Sims relayed stories of races past.
“There was one time where everything seemed to be going along just fine, but when we all saw the first runner come across the finish line, something seemed to be wrong,” Sims said. “I checked my watch, and I knew that we had just witnessed a world record time. Then a few minutes later, a whole bunch of runners came bounding toward the finish line. I knew then that someone must have made an error with the course.”
Sims also said an error was made another time, but only for a portion of the runners.
“Some finished far ahead of others, and it looked like about 25 runners were converging on us to find out what went wrong,” he said. “Needless to say we gave out two sets of medals that year.”
Sims also remembered a year where the race coincided with a hot air balloon race, but one of the balloons didn’t get high enough in the air.
“You could see it coming,” he said. “The balloon went through a tree and the basket just smacked up against the dorm building. It scraped up against it and tore off some gutters. I thought someone had died. It would have been the worst thing that happened. But they were okay, and it set itself down.” Sims didn’t say if the balloon race has been tried since.
Cliff Henry, who has been spearheading the race in recent years, was presented with the Zeller Fellowship Award by the Kiwanis. Henry was visibly moved by the award, which the group gave him by contributing to The Eliminate Project, a program designed to help babies in countries that cannot prevent maternal and neonatal tetanus.
Other sponsors for the run currently include: Nabholz, Conway Convention & Visitors Bureau, Kohl’s, The Sporty Runner and Conway Running Club. Those wishing to become a sponsor and find information at toadsuckrun.com/sponsors.