Running For The Whole Family

Race the Base is fun for kids and parents alike

By Cliff Li

Cliff Li has run Race the Base with his children Allison, Connor and Braden twice, in 2013 and 2015.


One of my family’s mantras is, “The family that plays together, rides and runs together.” Living in The Natural State, we are fortunate to have so many outdoor recreational areas available to us—state parks, national forests and wildlife refuges are abundant all across Arkansas. In addition, the variety and number of trails is ideal for running.  

The Ouachita Trail 50, the Traveller 100, Hoof it for Heifer, Sylamore Trail and War Eagle Tail Twister are some of the better-known trail runs in the state. Race the Base, a four-mile trail run on the Base Trail at Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Little Rock, made its fourth appearance this year. Even though four miles is a short distance for an organized trail race, it is probably one of the most technical of all the trail runs out there. The trail surface is uneven, with abundant rocks and roots, and varying terrain. There’s very little of the trail that’s actually flat and smooth.  

Race the Base is the brainchild of Partners for Pinnacle and Little Rock local Lisa Mullis, one of the founders of They came up with the idea to raise money for improvements to the programs and amenities at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. This has quickly become one of my favorite trail runs in the state. It requires 100-percent focus and concentration, much like mountain biking. The other huge benefit is that families and kids are encouraged to participate through a half-mile Kids Run on the Kingfisher Trail.

“Trail running is definitely a family friendly activity—just think of it as hiking

at speed.”  —Cliff LI

2015 marked the third year I raced the base, and the second time that I participated with my entire family. Since I moved to Arkansas more than 15 years ago, I’ve tried to share my love of the outdoors with my kids. They’ve been to countless trail runs, mountain bike and cyclocross races, and other outdoor events around the state. In the recent past, both of my boys have competed in the Mt. Nebo Bench Trail Run and the 4-H Youth and Family 5K Trail Run/Walk. 

Two years ago, we decided to Race the Base as a family.  My then-wife Jennifer, son Braden and I would be doing the four-mile run, while the two little ones would be doing the Kids Kingfisher Trail Run. We had trained a little bit beforehand, and I decided to support Jennifer during her first trail run by running with her. We had a great time running together. Braden learned the valuable lesson of not letting up at the very end, as another boy in his age group passed him in the finishing chute. I told him that is one mistake that everyone makes only once. 

A short while later, all the kids and parents congregated at the playground at the entrance to the Kingfisher Trail, and the kids’ run was underway. Connor took off like a bat out of hell, and I hung back with little Alison (who was three-and-a-half at the time). The Kingfisher Trail is extremely scenic, running alongside the Little Maumelle River among centuries-old bald cypress trees. I was definitely proud of my entire family for going out, doing their best, and having fun.  

This year, I participated again with all the kiddos, except Connor would be doing Race the Base instead of the kids’ run. After he took first in his age group at the 4-H Family 5K Trail Run, I convinced him that he would be able to do Race the Base as well. I told him that I would run with him around the lap of Stuckey Field, then leave him up to his own devices.

“Since I moved to Arkansas, I’ve tried to share my love of the outdoors with my kids.”      —Cliff LI

Connor seemed to be doing well after our warm-up lap, and I took off down the paved trail at my desired pace. I passed Braden soon after, and I figured he was about mid-pack. The race was challenging, but just as fun as I remembered. While descending a last brutal gravel hill the race directors threw in as a final challenge, I saw Braden going up and was surprised how close behind me he was. He finished not more than two minutes behind me. I told him I better watch out as he might put me to the test next year.

After cheering for my friends still finishing, I went back looking for Connor. Eventually I saw him coming down the last descent to the finish and ran with him to finish line. He finished in just over an hour and he said next year he’ll try to beat that. We finished our family running day doing the kids’ run with Alison.  

Trail running is definitely a family friendly activity—just think of it as hiking at a speed with a purpose. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend you bring your family out to one of the many trail runs around the state. Events like Race the Base would not be possible without the awesome volunteers and sponsors for this year’s race, and a personal thanks goes out to Bear State Bank, Go! Running, OrangeTheory Fitness, the Big Dam Bridge Foundation, Tie Dyed Trail Grub and Race Catering, and Arkansas Craft Distributors for creating an event that the whole family can enjoy.