The Mississippi Blues Marathon was the first of 2 marathons that I had planned for last weekend along with the First Light Mobile Marathon. I was travelling with my friends Mike & Paul who were also running both races so we could get 2 more states done toward a far off goal of running a marathon in all 50 states.
We left Milwaukee Friday morning flying to New Orleans where we rented a cart to drive 3 more hours up to Jackson, MS. The flight was uneventful but I did get to see a wonderful sunrise over the clouds.
We got to Jackson, checked into the hotel and headed off to the Expo to get out packets. The Expo was not very big at all but did have what we needed like Gu to purchase. They did have live music playing for most of the Expo which is a cool feature but what I am most impressed with from the start of this race was the packet contents. We received a nice short sleeve shirt which was a cotton one. I really liked this since I have way too many technical shirts and now I can wear this around more often. Next, int he packet, was 2 really cool swag items including what I think is the best piece of sway I have ever gotten at a race. Everyone got some Elvis sunglasses complete with black sideburns attached. They Are So Cool!!! We also got a pretty nice harmonica as well. I don't know how to play a harmonica all that well but it is fun to have. The Expo went very smoothly.
We woke up early on Saturday and drove to the start area and were able to park only 1 block from the start / finish area for free. It was very easy to find. The temps were in the upper 30's but there were no clouds in the sky and none were forecasted. The race started at 7AM, a few minutes before sunrise and was quite crowded the first few miles. There were over 650 full marathon runners and even more half marathoners starting but after 3 miles, the half marathoners cut off and the course was clear to go. It was here I stripped off my throw away shirt and was warmed up.
The course was described as "challenging" and I have to agree that it was. There were many hills all over the course with quite a bit of flat areas as well. The biggest issues I had with this course was that the streets in Jackson have a huge curved crest to them that running not int he center meant you had to run on an angle which was not easy. I usually tried to run in the center as much as possible and even close to traffic to avoid the hard angles. The course was a mix of residential and some business areas but mostly nice views with a few exceptions. Being a nice day, there were quite a few people out cheering us runners on.
My goal was to try to run about a 3:50 but I started slower but wasn't too worried. At mile 5, I needed to stop for a quick restroom break which made me lose about 2 minutes but I felt good afterwards. I could see the 4 hour pace group leader ahead of me but I knew he was a couple minutes ahead of pace as my Garmin kept me on track.
At mile 7, I saw Elvis come out of a port-o-let and wished him a happy Birthday since we were running on that day. He looked remarkable thin for being 76 years old. I did catch up to the 4 hour group and chatted with them for a bit. I learned that the pace leader had run the Icebreaker Marathon last year so that was cool. Not long after that I took off on them. I went through the half at about 1:57:30. My pace stayed good until about mile 18 when some hills began to take their toll on me but I was determined to still break 4 hours. I was not concerned with running the next day.
The hills were not very large but there were a lot of them. By mile 22, I was trying to figure out what I needed to run to still break 4 hours and knew that unless I had a complete breakdown, I had it. The sun was beating down on us the entire time which in some cases was nice, but did drain us some. At close to mile 23, we ran past a local school who had their drum corp out beating away. They were so good and very inspirational to keep us going. I took my last short walk break at mile 24 and then kept going. Now it was time for me to track down some of the runners I had seen in front of me for a lot of miles and use them to get me to the finish as fast as I could. I ended up passing a lot of them before the finish.
The last 1/2 mile was on a slight uphill climb and you could see the finish line for quite awhile through the downtown buildings. I get to the finish in a time of 3:56:14 good for 193rd place out of 665 finishers. Mike finished in 3:33:45 and Paul in 3:38:14. Of the 15 finishers from Wisconsin, Mike took 1st, Paul took 2nd, and I took 4th. They ripped on me for not completing the "sweep". I promised to try harder next time.
Elvis showing us his stuff after the race.
Right after I finished, they put this ginormous medal around my neck. I thought I was going to hit the ground it was so big and heavy. Definitely the largest medal I have ever received from a marathon. The post race good was not so good in my opinion. Cookies were OK but the food didn't seem appetizing to me. They did have some hot chocolate but it was so watered down it was actually quite bad. But the post race entertainment was pretty good. They had a stage set up where a few bands were playing and after the awards, they had a cool Elvis impersonator singing. We didn't stay long as we wanted to shower up before heading to Mobile, but it was fun while we were there.
All in all, I liked this race a lot. Best swag I have ever received from a race with the harmonica and really cool Elvis glasses (which Paul and I proudly wore most of the drive to Alabama, wonder what other drivers thought). Good shirt with a good design. Expo was average. Not big but adequate. The course was challenging but they didn't hide that. I just wish they could have tried to keep it on roads that were more level instead of crested. The medal was awesome but in some ways, maybe too big. Post race food was bland but the entertainment made up for it big time. I would definitely do this one again if I am ever in the area. Jackson did good.
The shirt was pretty good. At least it was not a technical shirt, I have too many of those.
The Medal was HUGE! I put it next to a dollar so you can see the true size.
OK, I may look like a real dork here, but I was having fun!
On to Alabama!