For years there had been a half marathon in Oxford, MS that Susan wanted me to participate in, but for whatever reason, my schedule never seemed to align properly with it. And when I finally decided to make it a priority to appease my Ole Miss alum wife, the race was discontinued. That is how things go I suppose. But this year Run Oxford decided to organize a half marathon to showcase their beautiful town (even non Ole Miss fans like myself can concede to this fact) and encourage healthier living. In fact, Run Oxford has organized an entire series of races for 2016, dubbed as the Inn at Ole Miss Oxford Grand Prix Race Series. You can sign up for the short or long distances, or just for individual races. I opted for the long distance, and that is how I found myself in Oxford, MS on a brisk February morning preparing to run a race in which I was not properly trained (my fault) and had no clue what to expect.
I have been to Ole Miss several times with Susan and her family for tailgating and football, as well as a few times in my younger days for some debauchery, but I have never visited to campus so early or when there seemingly was so little happening. I arrived plenty early because I was not entirely sure of where I needed to be or how easy navigation was going to be on campus. It turns out that I was overly paranoid about this fact because there was plenty of parking adjacent to the expo and finish line, and this area was also quite close to the start line as well. I did not browse the expo being that I was picking up my packet the morning of the race, but by the looks of the setup inside the indoor practice facility which housed the expo and finish line, there were a decent amount of vendors for this newly minted race.
Since I was not fully trained (a recurring theme which I am not proud about, and I have started to address) for this race, I opted to use a run walk ratio of 2.5:1. This ratio served me quite well for the first 8-9 miles, but my lack of training and mental weakness from this lack of training took over and I went into full on “how much longer is this race” mode. Nothing on my body really hurt that badly besides my ego and my confidence, but this is the bed I made for myself, so I forged through it to finish the race is a personal worst time. This performance will likely be repeated another time or two this spring as I work to reset my running, healthy living, and dedication into my daily routine.
Course: A-: There were hills because running a race of any distance in Oxford will have hills. It cannot be avoided. The race organizers did do a great job of trying to minimize the impact of the hills, and tried valiantly to incorporate the biggest hills early in the race. This was appreciated by all of us runners. The course went throughout Ole Miss’ campus, Downtown Oxford, and several residential neighborhoods, ending in the Manning Center (name of the indoor practice facility). Finishing inside was a great idea for a February race, even though on this particular race day, it was not needed due to the unseasonably warm weather. The Ole Miss cheerleaders cheering you to the finish was a nice touch as well.
My only complaint about the course is that the Oxford Police Department were moving us off the road and onto the sidewalks by 8:30 am, even though not all of the roads had sidewalks to utilize. The race started at 7:00 am and the roads were supposed to be closed/reserved until 10:30 am. I guess the small number of runners expedited the urgency to fully reopen the roads.
Swag: A-: The race shirt was a full zipped hoodie which is awesome, even if they gave me the wrong size, and the race medal was nice looking, even if it was not revolutionary. There was no beer after the race, but there was plenty of chocolate milk, water, and refreshments to recover with. Also, they provided free race photos, which is always great.
Overall: A-: This was a fun and well-organized event. I am curious to see if this race does become an annual event, and how many more runners chose this race in the future. If it is offered and I am available to run it, I will return to this race. If for no other reason than having a very attainable personal best finishing time for the course!