Saturday was the first race, and first half marathon of 2015, the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon, for myself. Susan and I (she did not run, but tagged along for moral support ans see family friends) traveled down to Jackson, MS for a race that I have heard quite a bit about. Having family friends in Jackson as well as its proximity to Memphis makes traveling there for races very tempting. It is always great to be able to drive to an out-of-town race without missing work and not needing a hotel room.
For 2015, the race was chosen to be a part of the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics reunion, along with the First Light Marathon in Mobile, AL. The two races even have a Back to Back Challenge for runners that want to participate in both events. While tempting to tackle both events, I decided it was not financially prudent this year. I will be running in Alabama next month anyway, so I just enjoyed the festivities in Jackson.
The race was honestly my toughest half marathon to date for various reasons. One, the course is tough. It is very hilly, even if none of the hills are monstrous. The elevation gained and lost is completely manageable, you just need to train for it. Two, it was cold. Really f’n cold, especially for us southern folks. At the start of the race, the temperature was 25 degrees, and it felt much colder than that. We froze while waiting to start. Three, my training was not quite adequate enough. Since the St. Jude Half during the first week of December, my longest run has been five miles. I was not as prepared for this race as I should have been, but I was thankfully able to finish, in the upright position for my sixteenth half marathon!
The race itself was very well-organized, with a clearly marked course, lots of support staff, information shared efficiently, and a dedication to its theme that makes you want to return in the future. The national anthem was played on a steel guitar to open the race, and every aspect of the race reflected the blues. For any runners staying in town on Saturday night, there was a race organized Blues Crawl in local restaurants to listen to more blues music that seemed like it would have been an awesome time.
Swag: A+: Instead of shirts, runners received running vests, which is a first for me, and will certainly get used quite a bit over the next few weeks. Runners also received a harmonica, which was an awesome way to include the theme while standing out among other events. The swag bags are also reusable, and there was a CD of local blues artists included that I have yet to listen to, but will this week. And then there is the medal. Guitar shaped, and larger than most medals, this thing is truly outstanding. The finisher’s medal will stand out on any medal rack! It is one of my all-time favorite medals, and I would gladly endure the hills again today to earn another one! The marathon medal had an attached guitar pick, and might have been even large than the ten inch guitar I received for the half marathon.
The post race refreshment tent was a madhouse, I ended up grabbing a drink, a banana, and exiting quickly, so I did not get to enjoy everything that there was to offer there. There were heaters inside the tent, and several people wanted to warm up. I get it, but I had no desire to fight the crowd any more than I had to that morning. The Mississippi Museum of Art was open for runners to eat, relax, and warm up in as well. You also received free entry to the museum with your bib.
Course: B: The support was great, and there were plenty of aid stations. The hills were noticeable, and definitely became a challenge late for me. The course took you through Jackson State University as well as Millsaps College, along with some other landmarks of Jackson. Towards the end, the course went through some residential neighborhoods which had some potholes to navigate around.Being that I twisted my ankle during the latter stages of the race, I can confirm that these potholes were a nuisance. There was music along the course which certainly helped with runner morale.
Overall: A: Great race with a great atmosphere and very memorable race swag. The biggest downside to the race is that it is held during the same weekend as the WDW Marathon events. A runner could not participate in both events, but, for anyone that misses out on the WDW registration, the Mississippi Blues Marathon and Half Marathon would serve as a great, and cheaper, backup plan. I would not hesitate to participate in this race again in the future! Also, the event has its own iPhone app for easy access to event info and pictures on the go!