Today was the FIRST running of the Mississippi Blues marathon and I would say that it has the potential to be a popular race. The race was very well organized and the whole Blues thing is great. The post race party area had live Blues, food…pizza, sandwiches, pastries, cookies and red beans & rice and drink…energy drink, water, coke products and two beer trailers! The course is probably not one where you can plan on a PR but it can be done. The course has several turns so there is never a stretch that becomes overly long or boring and the only long straight stretch is an out and back that makes up maybe six miles of the course and it is more than welcome because it is the only flat section. The rest of the course is pretty solid rolling hills, some of which are pretty steep in several places including a long climb from about mile 25 to the finish line.
The race began at 7 a.m. and the temperature was somewhere around 45 degrees. There was also complete cloud cover so the running weather was perfect with the exception of a bit of wind that came up late in the race. My Garmin ran out of juice at mile .79 and at about mile two I was passed by a man wearing pink running shoes, a pink tank top and…a pink tutu, yep, a tutu! He was pretty fast so I guess he gets to wear whatever he wants. Undeterred I pressed ahead and focused on keeping my pace. By mile 8 I was already feeling the hills in my hip flexors but still felt pretty strong and by mile 11 I was having some difficulty running down hill.
Somewhere near mile 12 the long flat out and back started and it was just in time. I was running very well on the flats and ended up passing a few people and then about mile 13 and a half I was passed by a woman pushing a baby jogger…ouch! I’m not sure if she was part of the race but if she was I never saw her again. At mile 14 there was an excellent Blues guitarist and my chance to see tutu guy heading back in from the out and back. There was also a huge group of Blue Cross Blue Shield employees, the main event sponsor, on the side of the road cheering like crazy. It was a great shot of motivation.
Once I left the flats it was back to the hills, probably the steepest and longest of the race and I could feel my pace slowing as I continued to grind out the miles. About mile 20 I began passing some people who had passed me earlier in the race and started to look for people ahead to try and pick off. I got a couple people who had pretty much blown up or were cramping but there were not a whole lot of runners near me at that point, maybe one every 100 yards or so. During the final mile long climb to the finish line I could hear someone coming up behind me and I tried to push the pace and succeeded in putting some distance between us but in the last tenth of a mile or so the guy caught and passed me and I didn’t have enough to answer back with but I did get a pretty nice surprise…the finish clock had just rolled over to 3:51…a new PR was in the bag! I ended up finishing in 3:51:33, which was good enough to get me 103 place overall out of some unknown number of participants…I think there were over 600 in the marathon, maybe over 1000 I don’t know I’ll have to come back and check out the results.
Finally, the schwag was probably the best I have ever received…if you decide to stay over Saturday night. In the schwag bag you get a pair of cheep sunglasses, a hammer gel, a couple ads and a Blues CD. However, as part of the race you also get free entry into a live Blues concert at a locally famous club…Hal & Mal’s, and you get two free drinks while there! The GEEKGRL and I went to the concert and hooked up with fellow blogger Bill Anders and his wife and son. We had a great time and, incidentally, used our full compliment of free beer tickets.
The Mississippi Blues marathon is and up and comer I think and people shouldn’t be concerned about “What on earth is there to do in Jackson, MS?!” because the answer is plenty…or at least enough. There are some very good restaurants, a well run race and the best Blues I have yet to hear.