Marathons: Paul #52, Leah #42, State #35 : Mississippi Blues Marathon 2015
10th January 2015, Jackson, Mississippi, USA
Finish Time = 3:52:18
We had certainly enjoyed our food and drink over the Christmas period but had also managed to keep up training runs every day or two. We weren’t sure how the first marathon of the year would go but we were hopeful.
In a recurring pattern for us, what should have been a warm Southern State to run in the winter had ended up being hit by the arctic cold front from Canada and was experiencing freezing temperatures that Mississippi was not used to.
However what was particularly special about this marathon (other than it being our 35th state) was that it was the venue for the annual Marathon Maniacs Reunion. Once we arrived we checked in to the hotel, wrapped up warm and set off on foot to explore Jackson. First impressions weren’t too good, the roads and sidewalks (pavements) were cracked and falling apart. Many of the buildings were empty, abandoned and also crumbling along with having smashed windows. We made our way over to the convention center where the expo was being held. This was a nice modern building, inside there was a Maniacs table and we spoke to a few friends. The rest of the expo was small but efficient and had some live blues musicians playing too.
After that we went to find some supplies for our breakfast the next morning. One thing that struck us was considering it is the capital city of the state of Mississippi, it was deserted, barely anyone around at all. Perhaps because it was unusually cold and people were staying in. That evening we went to the Maniacs reunion event at the Arts Museum followed by a pasta dinner. It was a great evening, we got to meet some new people, catch up with old friends and have some laughs with speeches from the 3 founding Maniacs.
The next morning the race was starting at 7am with a Maniacs group photo at 6:30am. Our hotel was only 5 minutes from the start area and we knew from past experience that the group photos never start on time as it’s difficult to get everyone together. We left the hotel to arrive at the start line in time for the photo but as we got there it was literally being taken – we saw the camera flashes and then everyone dispersed. Oops! We saw the line for the toilets and figured it would actually be quicker (and nicer) to just go back to our hotel for the last pre-race toilet break. So we went back and then made our way to the start line for the second time slightly before 7am.
We’d wrapped up appropriately and while the temperatures were below freezing, they weren’t as cold as some other marathons we’ve run. We judged this on the basis that the water at the aid stations wasn’t freezing over in the cups. We set off and within minutes a familiar face appeared alongside us, our friend Cade. We talked for a bit before he sped off at his always-impressive pace.
After a few miles we crossed a roundabout where a guy was standing on the edge with a megaphone and announced “Welcome to the hood!” I think he was being serious. We ran through a stretch with boarded up houses, abandoned shops, even whole apartment complexes which were empty and gutted with rubble all around. There were old, closed down bars that looked like a shadow of their former selves. Some had some great jazz / blues artwork painted on the sides of the buildings but the days of blues music being played inside had long passed.
After a while we ran from the Mississippi State University campus which contrary to the main city area, was modern with newly constructed buildings nearing completion. We had started near the front of the crowd so after a while the 3:40 pacer caught up with us. “It’s the Pipers!” he shouted out. It turned out our friend Brian was the 3:40 pacer. We hadn’t seen him for a while so it was good to run for a bit and catch up, he then carried on maintaining his advertised pace. Soon after a guy named Ming started talking to us, an accountant from Chicago, he was hoping for around a 3:40 but was finding it tough due to lack of training from the harsh winter Chicago was enduring. We stayed together for a while and then he dropped off.
The volunteers were fantastic, it has to be said. Given the temperatures which the people of Mississippi weren’t used to, there weren’t many members of the general public out supporting but there were many race volunteers in their shirts and all of them were encouraging and full of spirit. Definitely another reminder of the famous Southern hospitality. A lot of them shouted out words of thanks for coming to their city and other words of encouragement. Despite the cold they genuinely seemed to be happy to be out there for the runners.
There weren’t as many bands as expected in the first half, perhaps they had thought twice about playing in below freezing weather, but in the second half there were definitely more live bands playing their music.
The hills in the second half definitely made it tougher (and slower) than the first, every corner we turned seemed to have another hill to climb up. We’d banked some time in the first half, running around a 1:50, so we were confident that it would be another sub 4 state. Ming caught us back up for a bit and then dropped off.
Eventually we ran up one final hill, took a right turn and saw the finish line. We ran through in 3:52 and tried to hold up 3 fingers and 5 fingers to signify our 35th State. We didn’t factor in that this would be reversed from the camera perspective though! You can’t usually think of those things with marathon brain, sometimes counting the fingers is hard enough.
We were very happy to have run a convincing sub 4 for our first marathon of 2015. We waited around in the finish area for a few minutes to see Ming come through and congratulate him on also achieving the sub 4 he wanted. Then we went off to the runner’s tent for a feed. Pizza slices and chocolate milk featured heavily in the items I grabbed. Some food never tastes as good as after a marathon, although with a shrunken stomach you can’t eat anywhere near the amount your brain is telling you to!
It was great to be part of our second Maniacs reunion event and we’re definitely looking forward to next year’s.
Elevation Graph from my running watch:
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