A Running Glance:
Things I loved
- Unique handmade finisher medals
- Great finish line grub
- Post-race stretching & rolling by Total Rehab
Things I less than loved
- Hilly course but loved the challenge
In a sea of franchise race series, the Magnolia Marathon & Half is truly a hidden gem. It boasts similar amenities to those found at a chain event (and many you won’t) without the corporate price tag. The Magnolia Marathon & Half offers many of the same benefits as a big-time race, but with a home-town feel!
Early bird pricing for the half started at $40. I’m here to tell you: you will not receive more bang for your buck at any other race! Between the handmade finisher medal, nice long-sleeved race shirt, fun on-course experience and the spread at the finish line, it’s easy to feel like I was on the better end of this deal! The price does increase the closer you near race day: June 15: $50, August 1: $65, October 1: $80. Even at full-price, this race is still at the top of my bargain list! The Marathon and Relay had a similar pricing structure, as follows: (Marathon) Early Bird: $60, June 15: $70, August 1: $85, October 1: $100. (Relay) Early Bird: $135, June 15: $145, August 1: $165, October 1: $170. Signing up with a friend for the “relay team” is an awesome option for those wanting to earn the unique handmade Magnolia wood medal without all that pesky running! <3
The t-shirt is brand “ANVIL Lightweight” and is 65% polyester and 35% cotton. It’s super thin and indeed quite lightweight. I adore the color (green is my favorite) and the fit and style are perfect. Included in the “swag bag” (which was a little cheap, but better than the usual throw-away plastic bag!) was a MagMar branded sticker and my *personalized* race bib. It would be cool to get to pick what was on the bib, and also the name is a little small. I’m just nit-picking though, because this was an awesome haul, for sure.
I live in the Jackson area, so Friday I left straight from work headed to Meridian. Thankfully, I asked one of my running buddies to pick up my packet because with traffic leaving Jackson, I wasn’t able to make it to PPU (packet pick-up) before they closed at 7 p.m. However, I was able to meet up with my friends at the local Olive Garden to carb load and swap running stories. The restaurant had a special deal for participants: show your bib and receive 10% off. Yet another little bonus orchestrated by the event organizers! #CarbLife #TheRealReasonWeRun
The finish line … this is where the rubber meets the road, as my Daddy would say. SO. MUCH. YUMMY. FOOD. Anyone who knows me knows I love fried chicken, and it was definitely a welcome sight after 13.1 miles of Meridian hills! Jimmy John’s was giving out sub sandwiches, Weidmann’s had several delicious desserts available, and there was also a BEER TRUCK. (Is my high rating starting to make sense? Keep reading!)
So … this ANGEL of a race director decided one day, “Hey, you know what would be an awesome perk for our runners? Maybe if we had Total Rehab come down and offer free stretching and rolling to our runners at the finish line!” This was the first time I’ve ever seen this perk NOT in a VIP “I paid extra” section after a race. This awesome service was available for everyone to take advantage of, and it was downright delightful! It *really* helped with post-race soreness. Thanks, Total Rehab and MagMar!
This unique medal is the very first thing that caught my eye about this race. Several years back someone shared a medal photo online, and I learned that these beauties are handmade from Magnolia wood (Mississippi’s State Tree.) Each year, the medal shape reflects the annual number. For instance, this was the 8th annual event, so the medal was octagon shaped with eight sides. The Race Director’s father actually hand cuts these (from local trees) and stamps each one himself. What a treasure each one is! (PS – The age group awards are also handmade in the same manner and are Mississippi shaped.)
The two photos below feature the 2019 Magnolia Marathon & Half Overall Winners. A new half marathon course record of 1:19:43 was recorded! How exciting! (PS – My time was 10-minutes shy of DOUBLE that! #WorldsOkayestRunner)
First photo: Half Marathon
Male: Stephen Hack, Columbus, MS – 1:19:43 (new course record!)
Female: Danielle Patterson, Tuscaloosa, AL – 1:31:41
Second photo: Marathon
Female: Jamie Gibson, Prairie Village, KS – 3:22:42
Male: Allan Barnette, Cape Girardeau, MO – 3:00:26
There were so many volunteers along the route and the local police were out in full force as well. Lots of friendly faces to be seen!
Both the marathon and half marathon courses are USATF certified, and the routes take runners through downtown Meridian, both beginning and finishing at City Hall. The marathon course consists of running back through the start/finish line area and then going back out to complete the half marathon course a second time. I think it’s mentally tough to cross that finish line at the “half-way” point, and I commend all the athletes who did just that! Congrats on your awesomeness. You are amazing.
Course Difficulty: LEVEL 3
The course was a little hillier than I’m used to. I had been properly warned, which I’m thankful for. When I go into a race expecting a tough route, I usually build it up in my mind so much that the actual course isn’t nearly as bad as I had imagined. So, I really had a great time out there challenging myself and doing what I love.
There were more aid stations than I could count and ample support on course. They even had a couple photographers out there. There were not a ton of spectators, but a few were scattered here and there. The police were out and stationed at key intersections. I always felt safe even though it was an open course to traffic.
*Let me tell y’all something (kinda) funny that happened.* I usually carry a Nathan Speedshot Plus Handheld water bottle with me on runs longer than a 10k. A few nights before the Meridian Marathon & Half, I put a little Dawn dish detergent inside the cap and bottle to let it soak. The next day I asked my youngest daughter to put it in the dishwasher for me. (Which she lovingly did – like every preteen – she enjoys chores!) Then, Friday morning, as I was preparing to leave, I accidentally left the bottle on the counter. My sweet Opiekins actually drove it up to my office so I’d have it for my race! (He is THE BEST!) Then, that night, while walking into the hotel, I lost the top to the bottle. I noticed it missing when I was laying my things out for the next morning, so I retraced my steps and located in the hotel parking lot.
During the race the next day, after taking a few swigs from the bottle, I thought, “This tastes a little funny.” But I concluded it must have been some Tailwind residue in the bottle giving it that lemony taste. Roundabout mile-6, after taking a few more sips, I determined something was definitely wrong. At a water stop around mile-10, I decided to dump the water from my bottle and get a fresh pour. Imagine my surprise when I opened the bottle and it was literally overflowing with soap suds! I had been running and shaking it (and drinking it) all that time and it was just as soapy and sudsy as could be! No wonder it tasted off! At that point in the race, it wasn’t worth stopping to rinse it (repeatedly, it would have taken several minutes to free it from its soapy state) so, I just accepted actual fresh “soap-free H2O” from the aid station and vowed that NEXT TIME, I would try to listen to the universe when it attempted to protect me from poisoning myself. (I rejected both efforts, overriding fate, thinking I knew best. Lesson learned, lol.)
The race guide gave us specific instructions on where to park. Being a Meridian Marathon & Half newbie, I appreciated the attention to little details like this. We arrived a little early on race morning and snagged “princess parking” on the first level of the parking garage we were advised to utilize. The garage was right around the corner from the start/finish line; it just doesn’t get much more convenient than that!
This is one of those races that you can literally feel the director’s heart and soul has been poured into. The lovely Evelyn Watkins works extremely hard to organize this top-notch event in Meridian every November, and I’m here to tell you her dedication is evident. I enjoyed her social media posts leading up to the race and her high level of communication and excitement. Evelyn is a runner herself, and therefore brings to the table the knowledge and experience it takes to provide Meridian Marathon & Half runners a memorable and enjoyable experience. I would run this race again in a heartbeat, and I hope to see you all there in 2020.
“Finishing thoughts …”
The Meridian Marathon & Half is one of the most organized races I’ve run, with so much attention to detail. This is a “runner’s race” with true heart. Thank you, #MagMar2019! In addition to executing an excellent event, they also raised $4,500 for their charity, Alzheimer’s Mississippi. Well run, well run indeed.