A Running Glance:
Things I loved
- Pre & Post Race Atmosphere
- Fast & Flat Course
- Cool Medal & Beach2Bayou Challenge Option
Things I less than loved
- Small “Expo”
- Expensive Swag
RISE & SHINE! This “Coastal Running Festival” combines two of my favorite things: running and scenic views along the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast. #RunShine #SoakUpTheRun
This event’s prices were comparable to similar races of this size, and as always, registering early will save you the most money. The price creeps up as the event date nears. They do offer great combination options if you’re interested in “doubling-down.” Finishers who race on Saturday and Sunday even receive this neat race branded crawfish tray, which really comes in handy post-race when you’re balancing bowls of gumbo, beer and all that sweet bling on sore legs. 😉
I ran this half in 2017 and have consistently regretted all the merchandise I *didn’t* buy. So, in 2019 I arrived with my credit card in hand and bought every single item that I wanted! I mean, why else do I work 40+ hours every week, if not to fund my race swag addiction?? The swag was a teensy bit pricey, but it was also decent quality. (I paid $25 for the RUNSHINE BOCO BRAND VISOR, $45 for the BELLA+CANVAS SWEATSHIRT, $25 for the TANK TOP, and $5 for the 13.1 STICKER. *Prices listed are to the best of my recollection and therefore are probably wildly skewed and inaccurate, lol.)
The drawstring bag was included, as was the light blue t-shirt pictured above. The bag is double-sided and very handy, I’ve already used it multiple times. (I like the palm tree printed side!) The race t-shirt brand was “Always Advancing,” and I really like the style and fit. It’s a very thin and lightweight blend of 65% polyester and 35% rayon, perfect for a workout. I really like the design too; the front of the shirt displays the words RUNSHINE centered between two palm trees. The back is sponsor free and has a small SOAK UP THE RUN logo top and center.
The expo was inside a tent this year; I can’t recall the expo from 2017 … maybe it always is! It was pretty small, with no real vendors. They did have a neat little setup, and packet pick-up was organized and efficient, as always. There were a couple of local companies on hand (Humana had a sweet ax-throwing booth and green screen photo opp) but otherwise, there wasn’t much to it. (Pictured below are my youngest child, Boo Boo, and my oldest child, Opie.)
The finish line party was pretty awesome. We finished inside the MGM Park, the home stadium for the local minor-league baseball team, the Biloxi Shuckers! There was a ton of food and drinks, and I don’t just mean a Gatorade and a banana either. Pasta, gumbo, and a variety of beers were all waiting for finishers inside the stadium!
The 2019 medals were high-quality pieces with custom ribbons. I liked this year’s color theme of bright oranges and vibrant blues. The medallion itself was shaped like the great state of Mississippi. (I ran the sister race in Louisiana in January of 2020 so I’m including a couple of photos of the “Beach to Bayou Challenge” medal that finishers of both races received. This thing was much bigger than I anticipated, and the design incorporated the MS and LA medals.)
There were plenty of volunteers on hand at the expo and on race day. There weren’t a ton of spectators, but there were some folks out and about waiting to cheer on family or friends. I’d love to see more action along the route. While 12 miles of coastline is lovely, it would be really neat to experience a little more hype along the way!
The course itself is a point to point beginning from Jones Park on Hwy 90 and then running parallel to the coastline. It’s approximately 12 miles of a straight, fast and flat highway! The race started early on a Sunday morning so we had the road to ourselves for several miles before Sunday traffic picked up. One lane was open to cars, and then one lane was closed for participants.
Course Difficulty: LEVEL 2
The last mile was the toughest!! After running 12 miles in a straight line on a flat course, runners then had to run up an interstate on-ramp with a steep gradient. I kept weaving from left to right, trying to determine if it was better to be at the top or the bottom. Luckily, that portion of the course was fairly short and my dilemma resolved itself. Then, you were faced with the glorious, glorious finish line … which you then had to run PAST!! You read that right. After running 12 miles, we had to pass the finish line, then continue about a quarter-mile before turning around to make our way back. Seeing all the finishers and spectators waiting, smelling the food, and hearing the crowds and announcers was both very welcomed but also very torturous! I loved spotting my family waiting to see me; that was just the boost I needed to finish that last mile strong(ish)! I also loved seeing the other runners along the highway as we doubled back.
There were multiple water stations along the way, at least every mile or two. The water and the Gatorade were plentiful on course. Again, I’d have loved to have seen more action (and distraction!) along the route from volunteers and spectators.
We stayed at a hotel right across from the finish line and opted to forgo the shuttle and drive to the start line on race morning. (Opie, wasn’t running so he spent his morning playing chauffeur to me and a couple of my friends. Thanks, Opiekins.) We easily found a place to park across from Jones Park, and Opie saw us off before returning to the hotel to sleep a few more hours, I presume. 😉
One of the many hats a race director is required to wear is that of a keen communicator. An RD needs to anticipate the questions their runners will ask and make that information readily available in all forms, and EARLY! The race website contained everything a participant needed to know, as did the very informative printed race guide booklet we received at PPU. In the months and weeks leading up to the race, the race management team developed a strong social media presence and actively kept participants engaged and informed. The 2019 MS Gulf Coast Marathon was well run (I do love a pun!), and I would definitely run it again. If you’re looking to mark Mississippi off your “50 States” list, definitely check out the MS Gulf Coast Marathon! (Hey, check it out even if you live down the street and have extra money to throw at some sweet swag and a cool medal.)
Finishing Thoughts …
One of my most favorite things about running is the people it’s brought into my life. Last summer I ran a local “Hero” themed 10k, so, of course, I wore my best Wonder Woman attire. That’s when I saw him: MARDI GRAS MAN!! Mark (aka Mardi Gras Man) is a native New Orleanian on a mission to run a race every weekend. And mark doesn’t just slip on a pair of sneakers and show up, MARK SHOWS UP at an event, always dressed in some coordinating fashion, and never without a smile! This endeavor is what led him and I to cross paths that faithful Saturday in Ridgeland, MS. Meeting Mark that day was a definite, “Did we just become best friends?” (FROM STEPBROTHERS) moment for me! I’m to understand that Mark has managed to keep this race streak alive for over a year and he’s still going strong today! Isn’t that awesome. Mark is my race idol.
Basically, I want to be Mark when I grow up. Keep your streak alive, friend, and more importantly: keep smiling!
Another of my favorite things about the running community is that you never have to look very far to find a little RUNspiration. (Here’s another thing I love: making up words. Especially words that include the word RUN.) Run+Inspiration = KATIE. Katie finished her very first marathon at the 2019 MS Gulf Coast Marathon, and she was five months pregnant at the time. I don’t know about you, but when I was five months pregnant, the most exerting thing I did was to try to tie my shoes after eating two orders of Sonic chili cheese fries.
Katie, you’re an inspiration and an amazing athlete, wife, and mom! Maybe I also want to be Katie when I grow up …
Well, there you have it … another RUNable take on another RACEable event. I hope in reading this, you’ve found a little RUNspiration of your own. Maybe I’ll see you on the coast in 2020! Come bask in the #Runshine and #SoakUpTheRun at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon scheduled for December 12-13.