A Running Glance:
Things I loved
- Excellent COVID-19 Precautions
- Fast & Flat – Hello PR!
- Three Medal Weekend
Things I less than loved
- Expensive Swag
- 5k & Half T-Shirts Too Similar
I was *beyond* excited for my triumphant #Return2Racing at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon, especially after such a lengthy COVID-induced racing hiatus! I was so excited, in fact, that I PR’d my 5k on Saturday and my Half Marathon on Sunday. <head explodes>
Quarantine does a runner good, I suppose. 😉
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. I believe the Half Marathon started out around $85 and ended up at $125 the week before the event, just to give you a range. They do offer great registration combination options if you’re interested in “doubling-down,” and running the 5k Saturday and the Half or Full Marathon on Sunday. Finishers who race both days also receive a THIRD MEDAL. Y’all know I love me some BLING.
Pictured above are two versions of #FlatChris, each ready to run Saturday’s 5k and Sunday’s Half. I have to give a shout-out to my best friend and significant other, the one and only, Mr. Opie Cooper. He designed the RUNable tank I wore during the Half as well as the JUNK Brand headband I sported under my hat that day. LOOK HOW BEAUTIFUL THIS DESIGN IS!! (Despite what their name would suggest, these headbands are definitely NOT JUNK! They stay in place, absorb a ton of sweat, and look great!) Opie used the RUNable logo and branding as his inspiration. These custom-designed items were actually Christmas gifts that Opie insisted I open early so I’d have them on race day. He is the best! #ThanksHoneyBuns #MerryChristmasToMe
Okay, so I know these are “COVID times,” so, I hate to complain, especially not knowing the extenuating circumstances behind this decision … HOWEVER … duty calls! (I am, after all, required by law to give you my honest review!) So, here goes: I loved the shirts themselves. The material is light, breathable, and perfect for wearing during a workout or run. I like the colors and the designs were both perfectly lovely. So, why oh why are the 5k and Half Marathon shirts almost identical? They’re the same color and the design is strikingly similar. So much so, in fact, that at packet pick-up I thought the volunteer accidentally gave me two of the same shirts, and I tried to give one of them back. I would love to see some serious differentiation in these designs in the future. Let’s mix it up!!
I did appreciate the MGCM branded mask. That was a nice touch!
Packet pick-up (PPU) ran smoothly and we proceeded through the stations quite efficiently. Masks were required, as was social distancing. There was an exceptional amount of swag available for purchase. Everything was high quality (I filled my suitcase last year!) but it all also came at a premium price. A $50 sweatshirt is what I call “big time,” haha.
The start and finish lines also required masks and social distancing. They started the races in waves and even went so far as to place cones on the ground both in the holding areas as well as in the corrals. Attending this race proved to me that there actually is a safe way we can still hold running events, even in a pandemic. THIS IS MOST EXCELLENT NEWS.
This event ALWAYS has high-quality bling, and this year was no exception! I earned a finisher medal for the 5k, one for the Half Marathon, and then a third “Double-Down” medal for running two events that weekend. I also plan to run the 5k/Half combo at their sister event, the Louisiana Marathon, in March. Doing so will earn me an additional FOUR MEDALS; one for the 5k, one for the Half, another for running both events that weekend, and then another for completing the “Beach to Bayou Challenge,” by running both Mississippi and Louisiana. If you lost count, that’s two weekends of fun, FOUR awesome races, and SEVEN fabulous medals. *faints*
There were plenty of volunteers on hand at PPU 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 nearly 13 solid miles of coastline is lovely, it would be really neat to experience a little more hype along the way! Maybe once it’s safe to return to gathering in groups, we can get this party started!
Do you know what I love? An out-and-back race! I know some people don’t like them, they would prefer to run a route that is “all-new.” But, here’s what’s great about an out-and-back … PEOPLE. My favorite thing about racing is PEOPLE. I love trying to catch someone. I love trying to get away. I love seeing all the smiling faces of friends and strangers alike, circling back on the course. I love knowing “I’m halfway there!” I love love love an out-and-back.
The MS Gulf Coast 5k course was a fast and flat route that started and finished at Point Cadet Marina. It was closed to traffic and The Half Marathon course was 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
They just don’t get much flatter than these courses! I actually PR’d my 15k and 10k times in the two weekends before these events, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel out there on race weekend. I’d been training for months with a goal in mind, but you just never know how it will go. There are so many factors at play; nutrition, hydration, the weather, is that a tiny granule of sand in my sock? (Ha.) My 5k PR time was five years old, so needless to say, I was THRILLED to see my old record fall. I felt like a gazelle out there, lol. Then, I turned around the very next day and PR’d my HM time! Talk about a successful race weekend. <3
There was ample support along the course, with regular water stops and aid station positioned every mile or two.
We chose to stay at the Best Western near the finish line. They offered a special early (EARLY!) breakfast for runners and the race arranged for shuttles to pick us up around the corner. It was super easy and convenient.
We used this event as a little mini “racecation” to celebrate my friend Jen’s birthday. We had not traveled at all since the pandemic began, so it was really nice to get away. We started the trip by detouring through McHenry on our way south to stop at a little “zoo” I had heard about. A few weeks before, I booked our group a “private, hands-on tour and sloth encounter” at Wild Acres Hands on Animal Experience. Talk about starting the weekend off right! It was definitely “hands-on!!!” We had an absolute blast. If you’re ever down that way, this place is worth a visit!
We also happened across a little hole-in-the-wall diner on the way into McHenry on Friday. That’s where I found this awesome banana split! Once we arrived in Biloxi, we checked into the hotel then hightailed it to PPU which was located at a local Sal & Mookies pizza joint. While we there picking up our race packets, we also “picked up” a pizza! #PinappleBelongsOnPizza #TeamPineapple
Then, Saturday night we met up for a fancy dinner at Mary Mahoney’s. The food was amazing!! If you’re ever on the coast, Mary Mahoney’s is a MUST.
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 2020 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.)
I was thoroughly impressed with this event, especially given the difficult circumstances. I’m very grateful that the race directors remained dedicated to this event despite the pandemic and worked diligently to ensure that the weekend’s races proceeded safely. Allow me to speak for those of us who rely heavily on running and racing because it’s simply apart of who we are … THANK YOU. We really needed this.
The next Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon running festival is set to be held December 10-12, 2021. Registration is set to open in March 2021; plan to register early for the best pricing. I hope to see ya there! #SoakUpTheRun #Runshine