A Running Glance:
Things I loved
- Unique 3-day challenge event
- Three custom-made coordinating medals
- Sweetest race directors with a heart for giving
Things I less than loved
- Could use more volunteers, spectators and aid stations
The Whistle Stop Challenge was a first of its kind running event for Southwest Mississippi! The Challenge consisted of three race events spanning three days and by design, took place in three different cities in Southwest MS along the railroad: Brookhaven, Summit, and McComb. This setup showcases the rich history of all three towns, which were all started by, or trace much of their early success to, the arrival of the railroad in the 19th century. All three cities currently have beautifully preserved train depots which served as the perfect location to host the start and finish of each race. Each day of the weekend series included a race in one of the three “whistle stop” towns. The series was also arranged as a challenge event with longer race distances at each “stop.” The first event was a 5k race in Brookhaven on Friday, followed by a 10k race in Summit on Saturday, and then the grand finale was a 15k race in McComb on Sunday.
At $50 for THREE RACES, each including a coordinating custom finisher medal, I’d say this race is a bargain! The race directors, Defining Moments Events gave a portion of the proceeds raised to the Southwest Mississippi Children’s Advocacy Center, an organization that supports victims of child abuse across a five-county area in the state. What a worthy and important cause, and just in time for Child Abuse Awareness Month, too.
I like that the t-shirt has the small Whistle Stop Challenge logo on the left front pocket. In my best Tim Gunn from Project Runway voice, “Well done, designers!” No matter if you registered for one, two or all three of the events, you received ONE shirt, which I thought was smart. I’d rather be given one great shirt than three less-than-great options. The shirt is a nice heathered navy color, Gildan brand “Soft-Style”, and consists of 65% polyester & 35% cotton, which is a good blend to wear when you’re active. The back of the shirt featured the Whistle Stop Challenge logo inlaid over a collage of photos taken from the three different train depots. It’s a little busy, but still a pretty design. Below that are the logos of the many generous sponsors who helped make this unique event a reality; thank you all for your support!
There was no expo associated with this event but there were three different finish lines at three different train depots across southwestern Mississippi. From cookies and popcorn at the 5k to cupcakes and pretzels at the 10k to more cookies and fruit at the 15k, the snack game was STRONG! I always like to see a few more food options, especially at races of longer distances. Next year, a big spread on the last day would really be fun! After covering 18.6 miles over the course of the weekend, I think it would be really neat to celebrate all that awesomeness with some real grub! The Friday night race featured a food truck and really great live music!
Well, well, well, what have we here? Is it THREE AWESOME CUSTOM-MADE MEDALS that look like a TRAIN!!!??? Why, yes. Yes, it is!! These medals are race gold! Y’all know we runners will really put ourselves through the wringer for a little bling and a free banana!! Seriously, these medals are AMAZING!! I’d suggest maybe next year making the ribbons different colors to really show the differentiation between the three events, but that is a very, very minor complaint. I love these medals! Kudos!
The age group and overall awards were pretty neat too. AG winners received a branded train whistle (How appropriate!), while the overall winners were given these unique trophies made from railroad nails. Isn’t that special?
There was a multitude of police officers on course in many sections of the races, but there were some areas where we were running on open roads alongside traffic. Overall, plenty of volunteers to get the job done, but it’s always more fun when the course atmosphere is hyped with energetic folks who are stoked to see you run by!!
The courses were all well marked and quite scenic. Downtown Brookhaven was charming and quaint, and the 5k race began at the old train depot on Whitworth Avenue, which is now the Lincoln County Military Museum. The route looped through the historic old town and included several lovely neighborhoods. The 10k route began from the Summit Train Depot on East Railroad Avenue and incorporated the beautiful campus of Southwest Mississippi Community College. Finally, the 15k started at the Bo Diddley Pavilion which overlooks the newly renovated Railroad Park. We ran through Edgewood Park, the medical district of McComb, as well as over a full mile through the Hollywood Cemetery before ending back where we began in downtown McComb, just adjacent to the McComb Railroad Museum. I just love mixing a little history lesson into my running!
Course Difficulty: LEVEL 2.5
The 5k and 10k both involved a couple fair inclines, both garnering a median score between “easy” and “moderate” on the RUNable difficulty scale. The 10k had one “Mama” hill between miles 2 and 3 that gave me pause (literally) but nothing I couldn’t muscle through (literally). That 15k though. Let’s talk about that! Maybe it was because I had just run a 5k and 10k in the 24 hours just prior; maybe it was because it was nearly 80 degrees; maybe it was all the direct sunlight, or maybe it was truly ALL. OF. THOSE. HILLS. This course scored a solid LEVEL 3 and oh, it was glorious!! I can truly say, despite its challenges, I loved every minute of running these three courses.
I think the 10k and 15k could have used a few more stops along the way, with water and electrolyte drinks, and maybe even a little nutrition. It was a warm weekend, and with these slightly longer distances, it’s even more important to fuel and hydrate.
Parking was not a problem at any of the three locations. Despite coming in hot (Who me? Late?) at the majority of the weekend’s start lines, I was able to park and get to where I was going with time to spare. *brushes the dust off my shoulder*
Oh, how I adore Steven & Jennifer McMorris! Defining Moments Events is truly an organization with its heart in the right place. I absolutely love seeing the good they do across our great state and the difference they make, right here at home. They’re above and beyond awesome with their level of communication, and the RACE GUIDE they produced would rival those furnished by directors of really large-scale events. It is always an honor and a privilege to participate in any event they oversee. Luckily, in addition to Whistle Stop, they also manage Brookhaven’s Ole Brook Run Series, which consists of five fun events spanning the entire year. Next up in this series is the Run to Remember at the end of May and then the Splash Dash in June. I highly recommend following them on Facebook so you can keep yourself in the loop on all the great events they’re putting together for us to enjoy. See you there!