It was a 5 hour drive from Nashville and we scooted into Jackson and the marathon expo with about 5 minutes to spare (although, they did have extended packet pick-up hours that lasted till 9pm. GREATLY APPRECIATED).
I think that was a sign of things to come.
Saturday morning we woke up and it was raining. Hard. We drove into town and ended up getting to park RIGHT AT THE START LINE. I mean, seriously, it took us less than 20 seconds to walk to the start line. So, we were able to chill in the car until right at start time. That is a huge bonus particularly when it's raining outside.
By the time the starting gun went off, the rain has slacked off a lot and by a mile in, it wasn't raining anymore.
The race started and wound it's way out of downtown and through some seedier parts of town. After about a mile or so of this, I started thinking... GOOD FOR YOU, JACKSON!!!! I have been guilty in the past of making comments like.... "why can't they avoid the bad parts of town, etc?" And I decided in those first few miles that I need to stop being so obtuse about life and communities. We need to stop further marginalizing "bad parts of town" by just avoiding them and pretending they don't exist. Not only is that just making the problem worse... it's pulling the wool over our eyes. The poor/commercial/industrial/boarded up parts of town are just as much of a city as the beautiful/wealthy/tree lined boulevards.
I loved the fact that this marathon was embracing that and showcasing that their city has communities and areas that have fallen on hard times.
And then after mile 7, we spent the next 19 miles running through some of the most affluent neighborhoods I've ever seen. So.... okay. I got a little too excited, too quick.
I would describe the race course as rolling. There weren't really too many long, steep climbs, but there were lots of gently rolling hills. I loved the elevation profile of the course.
The marathon and the half total were capped at 5,000 participates, so that kept the course spread out well enough, but there were also plenty of people always around, which I definitely appreciated.
I thoroughly enjoyed the race, the course, and most of all, the volunteers. The volunteers were spectacularly gracious and there was at least one smiling volunteer at every single road that intersected with the course. Even random neighborhood roads where it was VERY clear that the course didn't turn there, there was a volunteer. And when you thanked the volunteer, most of them said... "Thank YOU for running!" Like, seriously??? How amazing is that? It's like they were getting paid or something.
Even when it the rain started pouring (around mile 18 for me), the volunteers were still cheerful and gracious. JACKSON, YOU ROCK!
I ran straight through till mile 16, thinking... well, I'll at least get a good 16 mile training run out of it. From mile 17 onward, I played a game with myself that helped me mentally and physically finish the race with a smile on my face. The entire course was lined with orange cones. I made a couple of rules for myself:
1. If I was going to walk, I would only allow myself to walk the length of one cone to the next.
2. As soon as I got to the next cone, I had to start running again.
3. Before I could walk again, I had to run at least the distance of 2 cones. (Most of the time, I found myself running much more than that, but that was the bare minimum).
This ensured that I was still running double the amount that I was walking. It gave my mind something to focus on and I found myself even contemplating which cones to walk between (trying to run to the two that had the most distance between them).
It was really coming down for miles 18-25 for me.
I finished the race in just over 5 hours and was thrilled with the whole experience. I highly recommend this race and could easily be convinced to go back there and run it again.
Swag: A long sleeve half zip top, a BB King CD, and a harmonica. Haha.
Mississippi: Another state crossed off the list!