I woke up slightly before my 5:30 am alarm after a night of tossing and turning. I know I slept in-between my restlessness, but I still didn’t feel super refreshed. First thing I did was peek out my hotel window to check on the weather. The streets were wet below, but it didn’t look like it was raining, so that was pretty good. I turned on the television to the local news channel (16) to watch the weather reports.
|Race morning weather.|
The local channel was also fully covering the marathon and half marathon which was fun to see.
The weather forecast wasn’t good. Although the rain in Jackson was light now, a huge swath of wetness was heading up from the Delta area with reports indicating a total of 1-3 inches of rain for the area by the time it ended. Great. Oh well. I didn’t have much choice but to buck up and put on my rain/windbreaker and get that 13.1 miles done.
|Morning selfie just before leaving the hotel.|
I left the hotel at about 6:40 am for the 7:00 am start. I figured I’d try to minimize my time out in the rain. It was an easy walk to the start, and once there I huddled under the overhang of a large building alongside the corral area with loads of other runners. We chatted a bit and then headed to the line up for the National Anthem. This was really cool. A guy with an electric guitar played the National Anthem in the style of Jimi Hendrix’s version. I would’ve snapped a picture, but with the rain, I kept the phone mostly tucked away. The race started promptly at 7:00 am, and we were off.
The temperatures were in the low 50’s, which was good for running, and the rain was pretty light at the start, so it really wasn’t too bad. I’m not one who likes running in the rain, but I knew I had to deal with it. At least it wasn’t freezing. All in all, it wasn’t so bad.
|View of starting line...wet and windy.|
|Starting line selfie, then I put my phone away.|
The first few miles of the race took us around the downtown area of Jackson. The initial onset was a little bit desolate with some warehouse type views, but this gave way to more interesting surroundings soon enough. One of the most exciting moments of the race was in this first bit. We ran through the campus of Jackson State University where we were met by the amazing marching band playing a huge, loud, killer piece of music to help us charge on through. Known as the “Sonic Boom of the South,” this marching band was beyond amazing! The sound was deafening, and I couldn’t help but laugh about the fact that all that music at 7 am on a college campus on a Saturday morning might not be popular with the rest of the school’s residents. So much for sleeping in, college students! Hee, hee! The marching band really helped quicken the pace.
After the campus loop, we turned back toward the downtown area. I really like the Jackson downtown. I feel like it is a city that is on the verge of a comeback. There are some really nice buildings there, like the Governor’s Mansion. We ran by most of the sites I walked by the day before. We ran by the Old State Capitol, the Civil Rights Museum, the infamous Municipal Library where the read-in took place years ago, and on along State Street where many old, beautiful houses turned businesses lined the streets. The rain was steady, but still not super downpour-y, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other avoiding puddles as best I could.
My biggest fear as I maneuvered the ups and downs of the pavement was slipping and falling in the wet conditions. I did my best to be mindful of each footfall. The first of the hills started around mile 4 on State Street. A steady uphill climb along the straightaway was tough, but not impossible. I much prefer early hills to late ones. Kate, who I had met at dinner the night before, said that the course had rolling hills with one of the toughest ones around mile 8 or so. I knew I had more to come.
The State Street stretch was a few miles long, and the street was lined with a combination of homes and businesses. We passed Milsaps College and the University of Mississippi Medical School. The gentle hills continued all along this stretch.
Around Mile 7 we ran through the only non-paved part of the race. We ran a loop through the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum which was a little historical looking farm-related area. It reminded me of a small, southern version of Sturbridge Village, but with fewer exhibits and on a much smaller scale. Unfortunately, at this point in the race the rain was much steadier, and the farm road we were running on was all mud and rocks. Yuck. Each step was a smush of muck. Part way through the farm loop, I spied a man sitting on one of the front porches of one of the farm houses. I yelled to him that this must be the part of the race dedicated to Muddy Waters. He laughed, and I did, too. I had to keep some humor about all this rain and mud.
Finally escaping the mud, the next part of the race brought us through a beautiful old neighborhood. There were gorgeous old established trees and other plants in this area and lovely homes of varied architectural design. I spied a gorgeous, tall, shiny magnolia tree along the way that made me smile. Residents of the neighborhood were scattered along this stretch to spectate and cheer us on, but only sparingly, most likely due to the rainy weather. It was a delightful experience to run through this area.
Directly after this, we ran along a major parkway where the Mississippi Children’s Museum and Natural History Museum were located. We could see the freeway from this part of the route, too. The park that ran along the museums was pretty, but it wasn’t my favorite part of the race running along the interstate. There were more steady hills here, too. Not easy with the rain still hammering down and my shoes feeing heavier and squishier by the second.
We crossed over the interstate and entered into another old, established, beautiful southern neighborhood. These houses were just as lovely as the others we had passed earlier. The hills rolled on through this neighborhood as well, but I hardly noticed for looking at all the lovely scenery. Near the end of the stint through this area, I spied a sign in front of one of the brick houses announcing that it was formerly Eudora Welty’s home. Super cool!
Ten miles down, we were nearing the end, but of course, not without a challenge. Not surprisingly (as I swear, race directors are EVIL!) some of the biggest hills were still to come. I pressed on as best I could. Just before mile 11, the two-hour pacing group passed me by. I was hoping to finish with them, but oh well. As long as I was close to them, that was good. Mile 11 brought a crazy-steep final hill. It looked like one of those steep streets in San Fransicso. STEEP. I ended up walking just a tad bit of it to keep myself from completely burning out.
Oh, I forgot to mention, I neglected to bring my GU with me to the starting line, so I didn’t have that little extra push of energy this time around either. I was hoping they’d be handing some out along the course, but no luck. I knew I just had to give it my best effort.
The final hill behind me, it was back toward the downtown area to State Street and then to the finish line. I crossed the line just a tad over the 2 hour mark: 2:00:21. I was soaked and tired, but felt surprisingly good. No aching injuries to speak of. I collected my medal and beelined it back to my hotel. I had a 12:50 plane to catch! No finish line after-party for me, but from what I've heard, they have awesome food and music post-race at the Mississippi Blues marathon.
|I made it through the rain! Finished!|
Back at the hotel, I peeled off my super saturated running clothes and jumped in to a hot shower. I stretched out after that, once I was dry, and tuned in to the news channel to watch the race coverage. It was great that they were covering the whole event. I packed and relaxed a bit before checking out and driving back to the airport.
My flight from Jackson to Charlotte was quick and easy. I tried to hydrate and just relax as much as I could. Once in Charlotte, I grabbed a late lunch/early dinner. I ended up sitting next to an older couple from Vancouver, Canada who were headed to Florida for a Caribbean cruise. We traded travel stories, as they were trying to visit all 50 states. They were fun to chat with and were a nice diversion during my somewhat lengthy layover.
Once onboard my flight to Hartford, I sat with a fellow named Michael Miller who was such a terrific seat mate! He and I ended up having so many things in common: running, Weight Watchers, working at Bentley, and more. We had a fantastic time chatting, and the flight felt like it was so fast. Michael was a motivational speaker and he was headed to CT to visit various New England colleges for work. He was also making an appearance on Better Connecticut on local WFSB channel 3 to do a segment on travel deals for school vacation. I couldn't wait to watch the show later in the week. It was a pleasure to sit with him on the flight.
I made it home by around 8:30 pm on Saturday night, and my husband and I stayed up talking and catching up for a while.
|Blues Half Marathon finisher's medal.|
Despite the rain, the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon was a great race, well-organized, in an incredibly friendly city. And best of all, the guitar-shaped medal, one (I confess) I've had my eye on for some time now. Jackson is a city with lots of history and pockets of fun interesting things to see and do. The more the Blues tradition takes over this town, the more it will grow and attract more visitors. I wish this marathon continued years of success, as the city benefits tremendously from the event.
Thank you, Mississippi, for a moving and meaningful visit.