I’ve got the blues. Mississippi Blues Half Marathon Report

Date: January 9, 2016

Distance: 13.12

Location: Jackson, MS

Time: 2:41:16

Denise and I had plans to run the MS/AL back-to-back races last year but, as luck would have it, we were both injured so we weren’t able to run the series. Months ago, I signed up for both races again (Mississippi Blues and First Light), expecting that 2016 would work. Unfortunately, Denise is still rehabbing and wasn’t ready for the timing of these again. As much as I hated to do these by myself, I really didn’t want to forfeit the race entry fees AGAIN, and my Mobile hotel reservation was non-refundable so I decided to go ahead and knock these out by myself. This gave me the blues.

Getting There & Race Packets–To save money, I decided to use flight benefits to fly non-rev to these races. This plan worked getting there–as long as I got a bit creative since all of the SLC-ATL flights were oversold. (On Delta, one must fly through Atlanta in order to get to Jackson). To get there, I had to fly through San Diego, then Atlanta, then Jackson. A pretty circuitous route to take, but I couldn’t see any other options. That made for a very long travel day on Friday–the day before the race–and I arrived to the race expo with only minutes to spare before they closed. Still, I got there.MississippiBlues

The race packets, by the way, were nice. Not only did they include a solid, reusable tote bag, but–in honor of the race theme–they also included a B.B. King CD and a harmonica. Nice touch and very unique as far as race packets go. The race shirts, too, were a nice long-sleeved tech material. The race medals, too, were great.

The Race–The weather forecast warned of rain and possible thunderstorms which, unfortunately, turned out to be accurate. This really gave me the blues. Luckily, I had brought a throw-away rain poncho to wear as I was waiting for the race to start so I wouldn’t be drenched and freezing before the race started. Also, about three miles in, the rain started to subside. That was great for me, but the runners completing the full marathon were not as lucky because even more forceful rain–including lightning–arrived as almost all of them were still completing the course. We were warned ahead of time of possible race delays or even a cancellation if the lightening created dangerous conditions, but luckily, the race went on as scheduled for everyone.

The course was deceptively hilly, which I wasn’t expecting. The course map showed elevation changes of about 500 feet total, throughout the course, but there was a lot more up and down than I expected. That, too, gave me the blues. My race strategy, then, was to take things really easy–particularly since my training regimen included about 10% of the long runs I SHOULD have run in preparation for the race, but didn’t. I also didn’t want to be completely spent for the next day’s race.

While I started with a very defined run/walk strategy, that went out the window about four miles in when I pretty much started walked up the hills and through the aid stations but ran when the course was flat or downhill. I really liked that the course took us through the downtown area and some nice residential areas. That’s always a great way to see the local architecture and get a feel for the city.

I finished in a fairly respectable time, considering my lack of preparation, the race day conditions, and the course. Good race–definitely recommended. I was also particularly happy about the fact that the hotel was so close to the starting/finishing locations. That’s worth a lot.

Highlights–I wouldn’t say there was a lot of crowd support at this race, but that would be expected because of the weather. The people who were out cheering the runners, though, were among the best. A few people were having all-out parties on their front lawns as they watched the runners. One group even had a bonfire going and had set up a table–similar to an aid station–that offered free beer. I passed on that offer, but was amused nonetheless. A couple of other families offered donuts to runners as they passed by. One sign read, “Sorry for all the potholes–have a donut hole.” Clever.

Travel Between Races–I could have signed up for bus service that shuttled racers between the races, but I decided I really didn’t want to have to follow other people’s travel times so I rented a car and drove the three-and-a-half hours to Mobile. I really missed Denise during this part of the weekend. She’s always a great navigator and helps me decide when to listen to the navigation instructions offered by my phone and when to ignore them. We also use that travel time to talk and catch up. I missed that. I’m also really glad I decided to drop off my car in Mobile rather than return it back to Jackson. After driving that route once, I really didn’t want to do it again the very next day.

Race Etiquette/Tips–This race and the Mobile race the next day, prompted me to think a lot about how so many people have taken up running and are new to racing. I’m really happy about this because that means more and more people are seeing how enjoyable races can be. Because so many are new, however, it’s pretty clear they are still learning some generally accepted race protocols. Here’s what I wish everyone knew.

  1. Your race number goes somewhere on the FRONT of your body–not the back. It needs to be visible to race officials and photographers at all times during the race, otherwise they cannot identify you. This can be a little tricky when you dress in layers. In consideration of this, when I start with a top layer and expect to remove it at some point during the race, I will usually attach my race bib to my shorts or other race bottoms instead of my shirt.
  2. Be considerate of everyone else and keep your noise to yourself. That means: don’t have your headphones turned up so high everyone around you can identify the song and artist you are jamming out to. Even worse, don’t be that person who listens to music without headphones at all. No, we don’t all love your playlist selection. Please don’t share. Also in the “too noisy” category? Runners who wear bells on their shoes. Really? People do that? Yes. And it’s downright annoying.
  3. Not everyone likes conversation. Be mindful of the fact that while some people might appreciate your company and conversation during a race, others will find it irritating. If in doubt, ask or learn to read body language.
  4. Spectators and their pets are not there to receive unsolicited hugs or attention. For some reason, I see more and more runners who act like they are celebrities on stage–out there to greet their adoring fans–to the point where they feel a need to pet every dog they see or hug every child or person in uniform along the course in a much-too-enthusiastic way. I don’t know where this is coming from, but I’m pretty sure not all of the people (and pets) on the receiving end don’t enjoy it. A quick wave, smile, or “thank you” to volunteers along the course is a nice courtesy. An all-out hug may not be appreciated. You also don’t know how a dog might react to your invasion of his/her space.
  5. Signal your fellow runners when you are about to slow down or change course. When you stop running and decide to walk instead, remember there are people behind you still running who may trip over you or plow you over. Before you decide to abruptly change pace, move over to the side of the course and signal those behind you. The most common signal I see is a raised hand to indicate you are slowing down. To those of you who use some sort of “I’m getting out of your way and slowing down” signal–I thank you. (I know, as if I’m a fast runner and can’t possibly slow down in time). That’s rather funny.
  6. Don’t block the course. This applies to walkers who insist on walking right down the middle of the road, but even more so, this applies to pairs or groups of people. If you are walking two or three abreast, the middle of the course is NOT where you should be. In fact, some courses really aren’t good for walking in groups at all, depending on how wide the course is. Think about this when you go through aid stations too. Get your beverage and keep moving. You don’t want to make faster runners have to constantly swerve and dodge you and your pals.

Thanks for considering these etiquette tips. As more of us are sharing race courses, these are ways we can make the race experience a better one for everybody. Happy (friendly) running!

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Heather Bienvenue on January 11, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    I like the reminders about walkers walking in the middle. I have never thought of that! You have seen a lot of the US doing your halfs! What has been your favorite?

    Reply

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