MS Gulf Coast Half Marathon – Race Report

This past weekend was the inaugural Mississippi Gulf Coast Running Fest – we’ll call it that because I didn’t run the marathon, only the half. There were quite a few options for running – a 5K event Saturday morning with a kids run that day as well. Sunday hosted the half and the full distances in a point-to-point race ending in the Biloxi Shuckers Stadium.

This race was brought to us from the great folks from the Louisiana Marathon Weekend in Baton Rouge every January. By signing up for both events, one would receive a bonus medal – the Beach to Bayou medal. I mean, who doesn’t love extra bling?!

The expo was great. Only downfall was having to pay $5 (cash) for parking at the coliseum. A lot of people complained about that, but honestly there are very few expos that I’ve attended where you didn’t have to pay to park – either by event parking or paying a meter on a street. The official race merch was pretty sweet, I bought myself an etched wine glass. I was able to sign up for the Louisiana Half Marathon at the expo, so that was pretty cool as well. The race shirts are that soft cotton blend that we’ve all grown to love.

Race morning was smooth sailing. Due to the race being point-to-point, there were shuttles to get you to the start of each race. Half marathon shuttles were on the West side of the Coliseum and full marathon shuttles to the East. Shuttles started leaving at 4:45am and the last to leave was 6:10am for the half. Port-o-potties were at both shuttle locations as well as the start of each race

The full started at Henderson Point in Pass Christian. The half started from Jones Park in Gulfport. Highway 90 Eastbound was blocked off for a portion of the race and then later the left hand lane was open to eastbound traffic. Gear check was available at both starting lines. It was 37 degrees at the start so gear-check was a necessity. Water and powerade were both available at the starts as well.

About 20-15 minutes before race start an announcement was made to start peeling off your layers, check your bags, and get into position to cross on to hwy 90 (at that point we were in a grassy lot out of traffic). At 6:50am the National Anthem was played. At 6:55am Ainsley’s Angels started their race. At 7am we started to a gun start. No corrals were set up, but pace groups were available and you seeding yourself accordingly.

The race is 26.2 (13.1) miles of running along the beach, be prepared. There weren’t any bands or many spectators along the route. The water stops were about  every 1-1.5 miles with water and powerade, a few had honey stinger gels. The volunteers were great, definitely could have used a few more of them at some aid stations. But I was able to get a beverage quickly at each station and never informed they were out of anything. The route is flat and fast (we had minimal headwind most of the time, some stretches were most noticeable than others) – definitely think PR for this course.

Towards the end of the race, we turned up White Ave to run along Irish Hill to Howard Ave (due to high traffic from the interstate entrance/exit). That tiny hill was KILLER!! It was n
ice to get more spectators along Howard to help for that last mile. The end of the race is in the stadium, along the warning track, ending just short the first base line. Absolutely a great finish.

Post race party was awesome! Most everything you needed was clearly labeled – Medical, results, beer, merchandise (because we all bring our credit cards to races, right?!). They only thing NOT clearly labeled was where to pick up your checked gear. After I wandered around looking for it, I heard an announcement telling you where to go for it – they must have been getting that question a lot. You did have to walk up the stairs, go out of the stadium and down more stairs to get your bag, then back up stairs and down to the field. The stadium bathrooms were open so that was a nice bonus. I was able to change into compression pants, a clean shirt, and my jacket.

The food was AWESOME, although the lines were a little slow moving. Pulled pork sandwiches, tuna dip, gumbo, pasta salad, chicken wings and a TACO TRUCK! Coors products and Redd’s Apple Ale were beers available at the finish party. And for the non-drinkers Coca Cola products and Core Power recovery drinks were on hand. There was a band for live music. And the entire field was available for you to lay out and recover on. Shuttles were available to bring you back to your car at the coliseum until 2:30pm.

I had a great time at the event. Looking forward to keeping this in my regular race rotation – as long as it stays the second weekend in December and doesn’t migrate to the first weekend as that is St Jude Marathon weekend – race directors please read this and stick the second weekend 🙂 I’m looking forward to my first go at the Louisiana Half in January and earning my Beach to Bayou bling!!

 

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