One of my long-range life goals has been to run a marathon or ultramarathon at some point in my life on every single calendar day. This of course necessitates a marathon on Leap Day (February 29), a day so rare it only comes around a little less than every 4 years, and when it falls on a Saturday? Yahtzee! There’s a marathon for that. So ages ago I signed up for the Mississippi Blues Marathon, and the Atlanta marathon again the following day. After my bout with PF this would be my first race back in almost 3 months. I imagined it would be rough since I hadn’t run 26.2 since mid-December, but I needed Mississippi for my fourth round and I needed Leap Day like a dog needs a bone.
Along for the ride was my race wife Amy, who was signed up for both halfs. We arrived to the hotel a few blocks from the start/finish. I did the Blues half several years ago and was scheduled to do the full a couple of years back when it was cancelled due to a freak ice storm. The newly constituted course is a double loop. The previous course was quite hilly and took you quite a ways out of town. The new course is relatively flat but it’s clear to me that the marathon is at best an afterthought. Course marshals and signage were not great for the first loop, and even less so on the second loop and many of the aid stations were out of fluids. The people of the area were enthusiastic and kind but the course, in short, needs work.
I spent most of my time during the race hanging with Claire and Carrie. Claire’s relentless positivity was a great companion during the first loop of the San Francisco ultra and once again she was great for this race, and the occasional cameo from a music-toting DeMo that I could not keep up with, but it was great to see for the first time since a back to back stint at Indianapolis Monumental and Rock and Roll Las Vegas in November of last year.
However, most of this race I found myself talking to Carrie, who I knew as a friend of a friend but never really got an opportunity to get to know one-to-one. The miles clicked by as we chatted about work, personal life, friends, and Camp Kita, a camp for children dealing with the trauma of the loss of a loved one due to suicide. The race itself was kind of blah, but my San Francisco marathon shirt somehow managed to attract a lot of attention, and it couldn’t have been timed better since of course I’d done it with Claire. So you’d think I had planned it. I had not.
After the race I learned from Amy of the passing of our mutual friend, Maureen Bowen. She had been battling an advanced ovarian cancer for some time. I knew her as one of the many friends I’d made doing races across the nation. She’d completed 2 rounds of half marathons in each state, as well as an impressive list of marathons and ultra marathons. In short, she was a beast. If anyone could beat cancer I would have put my money on her. Sadly, it was not the case. Amy and I went about trying to find a place for a cupcake post-race in memory of Maureen. It was a somber celebration, but one that brought us to a small bakery in a funky part of town. The staff in the shop advised us on pastries, and gave us some advice on where to get dinner before leaving town. After our bittersweet pastry experience we walked (more of a hobble in my case) a couple blocks over to a Mexican restaurant across the street from a family planning clinic two older folks were out front picketing (way to stay on-brand Mississippi). After lunch we walked back to the car with a quick side trip to a tchotchke shop where I found an amazing “Make America Anything Else Again” mug before we departed for Atlanta.
Jackson, is a funky little town that’s worth visiting if you’ve never been, but this race could be far better organized. I used to consider Blues to be the best race in Mississippi, but after this iteration I think I would say the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon is a bit dull, but a much better race. I would still give this race the edge over Stennis Space Center, which is a snooze and a half.