Marathoners take off at Stennis Space Center - - The News for South Mississippi

Marathoners take off at Stennis Space Center


People across the country are drawn to South Mississippi for car shows, beaches and festivals.

Saturday morning, people from a variety of states went to Stennis Space Center to run in South Mississippi's only marathon.

The 22nd annual Mississippi Coast Marathon saw record high numbers and drew in some unlikely runners.

Everyone had their own reason to race.

"Oh yea, you need a race like this to run the turkey off," said Minnesotan marathoner Pat Mullen.

More than 500 runners joined each other at the starting line to run in the 5k, half marathon, or full marathon.

"We have every gamut of runners out here from walkers to those that seem to wake up and go to sleep running," said Gulf Coast running club president Nancy Phillips.

Phillips said it's a perfect time of year to run and that draws in people from across the country.

Pat Mullen from Minnesota is one of the many runners from out of state.

"I love it down here. The weather is nice, it looks like a nice road race they've set up," said Mullen.

Phil Douglas came from Memphis Tennessee.

"I've ran over 40 marathons and I like the small marathons. You run the big ones you get lost in the shuffle," said Douglas.

Even 70-year-old Rudy Smith came to race.

"I've run 7 continents, a marathon on all 7 continents, and I've done about 46 marathons," said Smith.

The half marathon champions had something to brag about.

"I ran the full last year. I won the half two years ago but with a slower time," said Allen Stanfield.

Others weren't quite satisfied.

"I was two seconds over an age group record," said Mark Koch.

When the first place marathoner crossed the finish line, no one seemed surprised.

"I won two years ago and two or three times before that, over the years," said Leonard Vergunst.

Vergunst was not only the champion of the Gulf Coast Marathon for 2013, but he's also the race director.

For him, running is a way of life.

"Well as along as I'm able, I'll run as long as my body will hold up," said Vergunst.

As runners young and old crossed the finish line, they all vowed to be back next year.

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