HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hundreds of thousands of people visit the Gulf Coast year round for the beaches, car shows and festivals. Saturday morning, hundreds of people from all over the world had a reason to visit for a different kind of event, one that promotes healthy living and a little competition.
The annual Mississippi Coast Marathon brought out 600 runners from cities as close as Laurel.
"If I can run under two hours, anytime, that's a good run. Preferably in the 1:40s for me, and I'm happy," half marathon runner Gary Thornton said.
There was even a runner from France participating in the 5K race.
"I hope I'm going to have a good place, like run fast and try to win, so we'll see," Simon Louis said.
Gulf Coast Running Club President Nancy Phillips said it's the perfect time of year to draw these dedicated runners to the Coast.
"It is one of the last Boston Marathon qualifiers, and because the course is so flat and fast and the weather is generally pretty good, we have a very large number of people that do qualify for Boston," Phillips said.
Some may be running for time, but others say it's just something they do to stay healthy.
"Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity, and we're trying to do our best to make people aware of that and cut down on people being overweight and encourage people to get in shape and live longer," 5K runner Phillip Wedgeworth said.
"The usual. Being healthy and eating right, and to give our kids an example of being fit, instead of playing Nintendo and all those games, you know," said Nino Davila, who ran the full marathon.
Mikayla Wheller was one of the younger runners out on Saturday. She was also the first female to finish the 5K in 19 minutes and 20 seconds.
"My whole family is running today, and I just wanted to set a good example for them. I run for South Alabama, so I wanted to run for my team and see what I could do," Wheller said.
Runners who crossed the finish line say they can't wait to be back again next year.
To congratulate those who finished the 5K, half marathon and full marathon, no matter the time, runners were able to continue to enjoy the event with a New Orleans style jambalaya, beer and sweets.