Marathon race coming to Mississippi Coast

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A 26-mile race will soon make it's debut on the Mississippi Coast.

"Every big area needs a marathon race. I think the trend now is to do event weekends. It's not just a marathon, there's the half marathon, 5K, 10K, it becomes an event and brings more people in," said runner Ken Lawrence, who came to the Coast from Florida for the Hibernia 5K.

Currently, the nearest marathon is at Stennis Space Center. The new race, the Gulf Coast Marathon, will not only be a USA Track & Field certified, it will also be a Boston Marathon Qualifying event.

Coast runners have been pushing for the race for a while, and say it will be a big deal not only for them, but also for Coast tourism.

"I think it's great, scenery's great, lots of stuff to look at and we've got a huge running community," said runner Kathy Parsons. "There's a lot of stuff to do, there's the casino and beach." 

Runners say the race also impact area businesses. 

"Runners are a different crowd. We'll stop and buy things on impulse," said Kenneth Hall, a runner from Brookhaven who came to the coast for the Hibernia 5K.

Veteran runners say the big challenge of making the race successful will be the way it is advertised.

"Biloxi's already a destination. So if they can market it in connection with that, then certainly I think it could be a big deal for the coast," said Lawrence.

Local runners say they're excited for an opportunity to run on their home turf.

"We got to Mobile, we go to New Orleans, we go to Jackson, we go to Pensacola. Bringing it here would be great," said Parsons.

As for out of towners, they say it gives them more reason to visit the coast.

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