BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Racers are preparing to lace up their shoes this weekend for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon. The weekend-long event starts Saturday and continues into Sunday.
Marathon organizers say participation in the event continues to grow, adding that the number of racers signed up for the full marathon is up 20 percent. Last year, the Gulf Coast Marathon weekend saw 3,500 runners. This year, that number is expected to increase to between 3,700 and 3,800. So far, runners from Canada, Mexico, Poland and 48 states are registered to participate.
Event organizers say 57 percent of the runners who are registered are from outside the Magnolia State. However, Mississippians make up 43 percent of the runners registered.
A total of 700 people have signed up for the marathon and 1,700 have signed up for the half marathon. The 5K boasts 800 participants this year, and 200 youth will lace up their shoes for the children race.
With nearly 3,500 runners anticipated to hit the pavement in South Mississippi, anyone planning to travel along Highway 90 Sunday morning may need to take a different route or expect traffic delays. Here are the specific roads where race organizers are expecting traffic to be impacted, starting at the beginning of the race course in Pass Christian:
- Both east and west bound lanes of Hwy 90 at Henderson Point in Pass Christian will be closed to vehicle traffic from 6:45am to 7:15am. At 7:15am east bound traffic will be allowed to travel.
- West bound traffic will be held at western E Scenic Rd and will be able to travel west at 7:40am.
- West and east bound traffic will be held while runners cross Hwy 90 into the outside east bound lane of traffic at the eastern Scenic Hwy merge. Cars will be allowed to cross the runner path when safe to do so. This time of impact should be between 7:20am and 8:10am.
- There will be one lane of east bound traffic open on Hwy 90 from eastern Scenic Hwy merge in Pass Christian to Gulfport. Both lanes of west bound traffic are open in this area.
- Both east and west bound lanes of Hwy 90 at Jones Park in Gulfport will be closed to vehicle traffic from 6:45am to 7:15am. At 7:15am west bound traffic will be allowed to travel. After this all west bound lanes of traffic from Biloxi through Gulfport will be open for the day. Both lanes of east bound traffic will remained closed through Courthouse road until 7:45am. One lane of east bound traffic will be opened from Jones Park starting at 7:45am.
- There will be one lane of eastbound traffic open from this point all the way to the I-110 interstate onramp in Biloxi. Two lanes will be open east of the on-ramp.
- Both north bound I-110 entrance ramps in Biloxi will be closed from 7:30am until 2:00pm. Vehicles may enter north bound on I-110 at the Division St on ramps
Sunday is the big event with both the full- and half-marathons. The full marathon begins at Henderson Point in Pass Christian, while the half marathon starts at Jones Park in Gulfport. Both races will begin at 7 a.m. and end at MGM Park in Biloxi.
Shuttles will help get racers from the designated parking spots at MGM Park and Margaritaville to the start of each race. Runners using the shuttles should arrive to the pickup locations early to give themselves ample time to travel to the start line and prepare for the race.
There is no parking available at the Marathon Start Line so it's not advised to have someone drop off a runner at the start because it could lead to heavy congestion and delay shuttles. Additionally, trying to park at the start of the race and then driving back before 2 p.m. to pick up your car could cause stress.
On Saturday, the day kicks off at 8 a.m. with the Margaritaville 5K, which begins at Point Cadet Plaza. The Chevron Kids Marathon begins at 9:30 a.m.
The weather is expected to be a little cloudy Saturday and Sunday with temperatures in the mid-60s. To see a more details and/or updated forecast, visit the WLOX First Alert Weather page.
For more information about the marathon, including a full schedule of events and information for racers, visit the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon’s website.