BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Since 2015, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon has been shining a spotlight on South Mississippi. In its fourth year, more race enthusiasts are flocking to the Gulf Coast than ever before.
The runner’s village is taking shape on the grounds at MGM Park in downtown Biloxi. That is where the race will culminate on Sunday as runners from all walks of life cross the finish line inside the ballpark.
“Today we got all of our stuff in. We came in last night and just started unloading things. We’ve started work at MGM unloading where we do packet pickup and our retail area and getting all of that ready so we can start at 10 a.m. tomorrow,' said Patrick Fellows, marathon retail director.
With a host of vendors and multiple products for sale, Fellows said that the retail side of the marathon does more than just drive revenue.
“We look at the retail as great opportunity for us to spread our brand. Runners want commemorative gear so we hired a Coast guy to develop the brand for us. We wanted something that would stand alone, that people would want to have and wear beyond just doing the race. We sell stuff to people who are just here to support as much as we do participants," Fellows said.
It was important for those participants, according to marathon co-founder Craig Sweeney, to be comfortable racing at any age.
“We became a Wanda World Marathon Major this year. So, for anybody running in the Boston Marathon, Chicago, New York, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon was selected as an age qualifier," said Craig Sweeney, the Marathon Co-Founder and Strategic Partnership Director.
In addition to the regional and national races, that means that nine age groups starting at 40 can qualify for international races as well, right here in South Mississippi. That is the kind of recognition that Sweeney is most proud of in the early years of the marathon.
“We always just knew that with 26 miles of beach, it could be a fantastic race. Now that we have runners from four states and four countries, we’re happy that we can, you know, have some impact and show the beautiful coast," Sweeney said.
For more information on times and events coming up this weekend, visit the marathon website by clicking HERE.