BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The fourth running of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon is in the books. People from seven countries, 47 states and one retired NFL quarterback participated in this year’s race.
With a mostly flat running surface and a course entirely on the beach, participants come back each year in larger numbers than before. Marathon organizers and graduates of St. Stanislaus feel the race is a great example of what South Mississippi has to offer both during the race and after.
“Aw man, it’s great. We just had our fourth marathon start on time at 7 a.m., beautiful sunrise right before. You can’t beat it. Seven hundred people just set off down the beach," said Pat Fellows, marathon organizer.
Those 700 full marathon runners are 20% more than those that signed up last year. Fellows said that can only be attributed to a few things.
“You know, I think it’s consistency, word of mouth. You know the marathon community is a small community. So, if you do it right, they tell other people. When they have a great experience, they tell them and more and more and more people show up. That’s the biggest thing. We’re doing it the right way and trying to put on a great event that honors the coast that marathon runners want to come run," Fellows said.
Of course the 26 miles of white sandy beaches, a picturesque and near perfect weather didn’t hurt either.
“It’s a beautiful day. It’s a great day to run. Having the sun rise before the start of a marathon, I mean, when are you gonna get to see that," exclaimed Fellows.
Growing up on the coast, Fellows said, makes the success of this race that much more enjoyable.
“When you’re younger, sometimes you take the coast for granted. I think when you’re a kid you’re like ‘oh wow the beach and what not’. I was talking to a guy from Denmark this morning who said this was super unique that you can run right along the beach by the sea the whole way. It’s unbelievable," said Fellows.
For full marathon participant, Russell Simkins the location couldn’t have been better.
“It’s beautiful and makes the time go by fast. You’ve got sights to look at, and it’s great surface. It’s just a well put on race and a well-supported race," Simkins said.
Simkins was the winner of the full marathon. Being from Madison, Mississippi made his first win that much sweeter.
“It felt great. This was the first time I’d ever won a race. I’ve been second in a marathon before, but this was the first time I’d broken the tape. It’s a great feeling and indescribable really. It’s something you work so hard for and wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning to run and train. It’s just great," said Simkins.
Organizers say the race will be back next year, and the course will stay the same despite rumors that the Bay St. Louis Bridge could be included to eliminate using the ramp of I-110.