After my “fun” trip from Jackson to Mobile, I headed to the expo for the First Light full / half. It was a small expo, but I got my bib, shirt and a special handmade plaque for doing the back-to-back half marathons. Race morning was cold! It was 24 degrees, but the weather app said it felt like 14. It was really easy to get parking close to the start line and I killed some time waiting in my car since it was so cold. I had long pants, compression socks, t-shirt, windbreaker, buff, hat, gloves and some hot hands and it was still cold at the start! As I got out of my car and started my walk to the start line, someone passed me on the street and said, “Go get ’em girl, go get ’em baby!” I told him thanks and made my way the two blocks to the start line ready to embrace the cold!
There were a ton of people from Half Fanatics, Marathon Maniacs and the 50 states clubs who were in town attempting the same back-to-back that I did – this is a really popular back-to-back trip for those groups since the races are so close together and there is even a bus you can sign up for to transport you between the two races. I opted not to do the bus this time, but if I decide to attempt this one again, I may do that to get to meet some more people.
The race itself was pretty small, with just over 900 finishers between the two races. The course itself winds through downtown Mobile and takes you past beautiful houses and the quintessential moss covered trees. Around mile 2, we went past the Magnolia Cemetery and it was really pretty seeing the sun come up across all the gravestones and trees.
It was nice when the sun was out, warming up all the runners. The course itself was really flat with only a few small hills in some of the neighborhoods. Based on my Garmin, the overall elevation only went from 10′ to 33′ so super flat!
Around mile 8, the half and full marathon split off from each other and there were several people who were holding huge signs directing runners to the right course. I had to take a picture of the couple holding the sign for the half marathon – who could say no to taking pictures while wearing a dress in 20-something degree weather?
Through the middle of the race I was leap-frogging with a group of kids (maybe middle school, but definitely young) and at one point I heard one of them say “I can’t wait until we finish this race, we’re going to get so much food!” – he certainly has the heart of a runner with that statement! I laughed when I heard that and told him, “Yes we will!” I ended up getting and staying ahead of the boys shortly after the half marathon split, so I’m not sure if they were able to get all the food they wanted, but the finish line food was pretty good – it was a hot meal of rice, beans, corn bread and some other food with lots of hot chocolate and coffee available for everyone too.
After a few more miles of tree-lined residential streets, we headed back into downtown Mobile and past a lot of buildings that had graffiti designs across the sides of the buildings, we soon came upon the last street where we could see the finish line in the distance. There were mile markers throughout the course, but as we got close to the finish, they marked the 13 mile mark on the street in chalk – only .1 to go!
This wasn’t a very fast race for me, but I had fun just taking everything in and listening to the other runners. I ended up finishing in 2:21:08 and headed to get some of that good food at the finish line festival. Even though the Mississippi Blues race was cancelled, the race director for the First Light race decided to go ahead and give out the back-to-back medals for anyone who had registered for both – that medal has the race logo and state outline on each side, one for each race with the middle part spinning.
The race medal and back-to-back plaque were both hand decorated by local Alabama residents who are part of the L’Arche Mobile Thomas B. Barnett Activity Center. The back of the plaque has a picture of the artist as well as a short story about her and some background on the activity center. Each year there is a different design for the race sticker (lower left, same as the design on the shirt) which is designed by a member of the community. It’s a really cool way to bring the local community into a race that brings in people from all across the country and even the world, as the winner of the marathon was from London!
I was definitely disappointed to only come away with one race finish after this weekend, but I wholly understand why it happened and the weather in the south is very unpredictable in the winter – it went from high’s in the low 20’s in Charlotte on Saturday / Sunday to a high of almost 70 by the end of the week – crazy! I’ll keep this duo on my radar and may try to head back to do the official back-to-back in the future, but I’m not 100% set on that yet, so time will tell which will be my first “official” Mississippi race!