Saturday, April 6, 2013, I ran my 9th Half Marathon in Jackson, Mississippi.  This was my second event in the Biggest Loser Run Walk series. (I ran their Jackson Inaugural 15k race in 2012 – race recap here).  

My ability to participate was shaky as I have been up and down, (mostly down), since January due to repeated bouts of bronchitis and sinus infections. Nature is royally kicking my butt this year. The week of this event, my chest congestion was so bad, walking a flight of stairs got me winded. I started to feel better Thursday, my husband cleared me to run, (he’s not a Dr. just plays one as it relates to me LOL), – so Friday, after the kids got out of school, we hit the road to Jackson.

We arrived about an hour before the end of the expo/packet pick-up at the Jackson Convention Complex. It was nice to see how the expo had grown from last year with local vendors including personal trainers, gyms, nutritionists and running groups. 

photos: D1 Adult Training,      Black Girls RUN! Jackson,        liveRIGHTnow
Of particular interest to me was a group called Runner’s Fuel that provides personalized nutrition plans for recreational and competitive athletes, and Rod’s Racers – a group that promotes road racing events in Mississippi.  As Mississippi leads the nation in obesity, both of these organizations consider their work a ministry to support and encourage all Mississippians to be active.  Love it.

I also met some inspirational people.

Gina is a hoot. She looks great and is small in stature with a big personality. I had to ask her about training with Dolvette… she said they limited her time working out with him as she got too distracted.  She also said he smells amazing.

Patrick House is impressive. He has a kind spirit and sincerely wants to help people towards better health.  He also stays in great shape. This half marathon (which he finished in 1:51 – sweet!) was his last “easy” long run before the Boston Marathon.  

A special treat was meeting runners Joe McGown and his son Joseph. Both are ridunkulously fast. (At the event’s 5k race, Joseph took 1stand Joe took 2nd place; running 5:29 and 5:59 min mile paces respectively – super sweet!)  They were also very friendly, engaging and the camaraderie between father and son was beautiful to see.   Joe has an extensive running blog at http://joemacgownrunning.wordpress.com/

Onto the race.  The weather was pleasant.  A bit chilly at the start (guessing 50s) warming to the 70s by the time I finished. The crowd was moderate with a bit shy of 800 finishers between the 5k and half. People came early and milled around the race village. 

Folks from the Greater Bethlehem Temple Church shared that the Biggest Loser provides a free tent for teams over a certain size – good group perk. I was also nice to finally meet a few online friends from Black Girls Run and the National Black Marathoners Association.

With Marilyn Reed

One of my favorite aspects of the Biggest Loser Run Walk events is that they encourage and support participation for people of all different levels.  At the lineup, I saw pace groups ranging from 8 to 17 min/mile. First timers and some weight loss/fitness success stories were acknowledged over the mike.  Dan Evans does a great job whooping up the crowd.

Realizing I was not 100%, I planned to settle in and run with the 11:30 pace group. At 7:30 am after the national anthem, we were off. The course was breath taking on two accounts, the calm beauty of this southern city – and the hills. We hit hills immediately and they continued to roll and roll and roll for what seemed like the entire race.  

Pictures do not do justice to hills, hills and more hills…

For the first 4 miles or so, I was running on happy.  I was happy to be there, happy to be able to breathe easily, happy to be moving.  I was ahead of the pace group, tackling the hills, simply enjoying it all.  

About mile 5, happy lost its power, the heat started to rise, my pace started to slow and both continued along their paths for the rest of the race. The pace 11:30 group passed and disappeared in the distance.    I stayed in the moment – talking to other runners, admiring the lean and stride of those who powered thru the hills, and joking with those who like me, did not. No cussin or complaining from me. The hills were ridiculous but what goes up, must come down.  Plus, coming from a place of flatlands – I welcome the variety.

Crowd support and mile markers were great at the beginning of the race but it thinned out substantially along the last 3rd or so of the distance. I kept looking for the rambunctious cheer leading teams that were at the 2012 race. That extra push would have been helpful.   

The last 2 miles felt like 10 – but I finished feeling well and grateful. 

Re the food:  the offerings along the finish line were the standard fruit, pretzels, water kinda thing.  I have to remind myself that the chicken/catfish/jambalaya plates we get at the end of local races in Louisiana are an anomaly and check my expectations.  Nonetheless, my lips were a bit poked out at the banana and water. (I’m pitiful about food – LOL).  There may have been something more substantial in the race village, but we didn’t explore.  

I loved last year’s 15k.  There were several changes this year. Most were great improvements, a few not so much.  All considered, these races rock. They are relatively moderate in size and therefore don’t have hoopla of a mega race, but I value the feel and perks they offer. The warm, welcoming and supportive vibe, the organization, inspiration, nice bling, kid’s events and FREE race photos are wonderful.  Other big pluses for me are the connection to the Biggest Loser mission, reasonable registration (half the price of large scale events), and Saturday offerings (I don’t like missing worship service for a race).

If you have not tried a Biggest Loser race, check em out.  The series is growing. They offer 5ks, 10ks, 15ks, half marathons, kids races and those off road mud/obstacle runs for those so inclined (me – NOT!). The races are held in smaller off the radar cities as well as destination locations like Boston, Seattle and Washington DC.  I recently saw the announcement for late summer 15k in Chicago.  My favorite race distance in my hometown… 

Love these races… http://www.biggestloserrunwalk.com/

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