This was my fourth trip to Jackson. We are extremely fortunate to have developed good friendships with Jerri and Dick Bennett, who run Wolf Pond Sanctuary, which is a non-kill dog rescue in nearby Magee. My family was heavily involved in dog rescue a few years ago and for her seventh birthday, my youngest daughter wanted to go meet the folks with whom our organization partnered. Dick is a lawyer, like me, and both Dick and Jerri are accomplished marathoners. We instantly had a lot in common.
So that is how my family’s association with Mississippi was born, and when it came time to running a marathon in Mississippi, the choice was obvious. I had to go back to Jackson and get in another visit with our friends.
The Mississippi Blues Marathon enjoyed a long partnership with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield until Mother Nature intervened with hazardous conditions that led to the cancellation of the race in 2017. Blue Cross pulled its sponsorship after that year, and so although I had plans to run the race in 2018, I decided to wait a year to see if the change in sponsorship affected anything.
Reports from participants in 2018 were decent, and I had a generally good experience in 2019, as well. The expo was super easy – small, but there were some vendors selling cute merchandise, such as jewelry, customizable t-shirts, and locally crafted signs to hold all your medals. There was live blues music and easy parking.
I had perfect weather for a marathon. 30’s in the start, 50’s at the end, and clear skies. I would recommend parking in the parking lot behind the convention center, by Cathead Brewery. I arrived there at 6:10 a.m. and the parking lot was almost completely empty. The parking lot in front of the convention center was quite crowded at that point. Plus, the back parking lot is closer to the finish line.
A few thoughts about this course – it truly is hilly. I live in an area that is full of hills, and so I feel well-trained for hilly courses. My training opportunities paid off on this course, but there was no doubt – it was hilly right through the end.
Also, the quality of the road surface is not good. Although the course goes through some beautiful parts of Jackson, the potholes and condition of the pavement are strikingly inconsistent with the surroundings. Watch your footing – there were a number of reports from participants about tripping.
You may also want to consider carrying your own hydration. Although the website promised plentiful water stops, there were several lacking on the course. There were a couple of times that we went for 4-mile stretches without water.
I felt all alone in the last 10 miles. The crowd support was sparse and I went for several miles where I actually questioned if I was headed in the right direction. This was right after the water stop at mile 16, when you enter what felt like a private/golf course/residential area. I understand not wanting to have a lot of support in this quiet, residential area, but maybe more signage would help the issue by assuring and encouraging runners. So save your bag of mental tricks for this stretch!
I ended up placing in my age group, but it’s been a few months and I have yet to receive my award. Since the marathon, I’ve read some negative reviews about the race management company; I kind of have to say that taking four months to mail a medal is a big of a negative. I also can’t comment on post-race activities/benefits, as I don’t usually partake in them and this race was no exception. I was able to use the restroom in the Mississippi Museum of Art to change (of note, this is also the perfect warm-up area and is open to runners – the convention center is locked up and it was quite chilly on the morning of this race, so it was great to have a warm place with a real bathroom and plenty of space to sit and stretch), and it was a quick walk to my car.
To do around the Jackson area – I heard from my friend that the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is quite well done, but we did not get the chance to get there, as we had other activities in the Magee area. We have been to the Mississippi Children’s Museum, which I would recommend for younger children, as well as the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, which is small but informative and has some eye-catching exhibits. My friend also highly recommends the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum, which I hope to visit the next time we are in the area. There are a few marathons to choose from if you are looking to do one in Mississippi, and the Blues is a solid choice. I will say that all of the volunteers were extremely warm and welcoming, and with the exception of a couple of panic-stricken miles after the water stop at mile 16 when I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place, I genuinely enjoyed myself. Plus, the medal is super cool!
“I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.”