Mississippi River Inaugural Marathon (1/2) Recap

This past Saturday I ran the Inaugural Mississippi River {half} Marathon in Greenville, Mississippi.  I had decided to run the race in honor of my stepmom Starla’s ongoing battle with breast cancer.  She’s actually going back this morning for more surgery.  They thought they got everything with the double mastectomy last week but found a small amount of cancer in one of her lymph nodes.  We’re all praying that this will be the final surgery.539568_582279051800520_2118421503_n

Friday afternoon my running buddy Stacey and I made the 5 ½ hour drive up to Greenville.  We arrived at packet pickup and were greeted by amazing friendly volunteers.  In just a matter of minutes we got our bibs, shirt and some freebies (GU chomps and a cowbell) then headed to find some last minute cold weather gear.


Apparently Stacey and I both missed the memo that it was going to be FREEZING race morning.  Whoops.  We found some adorable gloves on clearance at JCPenney but no head gear.  Then it was time to grab some grub.  We went to a restaurant, Garfields, in the mall (where packet pickup was) and waited….and waited…and waited for our food.  It finally came but wasn’t anything special.  However, it was food which I guess is all that really mattered.


My turkey avocado sandwich with very little turkey and basically no avocado.
And french fries I didn’t want…

Stacey and I headed to the hotel to get ready for an early morning wakeup call.  Since this was a point-to-point race the runners had to be bused to the starting line.  We had been cautioned several times through e-mails to make sure to be at the buses no later then 6:30 or risk being left Saturday morning.  We made it to the bus area by 6 and hopped on.  I have never been so happy to be on a school bus in my life; it was 35* degrees outside and I was in a skirt.  Fantastic planning, Gina.


We made the 13ish mile trek to the starting line in Arkansas and were treated to a beautiful sunrise.


herding area

I enjoy the irony of the picture. The check out the sign.
The way the buses lined up, it really felt like herding area for the runners.

MS River

The downfall of being bused in was that we had roughly 1.5 hours of waiting time before the start.  I snapped some pictures and tried not to freeze.


Before I knew it we were lining up for the start.  I had my sub 2 hour goal in mind but I really doubted that I was going to be able to do it; especially since I would be squaring off against an incredibly strong {and cold} headwind.  See the thing about running in the Delta is that it’s all open plains; no trees or buildings to block the wind.  On the plus side, the Delta is incredibly flat.  The only incline was the bridge and that was basically flat, too.

before running

Ready to run but I can’t feel my legs…or my toes…or my nose…

3…..2….1….. And we were off.  I knew that I would need to maintain around a 9:10 pace to get my sub 2 goal but I wanted to give myself a bit of wiggle room so I planned to keep it around 9.  The first 2 ½ miles took us over the Mississippi River; the bridge was absolutely gorgeous.  Looking up and seeing the suspension beams was so cool.


Miles 3-6 were the absolute toughest for me.  My toes were numb and I was having fairly bad calf pain, most likely from not stretching / warming up properly.  Coupled with the headwind I really thought about ditching my sub 2 goal and just using this race as the training run for the marathon in 2 weeks.  Then I thought about my stepmom and how she couldn’t give up with her fight.  I felt terrible having even considered backing down.

Mile 7 was where I put my big girl panties on and stopped internally whining. I had been watching my splits and knew that I could still pull off a sub 2.  I decided to lose myself in the run and just have fun.  The crowd support was amazing and I was having a blast high-fiving any poor soul that happened to put their hand out in my direction.  I thanked the volunteers at the water stops and shook a few of the police officers hands for directing traffic.  The next time you’re running, thank the people who are helping out, race volunteers are seriously amazing!

Mile 10 came and I knew that there was only a 5k left.  I remember actually feeling a bit disappointed knowing I only had 27ish minutes left to run; however I was also excited because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was going to get the sub 2.  I wasn’t fatigued at all and knew I could pick it up a bit. {side note: When you’re just getting into a groove by mile 10, you know you’re made for marathons.}

Mile 13 came and I finally caught a glimpse of the finish line.  Sweetness.  I kicked the speed up and coasted to the finish line at a 7:53 pace for a finish time of 1:58:24.  I’m not usually an emotional runner (I didn’t even tear up after I finished the MCM in memory of my brother) but I actually got a bit choked up thinking about Starla and everything she had just gone through with the double mastectomy.  She is such an amazingly strong and courageous woman and inspired me throughout the entire run.  I was proud of my sub 2 finish but even more proud of Starla.




My {negative} splits.
You can see where I was having trouble with the early miles.

Stacey also finished very strong (especially for being sick all week) at 2:06.  After the race, a friend of ours that lives in Greenville surprised us.  It was so great seeing her and getting a quick hug.  Then we all headed over to get some food and chocolate milk.



My overall impression with this race is that it was amazing.  With inaugural events you never really know what to expect but the event staff did a great job building hype and then living up to that hype.  From packet pickup, to the finish line, and everything in between, this race was exceptional.  There were plentiful aid stations, volunteers, and phenomenal crowd support with lots of cheers for the runners.  You could tell that the entire town really took pride in this race.  I think this inaugural event was just the tip of the iceberg and that it’s going to become a ‘must-do’ race in this area.  I can’t wait to see how awesome it is next year!

Question:  Have you ever fought hard for a goal? How did you feel once you reached it?


44 thoughts on “Mississippi River Inaugural Marathon (1/2) Recap

  1. I’m so proud of you and knew you could do it
    , awesome that it was an inaugural race that’ll hold a special place for you too! Step mom has one heck of a step daughter 😉 xoxo

  2. This looks like such an awesome race – especially for an inaugural showing! So proud of you – hooray for your sub-2 and hooray for Starla! Sending good vibes to her for her LAST surgery! 🙂


    • It really was fantastic, especially since it was an inaugural race. I’ve been to several established races that weren’t nearly as flawless as this one. Thanks for the continued prayers, Meg. ❤

  3. Congrats on this race. That is incredible and I’m so happy you went under 2 hours. That’s a huge milestone! You did it for a great cause and kicked butt while doing it. I would too, for the donuts 😉 But you did a really great thing and I hope you’re really proud of yourself!

    • Yay, thanks Young C. 😉 Over the past few months I’ve realized that I really dislike short distances (esp. 5ks!). It just takes me so long to get warmed up. I should probably fix that attitude…

  4. That box of Shipley’s is making my mouth water! Your posts always make me nostalgic for the ‘Sip. 🙂

    Speaking of which, this race looks amazing! Definitely putting it on my to-race list next year – I must have that medal on my wall. And holy sub-2 Batman — you rocked it!

    • I know I don’t have to tell you how good that donut was. Normally I can turn them down but not this time. I think they brain washed me somehow… I promise you won’t regret running this next year.

      Side note – There’s a 1/2 marathon in Greenwood on March 30 being put on by the same event group. I’ve registered and am hoping that it’s just as spectacular. http://vikinghalfmarathon.com/

  5. YESSS!!!! You did it and with plenty of time to boot! So very proud of you! I know Starla appreciated every step of that run! That looks like a great race and the medal is pretty nice. I love when I’m freezing at the beginning of a race – I know it’ll make for a great run mile 8+ 😉

  6. Gina! You’re beyond awesome. I’m so glad you got your sub-2:00 half. I can’t even imagine running that far that quickly. It definitely looks like it was a beautiful race, too! I’m sure Starla is proud 🙂

  7. Congrats on your sub-2:00!! We had a weirdly similar experience (other than the same photo of the bridge on our blog, I mean, haha) – I drove 5.5 hours to get there, had turkey and avocado the night before, and was FREEZING before the race!! I agree – this will be a must-do race for the area for sure!

  8. great job, lady!!!! i love your recaps, and im so proud of ya! its funny you mentioned garfields because i was there once (it was in a mall too) and wasn’t impressed either! lol. i still need to try me some king cake!! looks crazy good! love ya!

  9. Congrats on running a sub 2hr half! Speedy Gina Gonzales! Love your race outfit! Even though you froze at least you looked super cute 🙂 And if you needed to stop to stretch in those first few miles, I think you would have been ok doing that too 🙂 might not have made a sub 2, but I think Starla would understand 🙂 Hopefully she recovers quickly and well from this next surgery too!

    • I actually stopped a few times to stretch and I even walked through all of the water stops. I just needed to get my cold butt out of the bus sooner to do some stretching. Lesson learned. (And I rather learn that painful lesson during a 1/2 then the full.) Starla’s so sweet that she wouldn’t have cared at all if I didn’t get my sub 2; she was just tickled I was running for her. 🙂 The surgery went well this morning. They ended up removing several lymph nodes instead of just one and now she will have to have either chemo or radiation (not both though). She’s a trooper that’s for sure!

      • oh good to hear about Starla! My dog needed the nearest lymphnodes biopsied after amputation, fortunatley they were negative for cancer, but her type was slow growing/low chance for metasticizing as well. Definitely nerve racking! Also going to wish for the best for what ever treatment plan she goes for! I think some places have integrated treatments like chemo and meditation. Do you know if Starla has access to that kind of program or would be interested? As a yoga fan, I totally would since the mind can be a powerful healer 🙂

        And glad to hear you got some stretch breaks in. Sorry for being a nagging paranoid runner!

  10. Ohh my gosh I felt cold just reading this!! I do find that once I get going, I usually warm up. One time I ran a 10K that I never warmed up for and it was miserable. AMAZING JOB!!! Your time is KILLER and even better that this was your goal! I would kill to get a time like this!! I love even more the meaning behind this race for you!! ❤

    • It ’twas freezing!! I’ve been pretty fortunate with racing so far, I normally warm up within the first few miles. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the PR congrats! ❤ I'm seriously stoked for your 1/2 this weekend!

  11. Congratulations Gina! I’m going to think of you and Starla on my next tough run. You dug deep and smashed it out of the park.
    My thoughts are with you and the family. xxx

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  13. Congratulations on your run! I live in Greenville and participated in the race, too. Thank you for writing a positive review about this great race held in my hometown! We are hoping for bigger and better next year and I hope you return! I’m a slower runner who has recently discovered that clean eating is the main thing that will make me a faster runner. I will be bookmarking your blog and keeping up with your clean eating adventures! Thanks again for posting; it was a good read!

    • Congrats on your 1/2 marathon finish and I’m so glad you enjoyed the recap, Amanda! I seriously can’t say enough good things about this race, it’s up there in my top favs. Your city was just so welcoming. I started out as a slow runner, too, so don’t get discouraged. The clean eating will definitely help you and also incorporating speed work into your training weeks. I absolutely HATE speed work (I’m a fairly awkward runner) but it really does work. Thanks again for stopping by!

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  15. Thanks for your recap! I am considering this race for my 2014 calendar. I too am looking for a good warmup Half for my spring full. Thanks for the all the details! Great job on your sub-2!

    • Thanks girl!! Obviously I’m a bit biased but I definitely encourage you to put this on your spring calendar. I’ve signed up for the full this year and am hoping that it’s just as epic as the 1/2 last year. Good luck deciding!

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