This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Mississippi was my 20th state.
Like most people, I had never run through the grounds of a Space Center, that is until November 2010 when I ran the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon. This race was on the grounds of the John C. Stennis Space Center in Gulfport. When I ran it, there were about 500 runners for the marathon, half marathon, and 5K so it was a smaller crowd for sure. The race director Leonard Vergunst actually ran and won the marathon that year.
This race is held Thanksgiving weekend every year so the weather is typically good for long distance racing but I did get a bit cold standing outside waiting for the start. When I ran it, the temperatures should have been in the 50’s but a cold front just rolled through the area the previous day so it was about 10 degrees cooler than it should have been and was in the 40’s for most of the race. Fortunately I brought a running jacket, hat, and gloves just in case and was fine.
I struggled with multiple injuries in the months leading up to the race so my time was much slower than for previous races. One injury I had that was non-running related was an inflamed rib. My young daughter had accidentally kicked me in the ribs one evening when she was getting ready for bed, and I had pain from that for several months when I ran. I also had iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) on one leg and tendonitis on the knee of my other leg. This was one race I was happy to just finish and probably shouldn’t have run it given all of my injuries.
The course was a bit of a let-down for me because I was hoping it would be more scenic and have more rockets or space-related things to look at than there were. As I mentioned earlier, we ran through the grounds of the Stennis Space Center but we only saw one rocket at the main visitor building. The course was flat and had good aid stations but there were zero spectators not including the volunteers (which makes sense because it’s a space center with limited visitor entry).
When I finished, I noticed the medal I was handed by a volunteer had last year’s date on it. I emailed the race director and he said half marathoners weren’t supposed to get medals (only marathon finishers), but he had some leftover from the previous year and decided to let this year’s half marathoners have them instead of throwing them out. My finish time was 2:32:50.
My family and I had fun hanging out in Gulfport for a few days after the race. It’s a pretty small, low-key area good for a quiet and relaxing long weekend. If you have young children, I recommend checking out Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, a hands-on children’s museum. Gulfport is only about an hour and a half drive from New Orleans if you want to squeeze in an adventure there.