Day 2 of the Back2Back Challenge was the First Light Marathon in Mobile, AL. I had heard of Mobile although I didn’t really know where it was located on the map. Turns out we had a 3.25 hour drive southeast from Jackson MS to Mobile AL. Not too bad. Then we drove into the charming town of Mobile. What a nice surprise.
The expo was in the Mobile Government Center, maybe 2 blocks from our hotel and the Start/Finish area. It was a small expo, even smaller than MS Blues. But there were a few local running & TRI stores that set up booths. One had clothing 75% off and I snagged a cute Nike tank for $8.95!! Everyone was super friendly. We were presented with long sleeve gender specific tech tees, plus our Back2Back Marathon Participant Award which was hand crafted by a member of L’Arche Mobile, a community of people serving those with intellectual disabilities in the area. I was very touched by this. I can’t imagine how long it took to make all of these canvases. I later found out that our finisher medals were also created by the members of L’Arche, some of whom were at the finish line to greet us. See my Back2Back partipant award below. Each award was unique and hand crafted by a different member of L’Arche. Lucy took the time to make this one for me, her story is below. Thank you, Lucy!
We were in and out of the expo in a flash, then off to dinner. Mobile is the type of town that I love. We parked at the hotel, walked to the expo, then walked to dinner on Dauphin Street. We never traveled more than a 3-4 block radius from the hotel but had everything we needed. This would be a good race to go to and stay for an extra day or two. Plenty to do on Dauphin Street with shopping, eating and drinking establishments lining the way.
Race Morning. We waited in the lobby of our hotel til 5 minutes before gun time, then we walked out the front door onto the start line. Yes, it was that easy. The town was in Mardi Gras mode. Mobile claims to be the birthplace of America’s Mardi Gras and the town and our hotel were decorated and ready for the upcoming season (which begins on Feb 9, 2016). On race morning we posed by the Mardi Gras “ladies” and tree in our hotel. Me, Julie, Laura & Judy.
The race started on time with very little fanfare. Very small race and it seemed that the majority of people on the start line were Marathon Maniacs who had come from MS Blues the day before, in hopes of conquering the Back2Back Challenge. In total, there were 376 marathon finishers and 743 half marathon finishers. There was no “crunch” at the start like the day previous. Everyone seemed to be laughing and in good spirits even though the temps were cool for the area (low 40s). Most of the crowd was stiff and sore from the day before so everyone started slow and with some sort of hobble in their step. It was all very relaxed and a fun atmosphere. To be honest, I really didn’t expect much from a race this small. But I was quickly surprised. The course started with a tour thru the Historic Garden District where we saw home after amazing home with Historic Landmark placards. Many decorated full scale for the upcoming Mardi Gras season. It was beautiful and put a smile on my face from the very first mile. The rest of the course did not disappoint either. It was flat (thank you, First Light) til mile 9, then we had a few rolling hills and a gradual beastly incline going up into the University of South Alabama campus. The campus was quiet as the students were still on break but it was beautiful and I loved running thru campus. Plus, I’m happy to report that we did not see any alligators OR snakes.
From the University, we moved on to the Botanical Gardens and then Spring Hill College. A couple Spring Hill campus photos below:
The course also had a lot of bike support. The bike riders where constantly riding around us, talking to us, checking on us and offering support. One bike support person even offered us a Cliff Bar when we were feeling particularly famished. It’s REALLY hard to anticipate how many calories your body will need on Day 2 of a 2 day marathon challenge. I was hungry. Julie was hungry. We kept eating. And we were still hungry. The aid stations here were different than most. Normally the race officials can tell you exactly what will be on course and where you can find it. Not at First Light. The aid stations were all sponsored by different people, companies, and/or running clubs. So they got to pick what they served at the aid stations. Although there was not one gel on course, we received oranges, bananas, donuts, pretzels, potato chips, candy, pickle juice, chicken broth and I was even offered at shot of Corona, which I politely declined. It was a great experience. The aid stations were all well staffed and everyone thanked us for running.
In all, this is definitely one of my favorite marathons so far & this was #28 (State #17) in case anyone besides myself (and Julie) are counting. I’d highly recommend it to anyone. It’s scenic. Fun. Relaxed. And lacks the hype and hoopla that so many races put forth. The race fee is low. I paid $52.15 with service fee to register in April for the January event. They offer a gender specific tee, chip timing & a unique hand crafted finisher’s medal. If you decide to try the Back2Back Challenge, you can hop a bus from Jackson to Mobile and First Light takes care of all the Back2Back awards/swag. Swag below, plus a close up of the handcrafted finisher medal & a couple pics of the Back2Back medal which was a spinner. Different on both sides.
A note on the Back2Back Challenge. I know its not for everyone. I certainly wouldn’t recommend 2 marathons in 2 days in 2 different states to many but I had a lot of fun. We took it super slow (5:09 on day 1 & 5:06 on day 2). We walked, sang, laughed & joked our way thru the miles. I must say it was easier than I anticipated. I was fatigued but nothing that was insurmountable. If you have gone for a shake out run, or a “recovery” run, the day after a long run or marathon, then you know that the first few miles you might be tight but for the most part everything loosens up and those little aches and pains work themselves out. The hills in Jackson and the slant of the road in both towns did provide me with some aches that I normally do not get. But thanks to my Injinji socks, I didn’t get any blisters until day 2 and then I only had 2 tiny blisters when I finished First Light. Not bad for 52.40+ miles in 29 hours.
If you need a winter marathon, or one in Alabama, put First Light on your list. It’s not fancy but they give you everything you need and more, plus rice & beans, pasta salad, cookies, hot chocolate & beer at the finish. All which can be enjoyed while listening to a local band. Great experience. I’d got back and do it all again if the schedule allowed.
** Run First Light ** Amanda – TooTallFritz