First Light Marathon Race Review – 2016

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.   

First Light Logo

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.  Smile  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!

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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.

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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. 

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From the University, we moved on to the Botanical Gardens and then Spring Hill College.  A couple Spring Hill campus photos below:

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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. 

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Back2Back Medal:

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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.  Smile 

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

Adventures In Running ….

I’m am always thankful to be a runner.  Always.  Running has taken me places I would have never gone without it.  Running has introduced me to people I would have never otherwise met, both in person and virtually.   Running has made me realize that I can do things that I never thought possible.  Running is always an adventure, good, bad or indifferent. 

Today I ran a new area. Because I was afraid if I didn’t get my run in early, I wouldn’t get it in at all.  Yeah, it’s been a crazy week!  So I parked the car and ran right after I dropped Michael off at school.  I didn’t drive to familiar territory.  Didn’t want to waste anytime.  I just parked the car and ran.  Visor or no visor?  That was my only thought.  I grabbed the visor because it had been raining all night and more rain was predicted.  Now where am I?  Got my bearings and took off down a long sidewalk that Michael and I always talked about as we passed it every day.  The long sidewalk took me to a country road where I proceeded to run out of Small Town USA.  It was at that moment, less than a 1/2 mile from my car when I realized that I didn’t have my Personal Savers Pepper Spray.  I always take my Wrist Saver on new runs.  On most of my runs to be honest.  But I didn’t want to go back for it.

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When you run in the country, it’s inevitable there will be loose dogs.  It’s only a guess as to whether the loose dog will be friendly or not.  I’ve been bitten 3x by unfriendly dogs so I now assume if a dog is charging me and barking that it will be followed by a bite.  Beware, if your dog charges me, I will spray it with pepper spray.  Not because I want to hurt your dog but because I don’t want your dog to hurt me.  I love dogs.  Have 3 of my own.  But that doesn’t mean I’m stupid and want your dog to bite me.  So ……how long do you think it was before a loose dog saw me?  1.95 miles.  I was in a time crunch so I had planned to run 2 miles out from my car and flip to make the return trip.  Just enough mileage to shake out the tightness from my landscaping duties this week.  But alas I had a potentially crazy dog between me and my car.  UGH!  Said dog didn’t see me until I was almost past his house, then he had to run the long yard to the road to get to me.  By that time, I was far enough past that he didn’t give chase.  Thank goodness.  But he was laying in the yard, by the road, awaiting my return.  What a sweetie, right?  Yeah, probably not.  So I kept running forward to WhoKnowsWhere.  Scenery wasn’t too bad.

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I was immediately thankful that not only am I a runner but a MARATHON runner.  It doesn’t matter that I’m on a road to nowhere, I’ll eventually get back to my car.  I quickly calculated that I was a half marathon or so from my house.  I wasn’t really sure how to get home but I knew the general direction, like as a crow would fly.  Smile  I also knew that my car was just to the right of that creek (pictured above), no more than a mile away across that field.  Worse case scenario I could cross that wet, muddy field.  But let’s just bag that idea for now.  I’m not lost.  I just don’t know exactly where I am at the moment.  I’ll just keep running down this road and see where it takes me.  And that’s when the rain began.   I immediately gave thanks for my visor!  Running in the rain.  Refreshing.  I think.  If I knew how to get back to my car it would be a bit more refreshing.  But alas, I’m a marathon runner.  I’ll get back there eventually.

Fortunately, most country roads are set up in a grid like pattern.  Usually with each segment between intersections being a mile (or so) in length.  I tried to focus on the grid and hope that these roads followed the general rules of country road infrastructure.  I was assuming I could run a rectangle and be back to the car.  That’s why I wasn’t panicked and didn’t feel the need to tromp across that wet, muddy field.  I just didn’t know any of these roads and the north end of “the grid” was the key.  The road eventually curved away from the direction I needed to go but without a cross street/road I just followed along.  It eventually popped me out on a busy road that connects our town and the one where Michael goes to school.  It wasn’t a road that I would normally run (or bike), due to the heavy traffic volume, but at least I knew my location and the direction of my car.  I managed a mile down the busy street.  In the pouring rain.  Trying to look smooth and as if I were enjoying myself.  Ignoring all thoughts of what people must think of this crazy lady (me!) running along a busy road in the rain.  Turned back into town at the first opportunity, the rain eased, and I found my long sidewalk that was the start of this running adventure. 

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All runs are an adventure.  Some are just more interesting than others.  Keep running and keep making memories.  As I see it, I’m just banking stories for the grandkids! 

** Adventures In Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz