Gulf Coast Marathon should be annual tourism event

Sissy Moreland and Marcos Rodrigues cross the finish line at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon on Sunday.
Sissy Moreland and Marcos Rodrigues cross the finish line at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon on Sunday. ttisbell@sunherald.com

They came. They saw. They ran.

We were impressed with the first Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon, which attracted more than 3,300 runners for a weekend of races and fun. We think this event has the potential to be the Coast’s next big tourism draw, sort of the way Cruisin’ The Coast has transformed itself into the monster event it is now.

Everybody knows the Coast is already a fun place to be, with its casinos, tasty restaurants, friendly people and growing list of family attractions. And an annual tourism event in December will just expand South Mississippi’s reach, especially in the world of runners.

We found it impressive that runners for last weekend’s marathon came from 42 states and three countries, though about half of the participants came from Mississippi and about a quarter from Louisiana. We also found it pretty cool that the course was a qualifier for the 2017 Boston Marathon, set for April 18.

Organizers were smart to have a kids race the day before the main event, because we hope the event will be something the young ones remember. And organizers were also well advised to have the race’s finish at MGM Park in Biloxi, showcasing one of the Coast’s newest attractions.

“We couldn’t be more ecstatic with the outcome of this inaugural event,” said Renee Areng, executive director of Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, the race’s host organization. “In working with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon team, we were able to showcase the entire region to new visitors.

“The overwhelming success of all communities and agencies working together shows that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is stronger as one. Everyone operated in tandem to make this event seamless, as shown by the commentary on social media about participants wanting to come back for next year.”

We hope they do, and suspect they will.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.