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Thousands expected for inaugural Gulf Coast Marathon

This map shows the start of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon and Half Marathon. Both will end inside MGM Park in Biloxi.
This map shows the start of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon and Half Marathon. Both will end inside MGM Park in Biloxi.

With “Soak Up The Run” serving as the event’s motto, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon will attract both top competitors and novice runners this weekend.

There will be a healthy schedule of events beginning on Friday, but the main event is set for Sunday along the beach with both the marathon and half marathon beginning at 7 a.m.

The full marathon course on U.S. 90 sets up to be a quick one thanks to a flat surface that stretches from Henderson Point in Pass Christian to MGM Park in Biloxi.

“This is a Boston qualifier and the course is so flat that we’re expecting some great (personal records),” said Erin Kenna, who manages public relations for Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast. “The courses that competitors have been racing before feature some tougher terrain. Hopefully, we’ll have the wind at our backs.”

The course is a USATF-certified qualifier for the 2017 Boston Marathon, which is set for April 18.

A total of 2,839 competitors have registered for the marathon with participants set to arrive from 42 states. About 25 percent of the runners registered are from Biloxi, Gulfport, Ocean Springs or Long Beach. Competitors from Mississippi make up 52.3 of those registered and 26.1 percent are from Louisiana.

The half marathon will start at Jones Park in Gulfport and end at MGM Park.

Big crowd

Event planners are projecting a crowd of 30,000 to be on hand, including runners, spectators and volunteers.

Those who are planning on doing some traveling near the beach on Sunday should make adjustments.

The two southernmost lanes of U.S. 90 will be shut down beginning at 6:30 a.m. Sunday and the two northern lanes will be used for two-way traffic. West-bound lanes on U.S. 90 will have a rolling close as the runners approach MGM Park.

The Coors Light Finish Fest will take place at MGM Park the day of the marathon. Non-runners can purchase tickets for the event, which will feature music and food, at the official gear shop at MGM Park.

Busy weekend

The schedule of events begins at 11 a.m. on Friday with the opening of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon Expo at the Mississippi Coast Convention Center in Biloxi. The expo, which will be open to the public and feature more than 50 exhibitors, will be open from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday.

Late registration is available at the expo unless the race sells out. You can also register for events at MississippiGulfCoastMarathon.com.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast 5K is slated for 8 a.m. Saturday beginning at Point Cadet in Biloxi. Gear check will open at 7 a.m.

“We’re thinking with families, the 5K presents a great opportunity to get out of the holiday slump of overeating,” Kenna. “We’re encouraging families to sign up. They can walk if they want to.”

A kids marathon is set to follow at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday at Point Cadet. Kids of all ages can run the 1.2-mile event.

Schedule of events

Friday

11 a.m.-7 p.m.: Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon Expo at the Mississippi Coast Convention Center in Biloxi

6:30 p.m.: Mississippi Gulf Coast Poker Run (Main Street and South Beach Boulevard in Bay St. Louis)

7:30 p.m.: Mississippi Gulf Coast Beer Mile (Main Street and South Beach Boulevard in Bay St. Louis)

Saturday

7 a.m.: Gear check for Mississippi Gulf Coast 5K at Point Cadet Plaza in Biloxi

8 a.m.: Start of Mississippi Gulf Coast 5K at Point Cadet Plaza

9:30 a.m.: Start of Mississippi Gulf Coast Kids Marathon at Point Cadet Plaza

Sunday

4:30 a.m.: Shuttle depot opens at Mississippi Coast Convention Center

7 a.m.: Start of Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon and Half Marathon. The marathon course is U.S. 90 from Henderson Point in Pass Christian to MGM Park in Biloxi. The half marathon on U.S. 90 is from Jones Park in Gulfport to MGM Park.

8 a.m.: Finish Festival opens at MGM Park

11 a.m.: Announcement of half marathon awards at MGM Park

1 p.m.: Announcement of marathon awards

2 p.m.: Race concludes and Finish Festival closes

2:30 p.m.: Return shuttles to Coast Convention Center

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