Rick Cleveland

Mississippi Blues Marathon needs sponsorships to make it to Year 11

The Mississippi Blues Marathon has been going on for 10 years strong. The annual run in Jackson needs sponsorship to make it to Year 11.
The Mississippi Blues Marathon has been going on for 10 years strong. The annual run in Jackson needs sponsorship to make it to Year 11.

Jackson’s highly acclaimed Mississippi Blues Marathon, which annually draws thousands of participants from all 50 states and several foreign countries, has been running for 10 years.

There might not be an 11th, and that, for my money, would be a shame.

The race, which celebrates Mississippi, Jackson and blues music, is seeking a sponsor or sponsors. Without it, the event will not continue.

“We need corporate support; it’s that simple,” said John Noblin, one of the race’s co-founders and its director for the past decade.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, which has been the event’s sponsor for all 10 years, has shifted its focus — and its sponsorship dollars — to a statewide “Get Ready to Run” youth running program.

This is an amicable parting.

“Blue Cross & Blue Shield has been a marvelous sponsor and a huge reason why our event has gained national and even international prominence in the running community,” Noblin said.

A Blue Cross & Blue Shield statement posted on the Blues Marathon’s website reads, in part: “With our sponsorship of the Mississippi Blues Marathon ending, we would like to thank the many volunteers, musicians and runners who have made this event a world-class running event that showcases the very best of Mississippi — our music, our hospitality and, most of all, our people.”

That doesn’t change the fact that Noblin, Mississippi Blues Marathon co-founder Tony Huffman and a host of volunteers need new sponsorship to continue.

Noblin and Huffman, who serves as the event’s finance director, seek either one exclusive title sponsor or a group of presenting sponsors.

“We can work it either way, but we cannot make it work without sponsorship,” Noblin said.

The 2018 event is tentatively scheduled January 13.

Over its decade of existence, the Jackson marathon, by far Mississippi’s largest, has grown into a unique event offers competition in at marathon (26.2 miles), half marathon (13.1), quarter marathon (6.55) distances and in team relays. Blues musicians play live at the race’s beginning and finish and at different spots along the marathon route. In the past, the event has been rated among the Southeast Tourism Society’s top 20 events. Runner’s World magazine has cited the event as one of the top marathon values in the country.

In 2009 marathon legend Billy Rodgers, the four-time Boston Marathon winner, ran the race. In 2014, the race drew runners from all 50 states for the first time. In 2016, the marathon drew runners not only from all 50 states but from six foreign countries. The 2017 race had to be canceled because of a rare ice storm in the Jackson area. Entries for the 2017 race nearly capped out at 4,000.

Said Noblin, “We began as a race based in the Fondren area, but have grown into a event that shows off the best of Jackson and a whole lot of Jackson. We really laid out the course based on what we would want to show off to visitors who are in Jackson for one day. We began and end at the Mississippi Museum of Art, go through Jackson State, come back on the parkway through downtown, past the Governor’s mansion and the Capitol, out past Millsaps and through Fondren, Woodland Hills and Eastover. It’s a beautiful route, although some of the runners would tell you it’s a bit hilly.”

Noblin said the Mississippi Development Authority and Visit Jackson have pledged support both financially and marketing-wise.

More is needed or the Mississippi Blues Marathon, which has drawn so many thousands to the capitol city, will cease to exist.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.