First Light Marathon Revisited – Again (Mobile, AL, January 11, 2015)

This was my 6th appearance at First Light, a testament to its strong pull for me. While I always enjoy visiting the city of Mobile, the real attraction is the race itself – it all takes place in a relaxed, fun atmosphere, with friendly runners and spectators. The only real variable here is the weather; it can be icy cold, hot and humid, or rainy and damp. This year it was cool all day, in the 50’s at the start and just slightly higher at the finish. I dressed warmly, with long-sleeved shirt and light jacket, mittens and hand warmers, but kept the jacket on all day because of the cold breeze.

I stayed at the Holiday inn Downtown, in my opinion the best place to stay since the race begins just outside its front door. It is clean, comfortable, and welcoming, but there are other hotels in the area that are also close by. I simply like the simplicity of staying right near the start and the ease of getting to and from the hotel from the interstate.

I’ve written about this race several times here so I won’t go into lots of detail in this write-up. I would like to note, however, several changes that have been made since I last did the race in 2013. First, there is no longer a free pasta dinner the evening before the race. Instead, several area restaurants offer substantial discounts to runners for pre-race meals. There have also been several major changes to the course. Runners no longer have to worry about being stopped by a train in the early miles of the race. I was never fast enough to be caught at the railroad tracks but it evidently was a problem for speedier runners. The other major course change occurs during the final 3 ½ mile stretch to the finish line. Instead of following the heavily trafficked Spring Hill Avenue, runners now proceed down Dauphin Street. This substitution changes the milieu from a noisy busy street to a much quieter one and leads directly to the finishers chute in Bienville Square.

Proceeds from the marathon, half marathon, and relay go as always to L’Arche Mobile, a community of adults with intellectual disabilities. The medals are handmade by L’Arche Mobile members and are handed personally to all runners and walkers who complete the races.

After the race, participants are welcome to partake of the lunch catered by a local restaurant. Usually there is BBQ, beans, and coleslaw; I always look forward to the delicious coleslaw. This year the menu was changed to red beans and rice with cold pasta salad and a corn muffin. I was dubious; I had been mentally tasting that BBQ and coleslaw for the last 15k. But I was pleasantly surprised. Either everything was exceptionally tasty or I was especially hungry or a combination of both, but I managed to scarf everything up.

My finishing time was not so great (6:24) but the time limit is 7 hours so I wasn’t worried about being last, especially since I was surrounded by a number of hearty souls, mostly Maniacs, who had just raced the very hilly Mississippi Blues marathon in Jackson on Saturday and were running on tired legs. I admired their strength and gusto; I am not sure how well I would have fared if I had tried that double. All in all, it was another great race in a great city.


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