First Light Marathon, January 10, 2016 (Mobile, Alabama)

This is one of my favorite races. It has so many things to recommend it – a pleasant course in a neat little southern town, friendly people, and a great post-race meal. Proceeds of the race support L’Arche Mobile, an organization dedicated to the growth and development of people with intellectual disabilities; members of L’Arche Mobile community decorate the wooden medallions and give them to racers as they cross the finish line.

In the 10 years I have been marathoning, I have completed 7 First Light Marathons, more than any other race. That in itself says volumes, since I rarely repeat races unless I like them a great deal. Extensive reviews of First Light can be found on my earlier blog reports so I will only mention several relevant changes of note.

The most intriguing change was the introduction of chip timing. Usually this race is begun with runners and walkers lining up behind a chalk mark on the street. I have always enjoyed the more casual atmosphere and never really minded the fact that I might lose a few minutes waiting until I crossed the start line. This year the feel was still very relaxed, perhaps even more so, because there was no need to rush to begin. However, there must have been some technical problems with the timing apparatus because it took several days before unofficial results were up on the website. As of Thursday, chip times were still not available. Despite the delay, I actually did better this year than ever before, with a gun time finish of 6:03. Usually my times at Mobile range from 6:15 to 6:25, so I was pretty happy.

Weather here can be very unpredictable in January; I have experienced everything from freezing cold with 10-degree wind chill to a hot and humid 85 degrees. This year it was a bit cold for me, with starting temps in the mid-40’s and it rose around 10 degrees during the day, with overcast skies and a brisk wind. However, it was not unbearable and I was dressed appropriately, with several layers, mittens, and cap.

Lots of participants did the Back2Back Challenge, racing Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, MS, on Saturday and then First Light on Sunday. That meant I had a chance to see many of my Maniac friends, including Angela, Cheryl, Larry, Jim, and Matthew. Maybe someday I will try the Challenge but for now I enjoy being able to spend a leisurely Saturday browsing one of my favorite bookstores, Bienville Books, instead of traveling from one city to the other.

First Light has both full and half marathons and offers a racewalking category for both races. My racewalking form leaves a lot to be desired (I call myself a power walker) so I usually just enter as a runner, but this year I decided to enter as a racewalker. I saw several very strong and fast walkers pass me at the beginning of the race so I was fairly sure that I would not place for an award. When the times were finally announced, I was surprised and pleased to find that I was third female; that was very satisfying.

With a 7-hour time limit, this race is very walker friendly. The only major concern is the hazardous condition of some of the roads. There are cracks and potholes in some areas, making it essential to keep an eye on the ground to avoid tripping.

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