By Joey Lee
The Mississippi River Marathon offers the only marathon in the Mississippi Delta and a variety of opportunities that no other race in the world can offer. Our goal is first, for people across the nation, especially in Delta communities, to get excited about healthy lifestyles by supporting and participating in our running events. Second, this marathon was created to help all children receive an excellent education by donating funds raised to Teach For America. ~ MS River Marathon
One of the great things about the surge in popularity of marathons and half marathons is that instead of having a choice of only a handful of great races, now there are tons. Just a few years ago, Mississippi had only a couple. Today, I can count four off the top of my head, and they offer interesting courses and the chance to enjoy some of the state’s rich heritage and wide geographical diversity.
The Mississippi River Marathon is one of those, and it offers runners a unique opportunity to start a marathon in Arkansas, run across the breathtaking new U.S. 82 Mississippi River bridge and finish in historic downtown Greenville. And, it is a Boston Marathon qualifying race. In 2015 the marathon will be held on Valentine’s Day. It’s hard to find a more perfect way to show your love for someone than by training for and then running in something like this as a couple (or giving your significant other a chance to cheer you to the finish line).
The idea of a marathon crossing the Mississippi River started with two Teach for America corps members in Lake Village, Arkansas who approached Teach for America about hosting a marathon starting in Arkansas and ending in the Mississippi Delta. Race visionaries Chris Marsh and Bretton Wall took the lead on creating the event and began the process by establishing a board of directors.
From there, the group partnered with the City of Lake Village (Ark.), City of Greenville, Chicot County and Washington County to make sure they had the support necessary to make this a sustainable event. They also did their research by talking to other race organizers and directors from across the country to learn what makes a successful event.
Now going into its third year, the race has been a success since the beginning. “We’ve had 1,200 participants each year and in 2015 we hope to sell out at 1,200 runners,” said Suzette Matthews, race director for the Mississippi River Marathon. “Last year we had three countries and more than 30 states represented.”
“In the past two years we’ve raised more than $100,000 for Teach for America,” Suzette said. “We use social media fundraising to raise money to participate in Team TFA and ask people to raise $150 over the cost of registration.”
For those looking for an “easy” course, this one is probably right up there. Suzette describes it as one of the flattest in the nation, excluding the bridge over the Mississippi River, of course. “But that’s a very gradual incline,” she said.
Do more than just run – directly support our mission of expanding educational opportunities for students in Mississippi by joining Team Teach For America. As a team member, you commit to raise at least $150 during your marathon training – and by creating your own unique fundly fundraising page you can tap into your social network and compete with your teammates to raise the most. Team TFA runners will receive a limited-edition Team TFA performance running shirt and VIP transportation to the start line, and the top fundraiser will be awarded an iPad Mini!
Not ready to tackle a full marathon? The MS River Marathon has something for everybody – in addition there is a half marathon, 5K run and one mile community run.
Participants in this event can expect very enthusiastic volunteers filled with the congeniality and hospitality for which Mississippi is known. “Our volunteers are so excited to have an influx of people come to the Delta to run, they go out of their way to make sure our runners have a good time and have everything they need,” Suzette explained.
On MarathonGuide.com, reviewers give the Mississippi River Marathon 4.5 out of five stars for the course, five out of five for the race organization and four out of five for fans. Comments from previous participants are all very positive, and praise the organization, course and volunteers.
J.H. from Tennessee writes of the 2014 race, “This is the second time this race has been held and my second time to participate. I enjoyed this year’s race much more, due specifically to ‘no head wind’ like last year. It snowed slightly the night before but the race team had everything cleared by the start. I love running in cold temps and also REALLY appreciate volunteers who work all the water stops and intersections under cold conditions.”
J.W. from Springfield, Missouri wrote, “Running over the Mississippi River was cool!”
Writing about the first year for the event, B.M. from Utah penned, “What an amazing inaugural year! No hiccups, glitches, or problems at all. When I got off the bus at the starting line, there were huge bonfires where I kept warm. The course itself was beautiful. The Lake was stunning and the bridge was epic. I was dreading running miles 16-20 along highway 82 but they had great aid stations every mile and plenty of people along the course cheering and playing music. The finish line was perfect with local bands playing, all the free beer I could drink and hoards of food. Usually when I finish, all the food is gone. This is a must do marathon. Well worth the money and travel time.”
And finally, W.S. from Chicago writes, “The quantity and quality of the support from the volunteers and the hospitality of the locals was incredible. We drove from Chicago and felt welcome every minute we were there. Thanks so much for a great race!”
So if you’re looking for a great local marathon, or a unique way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your honey, you should take a serious look at the Mississippi River Marathon. Show ‘em some love and give it a go. It’s a great race that promotes healthy living, education and a good old Delta good time.
For more information about the Mississippi River Marathon visit: www.msrivermarathon.com.
Teach For America works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding college graduates and professionals to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the movement to end educational inequity. Today, 303 corps members are teaching across Mississippi while 150+ alumni work across sectors in Mississippi to ensure that all children have access to an excellent education. The funds raised by Team TFA help recruit and train corps members to work in schools across the state.