Jennifer Clark HF #16743
Half #168!! In the books!!We had to make a hard choice: Big Beach in Gulf Shores AL or the inaugural Harley Half Marathon in Biloxi MS. While I enjoy Big Beach because a lot of our friends do this race, David and I decided to head to Biloxi to check out the new race!
The race started with everyone gathering at the MS Gulf Coast Coliseum. After announcements, pottie stops and the National Anthem, runners marched across the street to the start on Hwy 90, which had blocked off a lane for the run.
Race start… 7:30 with a rolling start.Weather forecast was rain around noon or later. Wrong! Rain started around 8:30 and it was off and on, misty or heavy almost til the end! If you are familiar with the Mississippi Gulf Coast race the first four miles is the same as the MGC last four miles-minus the run up the ramp! Nope, no ramp this time… but a bridge the locals call the Casino Bridge!Continuing on for a couple of miles you pass the Beau Rivage, Hard Rock Cafe Casino, Harrahs and the Golden Nugget Casino (race host). You then head up the bridge on a pedestrian walkway. It had two elevations (see the picture) as it crossed over the bay from Biloxi to Ocean Springs.Once in Ocean Springs, as you descend the bridge, you take an immediate right and you are on Beach Blvd. To the right is the Biloxi Bay with nice sandy beaches and to the left, some really nice homes! Encompassing a little over 2 miles, you make your way down to the Marina, do a little loop and back up Beach Blvd with the bridge in full view, ominous in its own way!The last 2 miles crosses the bridge and takes you to the finish line at the Golden Nugget! The race director, Mike, was at the corner of the Casino entrance to the finish line congratulating each runner as they came in. That was a very nice touch.
The after party was definitely Covid limited but they had beer and snacks. Beer is always good! The medal was unique and nicely designed. You could pick up extra bling if you did the Casino Bridge 5K and/or 10K the day before! The first 300 who signed up received a cool embroidered 1/4 Zip jacket while others got a nice tech shirt. The race was done by Harley Sports, not stranger to races, sponsoring a number of 5K and 10K events. So, logistics for the most part were well done!
Water stops every two miles manned by different groups of people, especially the Air Force ROTC group from St Martin’s High school who encouraged each runner onward! The Biloxi Police provided excellent and courteous traffic control, especially in front of the Casinos! The main suggestions would be to have more Porta Potties at the start, 2 at the first water station and 1 at alternating water stops after that. They didn’t have a normal Expo due to Covid but they did have a couple of vendors like Brook Shoes in separate rooms next to packet pick up, making it Covid protocol friendly.
This race could definitely be a contender as a Mississippi destination race as it continues to grow. In talking to the RD, he said plans were being discussed to make Harley a Challenge race with another well known event in the future! Stay tuned!Recommendation? You bet! We would do it again!