By D.E. Wheeler

Daily Journal

The course the Gum Tree 10K has charted in road racing in Mississippi over the years has been very consistent.

– The same race sponsor the Bank of Mississippi since 1979.

– Quickly becoming and maintaining the title as the state’s biggest road race.

– Run on the second Saturday in May.

Yes, one of the strengths of the Gum Tree has been its consistency in many areas. But now the course of the Gum Tree will take a detour in 1996 literally.

Due to construction at two different intersections along the course used since 1979, the second mile of the May 11 event will change.

“Work started this past Monday on the intersections of Jackson Street and Clayton Avenue, and Jackson Street and Joyner Avenue,” Gum Tree race director Johnny Dye said. “And the work is expected to take anywhere from 60 to 90 days.”

With the road work on the two intersections, Dye is only planning minor changes in the Gum Tree course. And only in the second mile of the course.

Right now, the course change will begin just past the first mile mark, which is on Park Street. Instead of runners going all the way to Jackson Street to turn west, the course will turn left onto Blair Street off of Park Street.

From Blair Street, the course will turn right onto Clayton Avenue, and even go through the Jackson-Clayton intersection. The course will then turn back west onto Woodlawn Drive, taking runners to Joyner Avenue.

Runners will take a right onto Joyner Avenue, then continue on the normal Gum Tree course the rest of the way.

“All of the change is in the second mile of the race, and we’re basically looking at the same terrain as the old second mile,” Dye said. “Comparing Blair to Jackson, there is the same amount of incline involved, but it’s more gradual on Blair.”

From Park Street to Clayton Avenue, the Jackson Street incline was considered the steepest uphill section on the course. Dye feels the Blair Street incline will benefit the runners, as could the additional shade of Woodlawn Drive.

The new second mile still takes the course through the Clayton-Jackson intersection, which will be under construction. But city officials have told Dye the intersection will still be passable to runners.

The only negative aspect of the change is the addition of two more turns on this new second mile, which some runners might feel would slow them down.

“Plan C would have us turning and coming up Magnolia (Street), and perhaps the course hitting a big hill off of Magnolia,” Dye said. “But if we’d gotten to that point, we would have looked at a number of things we could do.”

Entry update: Dye reports that the only elite runner that has committed to the Gum Tree recently is defending Masters champion Wilson Waigwa.

Waigwa has won this division four times, and finished seventh overall last year in a time of 31 minutes, 55 seconds.

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