By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
TUPELO – Only one time in the Tupelo Marathon’s 27-year history has the annual race been run in rain. Marathon director David Whiteside hopes that will stay true through the 28th edition.
With Tropical Storm Lee making landfall Saturday along the Louisiana coast and taking aim on northeast Mississippi, all plans are still on go for Sunday’s morning races, which begin at 5 a.m.
“We hope to dodge it,” Whiteside said of Lee’s weather effects. “If it’s raining we’ll still go, but if it’s an electric storm it will be different.”
As far as the races are concerned, two new champions will be crowned in the marathon portion.
On the men’s side, two-time defending champion Justin Radke of Little Rock, Ark. will miss this year’s race due to an injured foot.
Women’s three-time defending champion Leah Thorvilson, also of Little Rock, has taken on an elite marathon schedule this year and will be in South Carolina this weekend racing against the Japanese national team.
Both defending champions in the 14.2-mile race will be returning, Aaron Ainsworth of Birmingham, Ala. and Leah Justice of Belden. This year, both Ainsworth and Justice will be facing stiffer competition.
“We’ve got some runner coming for the 14.2 mile that are slightly below elite level,” said Whiteside. “That will open it up.”
A full field of 550 for both races is set to take to the course, which will begin and end at the Tupelo Furniture Market Complex.
“We hit the 550 limit by the end of June, which is phenomenal,” Whiteside said. “We turned down more than 100 people.”