New champions will be crowned and a new course will be run Sunday in the 32nd annual Tupelo Marathon and 13.1 Miler.
Last year’s male and female marathon champions – Alan Ash of Atmore, Ala., and Leah Thorvilson of Little Rock – are not returning to defend their titles in the 26.2-mile footrace.
Ash, a former Vanderbilt cross country runner, covered the former course in 2 hours, 36 minutes, 16 seconds to win last year.
The new certified course starts and ends at the BancorpSouth Arena in downtown Tupelo. Both races, which start at 5 a.m., are scheduled to finish inside the arena.
“I think the move to the arena will make it a bigger event,” race director Mike Lail said. “It’s air conditioned, has dressing rooms and showers. It’s going to be nice.”
Distance runners from around the country are entered in this final qualifier for the Boston Marathon. All spots were filled earlier this week with the exception of a few charity openings. The entry for the 13.1-miler is closed.
“It took us several months to nail everything down on the new course,” Lail said. “We’ve got some (high traffic) areas that will be an issue. Once we get in the Joyner area, we’ll be fine.
“We do want people to know there will be runners on the streets in Joyner, Bel Air and Old Town neighborhoods, and downtown.”
Lail is hoping for a break in the weather.
“The heat is always an issue,” he said. “From what I’ve seen, it will be 65 in the morning and 90 for the high.”
Most runners should finish the marathon before 10 a.m.
It’s the shirt
Lail believes one of the major draws for entrants each year is the long-sleeved race T-shirt that features a skull and the edgy slogan, “Trample the weak, hurdle the dead.”
“The shirt is awesome this year,” he said. “Our slogan is in Spanish.”