By GENE PHELPS
The quest to qualify for the 2014 Boston Marathon has spiked an interest from runners around the nation for Sunday’s 30th annual Tupelo Marathon and 14.2 Miler.
Race director Mike Lail has seen a 30 percent increase in entries this year.
“They all want to run our race and qualify for Boston,” he said. “They don’t understand that this isn’t the perfect marathon to run for a qualifier with the heat and elevation changes on the course.”
Boston race officials are expecting a 15 percent increase in entries – following last April’s terrorist bombings – for their famed 26.2-mile run.
This year’s Tupelo Marathon race medallions feature a salute to Boston. “They say, ‘The TRC (Tupelo Running Club) remembers Boston,’” Lail said.
Lail expects a field of 364 runners, representing 28 states, for Sunday’s race. There are also 313 runners signed up for the 14.2 miler.
“We capped the registration June 11 and that’s the quickest we’ve ever done that,” he said. “We even added some extra slots.”
The race will start at 5 a.m. and finish at the Mississippi Furniture Market at the corner of Coley and Chesterville roads in Tupelo. Next year the event will start at finish at the BancorpSouth Arena in downtown Tupelo.
Three former champions and course record holders are signed up for this year’s race – Clinton’s Chuck Engle (male open), Ocean Springs’ Leonard Vergunst (male masters, grandmasters) and Little Rock’s Leah Thorvilson (female open).
The female masters record holder, Joyce Deason of Shreveport, La., was entered but withdrew because of an injury.
“We’ve got a good field,” Lail said. “I don’t think we had three people break three hours last year. That won’t be the case this year.”
Engle, 42, who has won a record 161 marathons, is the male open favorite.
“This guy runs a marathon about every week,” Lail said. “When he’s not running three a month, something’s wrong.”