On a morning that promises high expectations, great victories, nagging defeats, dashed dreams, burning lungs, suspicious rashes and wobbly legs, nearly 400 runners will take over the streets of Greenwood on Saturday for the eighth annual Viking Half Marathon and 5K.
The races are sponsored by the Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce and signal the beginning of the festival season, attracting crowds of people from cities across Mississippi not only for the races but for the pre-race gatherings of fit, skinny people on Friday night and the food trucks, beer and blues following the races Saturday morning.
Everything starts and ends downtown, with the 13.1-mile runners beginning at 8 a.m. and the 3.1-mile runners following at 8:30 from the corner of Fulton and Market. The races will wrap up at the corner of Front Street and Main.
All of the 13.1-mile route of the half marathon is kept downtown and south of the Tallahatchie Bridge, meaning driving around North Greenwood will be an impossibility from about 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Volunteers in bright green T-shirts and orange vests will be stationed at various intersections to protect the runners and help the drivers navigate the route.
Viking is, of course, the title sponsor, and anyone coming downtown can take a $5 chance on a raffle to win The Viking Experience, which is a weekend for two at The Alluvian, two seats at a Viking Cooking School class and a spa package for two, all valued at $1,500.
Volunteers gathered at the Chamber of Commerce office Thursday for a briefing on race security and how to keep runners safe and to pick up their volunteer T-shirts, safety vests and stop signs.
Runners may still register or pick up their packets and swag at The Alluvian starting at 1 p.m. Friday and then Saturday morning from 6:30 to 7:45. Registration fees are $70 Friday and $80 Saturday for the half marathon and $40 Friday and $45 Saturday for the 5K.
Race supporters will line routes downtown and at spots along the half marathon north of the bridge. The temperature promises to be around 50 at race time, with a high for the day expected in the low 70s.
When the races end, food and music begin. Mississippi Marshall, fresh off an appearance at the Stone Pony in Clarksdale, will sing and play the blues.
Food trucks will offer catfish from Larry’s Fish House, hot tamales from Honest Abe’s, wraps from By the Bridge Bistro, and pizza from Domino’s. Michelob Ultra is one of the race sponsors, so there will be beer.
After the runners have finished, an awards ceremony will be held in the same spot as the beer and the food, and all participants in the half marathon will receive finisher medals.
The defending champion in the half marathon is Clayton Smith, 37, from Flora, with a 2018 time of 1:27:56.16. He hadn’t registered for the race by Thursday afternoon, but there was still time to do so. Lonnie Smith, 39, of Leland, won the 5K in less time than it takes to eat fried catfish and drink a beer — 19:31.83.
•Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or email@example.com.