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First Light Marathon Relay, Mobile, AL: How It Turned to Be the Most Inspiring Race I’ve Ever Done

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I participated in First Light Marathon relay race in Mobile, Ala., on Sunday, January 12th. A few weeks ago, our local running store was looking for people interested in joining this relay, so I decided to sign up.

I figured the relay would be a perfect way to combine the joy of running with a new kind of race experience: lately I’ve had very little motivation to participate in a solo race of any distance because they seem too ‘been there, done that’, so teaming up with 4 other people to cover a marathon distance sounded like fun.

Now that the race is over, I am so glad that I made a decision to sign up for it! To top that, this relay turned out to be one of the most inspiring races I’ve ever participated in!

How so? Read on!

Bienville Square in Mobile, around 6 am. Our bus just arrived.

But first, a few stats on First Light Marathon in Mobile:

  1. This is one of those smaller, local races that may lack in big city marathon perks, but makes up for it with the community involvement, both by runners and spectators.
  2. This year, the race had 533 finishers in the marathon and 639 in the half. On top of that, 80 5-people marathon relay teams participated in different categories and age groups: all-male, all-female, co-ed, masters (40+), grand masters (50+), senior grand masters (60+), etc. The youngest relay participants were 3 teams of grade school kids!
  3. Our local running store has been supporting First Light Marathon for years. This year, they split the local runners who signed up (including myself) into 15 teams. I had my doubts at first that 5 women in my team could meet for the first time in their lives and all of a sudden develop great team spirit, but the experience proved me wrong: my teammates turned out to be awesome! We ended up a team of four after one of the women dropped out before the race, but we still managed to cover the distance just fine since one of my teammates wanted to run two legs of the race anyway. Our team covered the marathon distance in 4:00:24 – a great time given that we weren’t setting any goals and just ran at a comfortable pace. At the end, we even won a team spirit award given out by our running store!
Mile 10

Volunteers at mile 10 – the second relay station

I originally wanted to make this post just a recap of the race, but instead I’d like to focus on what made it one of the most inspiring races I’ve ever done.

I’ll admit that this happened largely due to my immersion into the local running community that spins around our running store. I don’t often get to meet so many awesome people united by a great activity that I also enjoy (does anyone?), so this race proved to be a great experience.

By the way, if you’re thinking about training for a marathon as a vegan but aren’t sure where to start (How do I avoid injuries? What should my diet be like? Where would I even find the time to train?) –
My friend Matt from No Meat Athlete created a fantastic marathon training roadmap plan where he covers everything you need to successfully run a marathon while eating plant-based.
Setting goals, planning your workouts, diet and recipes, equipment, self care, and much more. And of course, the exact 24-week training plan for running a marathon.
Bonus: training plans for running a 5k, a 10k, and a half marathon.

What I Found to be the Most Inspiring in First Light Marathon

1. Watching the local running community come together. No matter how fast or slow you were as a runner, everyone was welcome on our running store’s bus that took us to Mobile at 6 am, and later under the tent that the store set up for the relay participants. It felt great to cheer for so many people participating in the race, even though most of them were strangers to me before.

2. Watching everyday mom heroes cranking out very impressive race results: I can’t even imagine the dedication level they have to juggle children, households, jobs, and getting up at the crack of dawn before the crack of dawn to squeeze in a few fast miles in preparation for a race, all before the rest of the world wakes up. All of the women on my team have 2 or 3 kids each, and yet they successfully manage to make it work! To top that, one of my teammates, Kellie, finished a couple Ironman triathlons – that alone deserves a huge bow!

3. Watching an open heart surgery survivor in his 70s participate in the relay: We met a gentleman who told us that he had taken up running after his heart attack 20 years ago, and on the anniversary of his surgery he ran his first marathon! Since then he’s managed to do at least one marathon a year until recently, and while he doesn’t run marathons anymore, he still maintains an active running schedule.

4. Watching three relay teams of grade school boys run harder than most adults: While I was feeling happy with my 8 min/mile pace during my stretch of the race, I was very impressed when the only person who passed me in the 6.2 miles turned out to be a boy who looked no older than 10!

5. Getting a finisher’s medal that was made by the members of L’Arche Mobile – a local community center that provides care for people with intellectual disabilities. A few kids from L’Arche Mobile volunteered at the finish line, and I just felt so humbled and honored to receive a medal from them. I mean, these people managed to put a much bigger effort into making this race successful compared to what I did for it, with all of my strength and free time. First Light Marathon has benefitted L’Arche Mobile for many years, with some proceeds going to support the organization.

Finishers’ medals, handmade by members of L’Arche Mobile
Medal front&back
Azalea Trail Maids – few events of any kind in Mobile happen without them
Street art: a painted oyster that’s part Picasso, part downtown Mobile

All in all, I was excited, inspired, humbled to participate in the First Light Marathon relay, and I’m definitely glad that I decided to sign up! For those of you who never participated in a relay marathon before, I highly recommend trying it out sometime. You don’t have to do it with a team of total strangers like I did, of course, but if you do, you just might meet some very inspiring people and have a great time with them!

author avatar
Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats
Alina first made a switch to a vegan diet in 2013 to optimize her athletic performance as a marathon runner. Eventually she embraced veganism as a way to be kinder to fellow living beings and the environment. Alina hopes that this blog helps its readers on their path to becoming vegan and making this world a better place.


Monday 10th of February 2014

Alina, great article! I treasure those medals, too, especially considering the hard work those folks undertake to create them. Glad you had fun! On a side note, my latest racing goal is to photobomb the Azalea Trail Maids. :)


Monday 10th of February 2014

Thank you Chris! Photobombing Azalea Trail Maids sure sounds hilarious!