When I began losing weight in 2011 (several months before I started running) I began to watch The Biggest Loser. For the past few seasons I have watched as much as I could and I really love how supportive the program seems to be for all of the contestants and sharing fitness and health education with the viewer population. So on Black Friday when BamaGirlRuns told me that the Biggest Loser had put a great discount on registration for their half marathon in Mobile, AL I jumped at the chance and had been looking forward to the race ever since. Then in mid-January the race announced that it would also have a Mardi Gras costume contest. (Clearly they knew I had signed up). So on Sunday morning I put on my gold crown, draped my purple cape over my shoulders, dawned my silver mask and Sparkle Athletic visor and picked up my purple plastic trombone for a one man Mardi Gras parade for 13.1 miles through the streets of southern Alabama.
Mandi and I left our town in Mississippi to head to Mobile early Sunday morning. (4am early!) We had just over a 2 hour drive to the race location for 6:30 packet pickup. After which we went to the car and napped until almost 7:30. I got dressed for the race and went to the start line to meet up with Kristin from BamaGirlRuns and we took a few pictures before the race kicked off.
I don’t know many specifics about the course because I’m not well versed with the area around Mobile, but the course stayed through mostly residential areas in a “one lane closed for runners” format. This left traffic flowing along the route and sometimes very close to runners. There was even a very brief moment where the runner traffic was going both directions within one lane. It was a very tight squeeze and also a little confusing. I ran along the route with the full intention of playing trombone as much and as often as I could. I played a little on the run coming out of the starting gate, but had decided that the water stations would be my party areas. At each water station along the course I stopped to play some Mardi Gras themed music for the volunteers and runners as they passed by. Then I would run ahead to the next station and stop again. On occasion a spectator would ask me to stop and play and I obliged. It was great hearing people remark about how it was actually a real trombone!
Around Mile 8 I realized that there was no longer runners behind me. They had drifted back to a point where I could not see them, and the runners in front of me had started to build distance because I was stopping so often. This made for a great photo opportunity coming to the finish chute! I stopped running at Mile 13 marker and marched into the finish playing loud and getting the crowd involved as I came down the road. Stepping over the timing mat and receiving a finisher medal has never felt like more of a party.
Post race festivities had already kicked off when I crossed the finish line. There was a band playing on stage featuring a BL contestant and they had just finished with the 5k awards, where Mandi King finished 2nd in her age group! Not a bad showing for her first 5k. Shortly afterwards were the awards for the half marathon. I finished 2nd in my age group too! This is the first time I’ve placed in an age division in a race longer than a 5k.
Following the awards was the costume contest. I was excited as it started and when it was my turn to step forward to show my costume I played a strand from “Second Line”. I took in the win. BOOM! The prize was an armband and display from BodyMedia Fit and a $50 gift card to a local run shop in Mobile.
Here are my thoughts on the Biggest Loser RunWalk as a whole.
- I had to wake up at 3 am for a race that started at 8 to drive to Mobile. The expo the day before only lasted until 4 so I could not get to packet pick up because I was working. BL would not let someone else pick up my bib for me thus allowing me an extra hour and a half of sleep. My annoyance about this only grew on race morning when the young lady who handed me my bib didn’t ask for id or any proof that I was Joe Raymond. Dear BL, be less strict about this policy.
- The Biggest Loser is a big brand name! Why was the race crowd so small? This race series has been around for 2 years now and was even featured on the show this season! Dear BL, Be more active on social media. Constant posting and interaction will spread the word about your races faster than any facebook page likes ever will.
- What makes the Biggest Loser special is the support given to the contestants on the show and seeing them rise above the challenges presented to them. I wish the race had more of the atmosphere of being on the BL Ranch. I want to have stops every other mile where someone is challenging you to do pull-ups, push-ups, push a tractor tire, burpees, jump on an elliptical, and attempt to jump rope. Dear BL, make it more than a race. Make it something that isn’t offered anywhere else because the Biggest Loser name is special to people.
- Crowd support was low along the course and even at the finish line. I know this was an inaugural event and hopefully in the future the city of Mobile becomes more involved but I didn’t feel much support from the community other than the water station volunteers and the families waiting at the finish. Dear BL, Make the post race event a big deal. Just because it’s after the race it can’t be an after thought.
- Dear BL, free downloadable race photos is a win! Tell your friends.
I had a great day out running and playing my horn. The weather was beautiful and the course was laid out well. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to do more Biggest Loser races in the future.