I am not one to brag, but on March 16, at a 5K race in Biloxi, Miss., I set a personal best, breaking 30 minutes for the first time. And it was my first 5K of the year.
The race, which started and finished in front of Biloxi’s city hall, was an out and back that went through a neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In fact, most of the neighborhood is gone. I talked to a police officer after the race and he said that side of town is lower in elevation than the rest of the city and flooding wiped out most of the homes. Because most of the homeowners did not have flood insurance, they did not have money to rebuild, so all that remains are vast tracts of vacant lots. The police officer said he knew of one couple who lost their home and the husband lost his job because the company he worked for was wiped out by Katrina. The wife was a school teacher and would have still had a job after the school reopened, but they moved to Tennessee instead and started over.
As you drive into Biloxi from Ocean Springs, Biloxi looks to be thriving with casinos and hotels along U.S. 90, but just a block or two off 90 and the picture of Biloxi is completely different. It looks not like a city that is thriving but of a city that is dying. I think, after talking to the police officer, that Biloxi is somewhere in the middle. It is a city that is slowly recovering from a devastating hurricane and subsequent flooding.
Now my race report. I started fairly fast, finishing the first mile in 9:45. My second mile was even faster, though I don’t remember the exact time. My third mile was the slowest: 10:01. My final time was 29:07, though the official race results list my time as 29:10. Either way, it was my fastest 5K ever. OK, I only started running 5Ks in 2008, and that first year my times were in the 36-minute range. Last year, my only timed 5K was about 32:15. The Biloxi course was flat. I don’t think there was a single incline or decline in the entire course. If there was in was a few feet, I guess. Even my run a few days earlier in Ocean Springs had hills.