Mississippi College

Former MC Runner Stars in Mississippi Blues Marathon

January 8, 2008

Former Mississippi College runner Matthew Manning said today he felt like a big-time superstar as he competed amid cheers from fans lining the streets for the inaugural Mississippi Blues Marathon.

The 23-year-old MC graduate assistant coach was the first runner to finish Saturday from the Jackson metro area. "It was an awesome experience. There was so much support from friends and family turning out," he said Monday.

Some of his supporters left the Mississippi Gulf Coast at 3:30 a.m. Saturday to catch his performance and they didn't leave the race disappointed.

His time of 2:45.53 was the ninth best overall finish over the 26.2-mile course along the streets of Jackson and Flowood. He is now qualified for the Boston Marathon, but isn't quite sure if he will compete in the spring in an event that he says is the running world's equivalent of the World Series.

Manning, who received his bachelor's degree from MC in business administration in December 2006, also must hit the books at his alma mater. He is pursuing a master's degree in business administration and expects to finish in December 2008.

A feature story by sports writer Rod Walker on Manning in Sunday's Clarion-Ledger noted that he ran his first race - the Frogtown Race in Canton - at age 4. As a junior at Madison St. Joseph High, he won the Class 1A state championship in cross country, the 1,600 meters and the 3,200 meters before starring at MC. At the Christian university in Clinton, Manning earned American Southwest Conference runner of the year honors.

Now he's happy to win $300 as the first finisher in Saturday's race among scores of competitors from Hinds, Rankin and Madison counties. A New Yorker, 25-year-old Alene Reta, was the overall winner with a time of 2 hours, 25 minutes and one second. There were more than 1,400 runners in the race. Gov. Haley Barbour and Jackson Mayor Frank Melton addressed the crowds. The Mississippi Blues Marathon and Half-Marathon and Kids Run was sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield.

While Manning continues to relish the results of his amazing performance on what was like his home course, he hasn't quite ruled out the Boston Marathon. "You can never tell" where the Lord may lead you, said the Madison County native.

Saturday's big turnout of cheering road race fans in his corner, he said, "was an awesome testimonial."

This was Manning's first marathon.

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