By Michael Stewart / Executive Editor
The Meridian Star
Runners from as far away as Utah, Texas and New York City participated in Meridian's first full length and half length marathons Saturday.
Mississippi resident Melinda Malone was among the 259 runners in the event hosted by the Meridian LEO Club to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Foundation.
Malone drove 4.5 hours from her hometown of Iuka to run in the half marathon after learning about the event on a website dedicated to Alzheimer's research.
"My mother is 10 years in with Alzheimer's, so I figure running 13 miles is not too much," Malone said.
Meridian LEO Club President Emma Reeves said members of the organization, which is a youth branch of Lions Club International, decided to host the marathon, dubbed the Run to Remember, after hearing about an elderly man who completed a marathon.
"We thought if he can do it, we can too," Reeves said.
Although the bulk of the money raised will benefit the Alzheimer's Foundation, some proceeds will also be donated to local charities such as Camp Eagle Ridge, Hope Village for Children and the Mississippi Lions Sight Foundation.
At the event Saturday, the amount raised had not yet been tallied.
"This is our first run and we will be thankful for whatever God blesses us to get," Reeves said.
Plans are to make the run an annual event.
Members of the Meridian Police Department, in cruisers and on motorcycles, followed the runners, clearing traffic at intersections for the marathon, which began in downtown Meridian and ended at Northeast Recreational Park off Highway 39 North.
Meridian residents Jerry and Sara Abernathy were among the spectators at Northeast Recreational Park. They showed up to cheer on their daughter, Kimberly McCray, who traveled to Nashville to run in the marathon.
"I think this is great," Sara Abernathy said. "I am happy to see Meridian is getting healthy."
Runners Judy Leonard of Meridian, Kyt Bonner of Redwood, and Jimmy Gardner of Petal, all commented on the difficulty of the run, which followed Poplar Springs Drive to North Hills Street before jogging over to Highway 39 North.
"It was very hilly and challenging," said Gardner. "It was worth the drive over to get here."