Back to Bay Saint Louis, MS!
We woke extra early today, and as I sat sipping coffee in the dark, it was really hard to fathom that today would be the last marathon of this trek. We got it all together though and made our way to the start which was at the MS welcome center (what an appropriate starting line!) just south of I-10. We arrived to see an amazing crew of people out there to cheer me on, see me off, and even run with me! Friends from Vicksburg, from my home church there, from Jackson, from Rhodes, from Bay St. Louis, and a few extras from here and there too. It was humbling to see such a crowd out there at 6am just to see me off. We had a great police escort the entire way- one car in front, one behind, plus a whole slough of support vehicles trailing along. The big BSL church truck was decked out with posterboard signs and streamers, and it was so great seeing such supportive people all along the way. At about the halfway point, we turned onto the Beach Blvd. and cruised on that for most of the second half. Just after the turn, I noticed two very familiar looking ladies on the right, and realized quickly that it was my Grandma and my Aunt Helen! They had surprised me with a trip all the way from their homes on the West Coast- WOW! I could hardly believe it! We just kept trucking along, not going for any speed records today, but just having a good time. We went through downtown Bay Saint Louis around mile 21, and there was an awesome crowd on both sides of the street cheering me on, which made it hard to leave them and crank out the last few miles, but wow what a feeling to see all these wonderful folks out. The last loop of miles went by quickly, and just as we turned onto Main St for the last stretch, Kirsten and I pulled away from the pack a little bit and went the last leg together. As we got closer I saw a huge mass of something at the end of the road by the beach, and as we got closer I finally realized it was a massive crowd of people at the finish line. The end was a blur, but I remember seeing wonderful signs like, "Welcome home Sam" and "BSL loves Sam" and things like that amidst near deafening cheers from all around. I crossed the finish line of this marathon of marathons, and was surrounded by friends and family from all over the place- it couldn't have been better. The mayor, Eddie Favre made a really nice presentation from the city, and I did my best to talk to as many people as I possibly could, but I know I wasn't able to talk with everyone unfortunately. It was all really very difficult to process- the idea of this being truly the last marathon of this adventure, but I couldn't have asked for better people around me at the end. We all went back to the church afterwards where we had a wonderful lunch and relaxed a bit. We eventually made our way back to New Orleans in the afternoon where we continued to relax and later had another wonderful celebratory meal. It was truly a perfect last day to this event. On Sunday Kirsten and I flew up o New York (starting to get deja vu coming to New York again), and will be on the Early Show on CBS tomorrow morning. Thank you all so very much for your wonderful support, prayers, and encouragement over the past 2 months- I could not have done it without you all! Please continue to keep the people of the Gulf Coast in your hearts and minds even now that this marathon journey has ended, and I hope this finds you and all your families well. Also, I will update the blog in the coming weeks as any other things happen, more upcoming media, etc. THANK YOU!!!!