HOUSTON – It was perfect weather to run 26 miles and the first marathon for Houston and the Tanglefoot Trail went off without a hitch Sunday morning.
Billed as the Altis Marathon, the event saw 59 runners race north out of Houston and later returned to the starting line on Industrial Drive. A 13 mile walk was also held at the same time. “The Houston (Chicksaw Development Foundation), local businesses and the volunteers have been great,” said Mike Samuelson, Altis Marathon racemaster. “The weather was perfect, the countryside is beautiful and we had a good competitive field. It has all the makings of a great race.” The Altis Marathon began at 7:30 a.m. and the half-marathon at 8, at Industrial Drive crossing. Volunteers from the community and the Houston School of Science and Technology served racers along the course with water. “I am big into running on old rail trails,” said Samuelson. “This trail is level, it has a hard surface and a limited number of road crossing. “Those are all pluses for runners and race organizers,” he added. “We will be back next year.” Chickasaw Development Foundation executive director Joyce East said there were runners from Minnesota, Illinois, California, Wisconsin as well as Booneville, Tupelo and Houston. “This is our first race and the first race for the Trail,” said East. “I want to thank everyone who helped pull this off. We've learned a lot and hope to host these types of events on a regular basis.” Houston Mayor Stacey Parker gave the countdown to start the race. “The Trail is becoming something bigger and bigger for Houston each day,” said Parker. “This marathon brought people to town to shop, stay in our motels and eat in our restaurants. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and they will go back home and say good things about the Trail and Houston. Parker urged the business community to get involved with trail activities. “This is an incredible opportunity for anyone who does business in Houston,” said Parker. “We are urging you to come and be a part of this. We are also urging the community get out on the trail with their bike or just walk or run on the trail. It's ours and we need to use it.” Don Locke, Tanglefoot Trail executive director, and a Houston resident, said he was pleased to see Houston host the first race on the Trail. “These events cast every community along the trail in a positive light,” said Locke. “The southern end of the trail is just beginning to show signs of spring.” Locke pointed out the trail has been officially open only about six months and is beginning to hits its stride. “We are promoting it around the region, we have a number of events scheduled and we are beginning to pick up sponsors for different part of the trail,” said Locke. “The Tanglefoot Trail has the potential to bring a lot of businesse to this part of the state.”
Tanglefoot Trail has an estimated economic impact of as much as $4.8 million for Northeast Mississippi. Tanglefoot developers have said the trail could easily see up to 100,000 users each year, with Houston the southern gateway
The Chickasaw Development Foundation has repeatedly sought ways to generate tourism in the community by hosting events featuring the Trail.
The Tanglefoot Trail stretches 44.5-miles from New Albany to Houston and sports a 10-wide asphalt surface with maintained shoulders the length of the project.
The Tanglefoot Trail is a favorite for runners and cyclist because it is flat, paved and scenic.
Whistle-stops have been constructed in Ingomar, Ecru, Algoma and Houlka. Gateways will be built — complete with parking, restrooms, historic displays and information — in Houston, Pontotoc and New Albany.
The project is partially funded by a $9.6 million federal Transportation Enhancement grant administered by the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Other funding includes $350,000 in state money and a $100,000 trails grant from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks.
Three Rivers Planning and Development District serves as the administrative and fiscal agent for the GM&O District. A representative from each community along the trail serves on the GM&O District Board of Directors.
For more information about the Trail, call the Chickasaw Development Foundation at 456-2321.