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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
The Mississippi Blues Marathon is a unique tourism draw. It fits into the state's year-long celebration of the creative economy.
Thousands of runners are receiving the royal blues treatment.
"I'm a big fan of the blues. I like the old blues. I like the new blues," said runner Melethia Marshall from Christiansburg, Virginia. "So the music was a big draw to coming down here because I new the course music would be blues and the after party would be blues."
"It flows into other things," said performer Scott Albert Johnson. "It gives other people that want to put on their own creative event. Who knows what the next blues marathon thing is going to be here but it gives people the confidence that this kind of event can work."
It works in ways that feed other aspects of the state's economy.
"A lot of people don't realize that we are the birthplace of America's music," said Allison Washington with the Mississippi Development Authority's Tourism Division. "So a lot of people are coming here, they're looking at us. They're like ok, we didn't know this."
Some folks admit they wouldn't usually plan a trip to the state without the marathon medal in sight. This visit started as a way to check something off Ken Whiting's to-do list.
"We run a lot of marathons and doing them in different states is a goal of mine and so when we saw one in January in Jackson, Mississippi we wanted to check it out," said Whiting.
Whiting is from Santa Cruz, California. He says one thing has stood out about Mississippi so far.
"The hospitality. My gosh, everyone has been so friendly," said Whiting. "Everyone from the restaurants and the hotels."
It's that hospitality that makes these first-time visitors want to "find their true south."
"Wanted to go to Meridian and some of the other places. You know, some of the old, just the old charming southern atmosphere down here and we really love the people," said runner James Deviese. "You can't find nicer people."
All 50 states and several countries will be represented in Saturday's race.