Saturday's 26th annual Frostbite Half-Marathon featured a record number of participants. In the end, it was Brian McDonnieal and Meggan Franks that rose to the top of the field.
Out of 383 registrants, only three of which were no-shows, McDonnieal and Franks each braved the 13.1-mile course that stretches from Pheba to the Oktibbeha County Hospital HealthPlex to win their respective divisions.
McDonnieal, a senior at Corinth High School, finished the race in 1:21:31 to become both the overall winner and top male finisher.
Franks, who lives in Starkville, took home the female crown with a time of 1:27:24.
It was quite the special day for both of Saturday's winners.
McDonnieal said he didn't set out to win the Frostbite, but was thrilled that he was able to accomplish the feat.
"I actually thought I'd probably die around mile 10," said McDonnieal. "Waking up this morning, I was thinking, I've got 13 miles ahead of me. That's not what you want to wake up to. But I just got out there...and seeing all the people, it was just a big adrenaline rush."
Using that energy, McDonnieal comfortably won the Frostbite in what was his second year to compete in the event.
Yet McDonnieal admitted he couldn't have done it without a few boosts along the way.
"The water stops were awesome," said McDonnieal. "I've never been so happy to see people holding cups."
Franks, an avid runner who is just 14 weeks removed from welcoming her daughter, Madison, into the world, said she actually entered Saturday's race with the mindset to win.
Still, she knew the path to the top would be difficult in her first race since having her child.
"We've got a lot of really good runners in this area with Boardtown (running club)," said Franks. "It was nice to get out there and get a win. I'm not in as good of shape as I was (before the pregnancy), but I've got so many great people to run with in this area that push me and I push back. All those people I run with have helped me get back in shape this quickly."
Franks said the race wasn't without its difficulties, but overall she was proud of her day's work.
"I went at it a little too quickly the first couple of miles," said Franks. "Then between about mile seven and mile 10, it was hard. Especially up the big hill. I was thinking, 'Why did I run this race? I should be home with my baby.'"
However, Franks found the inspiration to continue, partly due to the same cups of water that McDonnieal was so thankful for.
"I just had so much support, like with the water stops and so many people along the road," said Franks. "Plus, this being my hometown, I know everybody and they know me, so that really helped out."
While it was indeed a memorable day for McDonnieal, Franks and all other race participants, Frostbite race director Elaine Schimpf said the entire event turned out to be perhaps the most successful one yet.
"The first year I did this (five years ago) there were only 187 people," said Schimpf. "Each year, this has just gotten bigger and bigger and bigger. This is by far the most we've ever had register and run. It's been huge."
Schimpf readily admits that there is plenty of hard work done behind the scenes to put on the Frostbite each year.
Still, she says all the planning and preparations become worth it on race day.
"We start preparing for this in August and I just love it," said Schimpf. "My favorite part is blowing that horn at the start. But there's just so much that goes into this. You have to have the clock, the chutes and the numbers. But it all comes together and it's always a lot of fun.
"I think if you make it exciting, then (the participants) get excited."