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The Great 38 Race looking to expand in its fourth year

Three years ago, the University of Mississippi and its athletics department partnered with members of Oxford’s running community to create an event to honor a fallen Rebel.

The collaboration became The Great 38, a two-day event that has three different races — a 5K, an 8-mile and a half-marathon (13.1 miles), all of which helps raise money for the Chucky Mullins Endowment. The first three years have seen impressive participation numbers, but organizers say they believe the fourth year will be the biggest and best yet.

In 2016, around 700 runners participated in the inaugural Great 38 event. The number of runners grew to approximately 800 the past two years, but there is a goal of 1,000 runners for this year’s event, which takes place Oct. 26-27. As of this week, nearly 500 runners had signed up and the races was tracking toward its usual number of 800.

“We’re just trying to grow and I’m not patient. It’s the Texan in me,” race chairman Marvin King said. “Double Decker has been around for like 25 years and it’s up to 1,500 runners, and I want 1,500 runners (for our event) now. I don’t want to wait 25 years.”

King’s eventual goal is to make The Great 38 the largest race in Mississippi, which would mean over 4,000 runners participating. Currently, the largest race in the state is the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson every February.

For now, King said he is happy with the way The Great 38 is trending, but he knows more runners who register and more sponsors signing up means more dollars going to the Chucky Mullins Endowment. Mullins played football at Ole Miss in 1988-89 before suffering an injury that paralyzed him. Mullins passed away in 1991.

The purpose of the endowment is to provide scholarships to students with physical disabilities.

“We would like it to be kind of like the (Oxford) Film Festival,” King said. “Where it’s just, even if you don’t go to the film festival, it’s been around for 17 years, people know that we have a film festival. That’s what we’re trying to get, because that would make it easier for us to get sponsors. If people just know, ‘Oh yeah, The Great 38 is every October.’ Even if they don’t participate, at least in their conscious they’re aware of it and that’s what we’re trying to get to.”

The 5K and 8-mile races will take place on Saturday, Oct. 26, with the half-marathon being held on Sunday, Oct. 27. Each race’s finish line is the 38 yard-line on Ole Miss’s football field, inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Through Oct. 21, the registration fees are between $25 and $75, depending on which races the runner signs up for. Those prices will increase on Oct. 22. Those who participate receive a t-shirt and those who finish the 8-mile and half-marathons will receive a medal.

King noted they are also still looking for around 100 more volunteers.

To sign up for a race or as a volunteer, more information can be found here.