The ServisFirst Bank First Light Marathon presented by Mobile Sports Authority will take place on Sunday, Jan. 14, for the 17th time. From its humble beginnings, the marathon has grown over the years to be a USA Track and Field-certified 26.2-mile course attracting runners from all 50 states and 12 countries. It is also a qualifier for the famous Boston Marathon.

The original idea behind the event was to raise funds for L’Arche Mobile, a Christian community that shares the lives of people with intellectual disabilities in a permanent, family-like environment. To show their appreciation, L’Arche members make approximately 3,000 special wooden medallions for participants in the full marathon, 13.1-mile half marathon, relay race and 1.2-mile Fun Run.

There are also some 1,200 special awards that are painted canvases. On the back is a biography of the resident who was involved in creating the canvas. Residents give out the mementos at the completion of the race.

“Many of the runners will write the residents back and thank them,” said Marty O’Malley, executive director of the Mobile chapter since 1980. “That is what sets us apart. These are not the typical awards.”

This special atmosphere surrounding this race will expand in 2018.

“Since this year the marathon is the same weekend as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we have been working with several groups to create a vision of unity through our diversity,” O’Malley said. “L’Arche Mobile, People United to Advance the Dream [PUAD], Mobile United and the Port City Chapter of Blacks in Government have been working together with the city of Mobile on several special projects.”

Events begin Friday at 6 p.m. with the MLK Connect Kick-Off by PUAD at the Mobile Museum of Art. Guest speaker is Rev. Dr. Clinton Johnson.

On Saturday, there will be a cleanup event at Tricentennial Park hosted by Mobile United. If individuals cannot attend, O’Malley encourages a group to help clean any neighborhood in their city.

“During Sunday’s marathon, we are recruiting churches, groups and businesses to walk one mile of the marathon with a banner with our theme — unity in diversity,” O’Malley said. “Each group can pick the mile, pick the time or just be assigned. Each group can have two to 2,000 people for the one-mile walk. The time frame is it has to be done in 16 minutes.

“When they reach the end of the mile, they would pass the banner to the next group. I will have trolleys that will be bringing the group back to the original mile. Our goal is to have each mile of the marathon walked by a church, group or business.”

After the race, the Mobile Area Inter-Parish Council will meet at 3 p.m. at St. James Major Church in Prichard. PUAD will later host a black-tie awards gala at the Mobile Marriott Hotel at 6 p.m. For more information, visit

On Monday, the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast will take place at 8:30 a.m. at Bishop State Community College. Following the annual march, an interfaith service coordinated by L’Arche will follow at Calloway-Smith Middle School at 1 p.m.

“We have been planning ways to celebrate the rich heritage within the Mobile area in January 2018,” O’Malley said. “We are inviting you to join in one or all of the events as we ‘Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.’ (Micah 6:8).”

There are some new additions to the race’s format. The Pensacola Runners Association and L’Arche have formed a partnership and will introduce the inaugural Gulf Coast Back2Back Challenge.

Runners and walkers participating in the Pensacola Beach Run Half Marathon on Saturday and the ServisFirst Bank First Light Marathon or Half Marathon on Sunday will be eligible for recognition and awards associated with the Back2Back Challenge.

Only participants in the Pensacola Beach Run Half Marathon and the ServisFirst Bank First Light Marathon or Half Marathon are eligible for the challenge. While participants in the 5K, 10K or relay events are not eligible, they are encouraged to participate in both events.

On Sunday, the 26.2-mile and 13.1-mile races plus the five-person relay begin at 7:30 a.m. at Government and Claiborne streets. The 1.2-mile Fun Run begins at the corner of Conception and St. Francis streets at 2 p.m. The finish line for all races will be at Bienville Square, as will the awards ceremony, which begins at 10:30 a.m. for the half marathon and noon for the relay and the full marathon.

The thousands of competitors will battle the terrain and themselves to reach the Spring Hill neighborhoods before returning for the finish line. The first half marathon, relay and marathon finishers could be at the line at 8:45 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively.

A concert in Bienville Square will start at 10 a.m. with the Excelsior Brass Band, Phil & Foster and the Brett LaGrave Band.

Runners can pick up their packets Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. at the Government Plaza Atrium. A health and fitness exposition will also take place during this time; for additional information, visit or call 251-438-2094.

Another honor for Schilling
Ann Schilling has been named to the 28th class of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is set for March 19 at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery.

Her induction into the Hall of Fame could have been earned as either a player or a coach. As an athlete at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, she helped the Mobile school reach the state volleyball championships in 1978, 1979 and 1981, and in girls’ basketball in 1978 and 1980. She then carried her skills to play both sports at Auburn University.

The volleyball coach at Bayside Academy since 1987, Schilling’s teams have won 16 straight state titles and 23 overall. In 2010, she was the National Federation of High Schools’ Coach of the Year. She was inducted into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.

(Photo | Submitted) The ServisFirst Bank First Light Marathon is a fundraiser for L’Arche Mobile. This year, the race will be part of MLK Jr. Day activities.