Jimmy Krebs
Jimmy Krebs
By Steve Swogetinsky

Kemper County Messenger

This may be the 38th running of the Heart O’ Dixie Triathlon, but there are still plenty of first times each year.

Every year, there are people who return to challenge the hilly course, the heat and humidity, and themselves on almost a regular basis. And likewise, each year brings on the first-time competitors.

This year’s Heart O’ Dixie will be run Saturday, July 22. It is the longest running triathlon in the United States. The start time is 6:30 a.m. The triathlon begins with the .5 mile swim at Lake Tiak-O'Khata. That’s followed by the 27.5 mile bike race which progresses through the rolling red clay hills down Highway 25 to Philadelphia. It concludes with a seven-mile run to the Neshoba County Fairgrounds. The awards ceremony usually starts around 11 a.m.

Here’s a look with a couple of first-time competitors and their stories.

Jimmy Krebs of Pascagoula has been competing road races and triathlons since 1980. But this will be his first time for the Heart O’ Dixie.

“I have friends who have done the Heart O’ Dixie and they always talk about how tough it is, and how well organized it is,” Krebs said. “I am trying to run all of the Mississippi races and triathlons and it worked out that I could do the Heart O’ Dixie this year.”

Krebs, 62, is retired from Chevron. He started running after graduating from Southern Mississippi.

“There was group of people on the Coast that formed and starting going to road races and triathlons,” Krebs said. “I have been told that it is hot and hilly. Friends have suggested that I do plenty of training on the hills.

"I do this (running competition) and back packing. It has kept me healthy.”

This will be the third triathlon Krebs has competed in this year. Earlier, he has competed in Bay St. Louis and Pensacola. In the past, he has competed in Ironman triathlons and Xrttra Off-road triathlons, both locally and nationally.

“We have a good group of runners on the Coast and several of us will be coming,” Krebs said, “I am looking forward to it.”

Taylor Gamble of Norman, Okla., has been coming to the Neshoba County Fair for years. This will be the first time she competes in the Heart O’ Dixie.

“My family has friends and cousins who go to the Fair and we always come and stay with them,” Gamble, 20, said. “I have always said I wanted to do the Heart O’ Dixie. This year, decided to do it. I signed up early.”

Gamble played basketball and ran track in high school. After school, she wanted to stay active so she started competing road races and triathlons.”

“I have been doing runs and triathlons with my aunt,” Gamble said. “She has done the Heart O’ Dixie before, and we will do this one together.”

Gamble is looking forward to doing the Heart O’ Dixie because this will be her first point-to-point triathlon.

“In all of the others, we start the swim and come back. Then we do the bike and come back to the same location. And then we do the run and return,” Gamble said. “In this one, we start at one point and end up at another site. It is going to be fun.

“One thing. It probably won’t be as windy as it is in Oklahoma. You have to be careful with the wind gusts sometimes.”

Gamble said this will be her third triathlon this year. She plans to do two more afterwards.