I had the opportunity to run the New Orleans Marathon this past March.
The race is part of the Rock and Roll series. The cost for this race was a bit more than most but they boasted tremendous on course support and entertainment. Not that it impacted my decision to run the race, but they also were offering a stylish jacket as part of the swag. A couple of weeks prior to the race I received an email advising that the jackets would not be provided. Instead they were going to put the money into the post race celebration for all participants to enjoy. In essence, the marathoners were paying for a better party for all the runners. This pissed me off.
My dissatisfaction grew at the expo. The last Rock and Roll event I attended was in Vegas and it’s expo was better by leaps and bounds. To start with, it was held at a convention centre that was far from easy to get to. It was much smaller that major big city expos that I have been to in the past and many of the vendors had left their booths unattended by the later part of Saturday afternoon.
The race itself starts in downtown New Orleans and makes its way into the picturess Garden District. This is where we came upon the first of many promised entertainers and it was a small brass band playing jazz. This was more like it! My satisfaction was short lived. The first aid station was about 3 miles into the race and the volunteers were scrambling to fill cups with both water and Gatorade. Given the rising temps and humidity already this early in the morning many people were waiting for a drink that was slow in coming. The next aid station at about 6 miles had promised gels. Unfortunately, they had run out of gels and all that was at this aid station were tables and empty boxes.
We completed an out and back through the Garden District and made our way back into the downtown area and to the French Quarter. Despite the early hour on a Sunday morning the streets in the Quarter were crowded and the support here was fantastic. We continued through the Quarter and then turned north up to Lake Pontchartrain. Further along the eastern boundary of the Quarter was the park where the races finished. For those of us doing the full marathon we did not continue into the park at this time but rather turned east to run along the shore of the lake.
I was hoping that along this stretch of the race that the aid stations would be better supplied and as it was, they were. That may have been the only positive part of the second half of the race. This portion of the race consisted of not one but two out and back sections along the lake. The first was along the south shore of the lake. We were running on a dike that was barren of any shade. The sun was beating down and there was no breeze to offer any relief. There was also no live entertainment along this section. Each mile marker had a speaker blaring music and at one mile marker on the back section had a disc jockey spinning tunes. At least on this back section we got some relief from a breeze. A bit further along we headed north along the lake on the second out and back. It was along this section that I had to stop at a medical station. I had stepped into a pot hole on that section of road heading up towards the lake along the eastern edge of the Quarter and wrenched my right knee. I was given an ice pack by a volunteer.
While my pace was already slowing because of my knee, I was restricted to a run/walk strategy to complete the final 5K of the race.
The post race area had live music, a separate recovery area for marathoners with these space age leg compression gadgets that you could wear for a period of time while stretched out in a recliner. They also served up some gumbo with the normal post race goodies. AND, Ultra was giving away free beer. I RUN FOR BEER.
While I was would not recommend going to New Orleans to run this race, The Big Easy is certainly a place to visit and enjoy.