The 35th running of the Crescent City classic brought me to New Orleans, the Big Easy, on the second leg of my #runcation and it would give me more to worry about on the race than I experienced in the rest of the 2013 calendar to date: Heat and Humidity. With Tunbridge Wells having a wind chill factor that made the temperature drop to -10, and Paris being 0, I was hoping for a couple of warm races where I could run in shorts and a singlet, not underarmor and multiple layers. This didn’t quite work out in my first race of the #runcation, the second running of the North Carolina Half Marathon in Charlotte, as driving, freezing rain and hail, left me frozen, but in New Orleans that was never an option.
This part of Louisiana is particularly hot and particularly humid, great when you are lounging around the French Quarter with your TO GO cups of Ambita Amber (one of my new favourite beers), not great when running through it with 17,500 other people. And so the race organisers set the start time as 8am, a wise move.
This was a real EXPO, as big as Paris and Amsterdam, not the small hut and one exhibitor of Charlotte in the huge, expansive Hyatt Regency hotel. It actually took half hour to get through and get my number, where I had the option to run for a US serviceperson, adding an extra bib to my back to show respect, which I liked.
The anthem was played again, by a navy band and sung by a sailor. Hats removed again and hands on hearts. And then the corrals moved forwards. What I noticed here, which set this US race apart from the other, was the amount of kids and families running together. Little kids, some as young as 10, were planning to run with their parent(s) in the humidity. It made for more of a fun run feel than a serious 10K, as did the runners dressed in tutus and as the Easter Bunny.
And then, after a countdown, we were off but the 3 lane Potyas Street suddenly became a nightmare when within a few feet of the start we hit walkers. Walkers?!?! From the off? And worse still, walkers with strollers taking up so much room that any of us who wanted to run the race, had to take very roundabout routes to go around them. And there was a lot of them. It was infuriating. Just as I got a head of speed and got into my rhythm, I caught up with some more walkers.
The organisers did make a call for people with strollers to wait near the end, but people do what they want here, even when it ruins the event for others.
So, dodging in an out of walkers and strollers, and with the humidity I was not having fun. I had to stop for a toilet break at 3 miles simply because I was taking on so much water. This was unheard of during a race for me.
The first part of the race was back down from the business district of hotels and offices and conference centres (where the EXPO was), starting by the Mercedes Bends dome), before turning into the French Quarter (my drunkard home for the rest of the trip), along Decatur (home of the famous Café Du Monde, Jackson Square, the Jackson Brewery, Crescent City Brewery, and my new joint Coops Place) then up a long straight through tree lined neighbourhoods to the park, before zigzagging there to the finish.
The finish was an absolute, and pardon my French, an absolute clusterfuck. After running in stifling humidity, racing around the slow walkers, who did not just stay at the curb (as per race etiquette), and bloody strollers, what we all didn’t need, as we ran down the home straight in ___ park, was a huge bottle neck.
The crowd at the finish was dense and deep and started 15 feet before the actual finish line and electronic pad, there was nothing we could do other than stand and slowly move forward. This added 5 minutes plus to my time (which would have caused a lot more anguish if I hadn’t stopped for toilet break, and walked in the crazy heat a few times), as it would have been quick otherwise.
The crowd, or mob, continued over the finish line where water tables on both sides and then the medal givers caused such a choke point that it took 15 minutes to get out and run to the waiting school buses to ferry us back to Champions Square and the start.
The bling was known before, as I had seen it on Twitter, and it was unique and fun.
The Obligatory Race Photo
May come, but I looked at the price of the photos for both the US races, and they seemed very high.
Would I run the Crescent City Classic again?
I think I would, just to post a better time, but I would pee beforehand, and ensure I was in an earlier corral to avoid the Walking Dead. Would I recommend the Crescent Classic? Absolutely. With school buses ferrying us back to the start, nice bling, and the support of the locals, this was a good little race.