New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon, February 6, 2000
When I awoke for this the temperature was 33°F. It is always a big mystery what to wear for these things, but at least there was the advantage that there was no wind and it was forecast to be clear. The high was to be in the low 50s. I showed up with a t-shirt and a cut-off sweatshirt (either disposable, that is why my number was on the shorts) plus a trash bag. I'd never been to the Superdome before, when I showed up I was a bit concerned because all of the free parking was in garages connected to the dome, with long lines of cars waiting to get in (if one has a van you don't get into a parking garage line unless you know the height clearance). Anyway, I was early enough to notice free legal parking spaces on the street directly across from the main entrance!Map of the race course...
A couple of weeks earlier I'd been to a New Orleans Track Club meeting, they put on this race, and the major speaker was the director for this race. The sponsor for several years has been Nokia which also sponsors the Sugar Bowl in the Superdome, this year there were more bucks for the race and that allowed for the race to actually use the dome! In the early days of the race (the 80's) it used to run south along the Causeway (bridge across Lake Pontchartrain) for most of the distance, I can't imagine anything more boring, I've known folks who ran that in a driving rain and headwind. Ugh. Nowadays this race winds through many districts of the city, I've run the course before at various times either in other races or alone, and in decent weather it is all some amazing architectural and cultural scenery.
Here I am at about mile 10, heading south along the west side of Bayou St. John... What happens at these races is that there are professional photographer teams (contracted by the race director) that position themselves along the route with multiple cameras. They photograph all the runners and send them proofs (they have your race number) and offer to sell you pictures. What you're seeing here is the proofs.
Mile 19, in Audubon Park. This is probably the most popular running area in New Orleans, there is about a 2-mile loop around a lagoon and golf course. The path is only about 18' wide and we had to go part way around and double back, so you can see that this is not a really crowded race.
Heading for the finish line, in the Superdome! Time, 4:35, not my best, but then I'm not getting any younger...
It was great waiting inside the Superdome before the race, where it was warm and protected. They even provided access to locker rooms (no not the Saints' one) and showers--a far cry from most races where Port-o-Lets are in short supply. This was my first time inside the Dome; I talked to a few other folks who had been there many times but never on the floor (they do have boat shows and other events where the public can wander around on the floor). Anyway this is probably the largest stadium that I'll ever be in as an athletic event participant (we'll ignore the fact that the seats were empty). The race start was rather confusing and congested but that was the only real problem I saw with the race. There were about 2000 marathon participants, and another 3000 half-marathon runners that shared the course for the first half. I discarded the trash bag after about 3 miles, and several miles later took off my sweatshirt. I dropped it alongside the street a bit later, but when we came back along the same street it was still there so I picked it up, you see me carrying it at the finish line.
There were almost too many water stations (well, not really but I was surprised at how many there were) and some had extra food--oranges, bananas, pretzels etc. And of course at the end of the reace there was red beans and rice and other stuff including the beer truck of course. When you finish most marathons, you get a medal put around your neck. This one came on Mardi Gras beads.