There are two things just about everyone knows about New Orleans: One, the city suffered unprecedented devastation during Hurricane Katrina in 2005; and two, this city, perhaps more than any other in the U.S.A., knows how to have fun and put on a party. Both of these facts are on clear display at the Mardi Gras Marathon, scheduled for February 1, 2009.
The 2006 Mardi Gras Marathon was the first sizeable sporting event to return to the city after Katrina's damage, bringing with it the kind of emotion only a marathon can to a sporting event. Race organizers built on that in 2007, increasing the marathon field from a few hundred in 2006 to well over 1,000. In addition to the marathon, there are also 5K and half marathon races.
In covering the 26.2-mile route, runners experience a mixture of downtown, residential neighborhoods and city parks. The marathon starts at the Superdome, the touchstone for so much of what took place during and after the hurricane. The new, landmark-filled course takes the runners on a journey through the major historical and tourist areas of New Orleans, including the French Quarter, by way of Bourbon Street and Royal Street. A jaunt down stately St. Charles Avenue and Prytania Street takes runners into the beautiful Garden District. That is followed by a loop of beautiful Audubon Park, before continuing to Canal Street and City Park and back to the finish line in front of the Superdome.
If you are looking for steep hills that make for a challenging course, you have come to the wrong place. The Mardi Gras Marathon is as flat as can be. That, of course, favors those seeking a fast time, in attempt for a personal best and/or a Boston qualifying time. That being said, the Southern delta weather can be on the warm side, especially for those traveling from those parts of winter weather, and thus not acclimated to a warmer climate. For these folks, some acclimatization in training will make the going easier.
Throughout much of its long history, New Orleans has been famous for both its music and food. Not surprisingly then, both are featured at the Mardi Gras Marathon. Jazz bands will play for runners along the course, encouraging runners to move faster. And race medals and technical race shirts will be given to all participants. The post-race party at the Superdome features a New Orleans staple--red beans and rice, along with sandwiches, soft drinks and beer. Of course, many will continue the party in the French Quarter well after the marathon has been completed. In fact, adding an extra day to your trip to recover from the marathon and the party and to absorb the recent history of the city is a good idea.
This year is the 45th running of the Mardi Gras Marathon, one of the oldest in the U.S.A. Running has often been described as a form of renewal for the body. In New Orleans, running is a welcome form of renewal for a city on the mend. To be part of that renewal, part of the history that is taking place in New Orleans, visit www.mardi-gras.competitor.com. And don't forget: they sure do know how to put on a party.