The Louisiana Half Marathon- January 2017

The Louisiana Marathon weekend is a huge production. On Saturday there is a 5k and a 10k and the half and full marathons take place on Sunday.  If you run a race on both days you receive a crawfish tray.  People were proudly carrying around their trays and using them to hold all the delicious food and beer that was available at the post race.  I love the opportunity for extra swag and the uniqueness of having an item that is linked to the culture of the city.

It is hard to believe that 2017 was only its sixth year. The Race Expo takes place in the River Center, a giant concert venue on the water.  Finding a parking space is impossible. After driving around for several minutes I gave up and pulled into a parking garage.  The idea of paying for parking just to pick up my race packet pissed me off but after unsuccessfully driving around the city during rush hour, I made the same decision that other runners made.  I didn’t know or care how much it cost.  I just knew I wanted to get my packet and get out of downtown Baton Rouge.

I hastily walked through the center still a little angry about the parking and traffic.  As I followed the running shoe sticker path to the race expo I passed dozens of friendly, smiling volunteers and runners.  It was hard to stay grumpy when everyone was so happy and positive.  By the time I got to the expo (it is a long walk so there was a lot of time) I was smiling, relaxed and excited about the race.
The expo is extremely well organized.  There are separate stations for everything so there isn’t a backlog of people at any one place.  Once again, this isn’t the kind of efficiency that you would expect from such a young race.  There are 10,000+ runners participating in the various events over the weekend.  Too have this many people attending the expo and to have everything running smoothly is amazing.
The expo featured the standard assortment of food, gear, and clothing vendors.  It was nice to see so manly local vendors mixed in with the large companies.   The best part of the expo was the free photo booth.  There is a trunk full of costumes and accessories.  You dress up and get three pictures taken.  You get 2 hard copies of the picture and the file texted to you.  A pretty great way to get everyone in a fun mood before the race and to give you something to post on Facebook!
When I left the parking garage I was pleasantly surprised to find out the parking was only a dollar for the 40 or so minutes I had spent at the expo.  Completely reasonable and worth the convenience on a Friday afternoon in a busy city.  If I’m ever in Baton Rouge again I will go straight into the parking garage.
The morning of the race it was extremely foggy.  Apparently this is a common thing in
Baton Rouge.  All the race photos from the previous years showed the same foggy start. You can’t complain about 75 degree weather in January but be ready for the humidity; you are running in a swamp.  My main complaint about the entire weekend is that the start area is a complete mess.
There are no signs telling you where to line up for specific paces and no corrals.  There were race pacers for several finishing times but I didn’t see them until the race was over.  I got to the race very early with more than enough time to line up.  It’s frustrating that I didn’t have the opportunity to run a fast race because of the chaos.  The half marathon was capped at 4,400 runners.  I spent about two miles passing walkers.  In a race this big, there has to be more organization.  This was a destination race for a lot of people and having a bad start can ruin the experience.
This race is one of Ainsley’s Angels (AA) premiere events.  AA is an amazing organization that pairs disabled people with runners willing to push them for an entire race.  They had their own start but it was only 5 minutes before the regular start.  This only added to the confusion and congestion during the first few miles of the race.  Plenty of the AA runners were much faster than I was but not all of them.  As much as I love seeing them at races, it would have made more sense to give them a start 15-30 minutes before the rest of the pack.
The race itself is great.  The course is well marked.  There were water stops every 1.5 miles. Lots of volunteers, police and crowd support.  The course runs through beautiful neighborhoods and the historic LSU campus.  The entire course is completely closed to traffic.  This always impresses me in major metropolitan areas.  The course if fairly flat with a couple of rolling hills and plenty of great photo ops.
A medical tent and therapy tent are located just beyond the finish.  It was impossible to cross the finish line without passing them.  It was great to cross the finish line and walk right into the line for therapy.  There were about a dozen physical therapists waiting to stretch and treat the runners.  Most races have a massage/therapy area but it’s usually hidden somewhere within the expo and has an extremely long line by the time us average runners finish.  This was not the case here.  Despite the huge field, the wait was short and the treatments were thorough.
The post race is great with lots of amazing food and beer options and live music. There was a large parking garage a short walk from the start/finish area that had free parking all day. A lot of people took advantage of this and hung out in the city all day.
This race was voted as one of the best races in the state and I can see why.  If you need to run a race in Louisiana this is a great one. If I lived closer this is probably a race that I would run annually.  I met several people who had run it several times.  The race is a little pricey so make sure you register early so you can save a few dollars.  There is a VIP registration option but this more than doubles the cost of your registration and I can’t see how it is worth it. There were plenty of port a potties but there was no hand sanitizer.  Really being nit-picky at this point but it’s become pretty standard at most races.
I left a positive review on the race website shortly after finishing the race and mentioned the chaos at the start line.  Not only did I receive a response from the race organization within an hour of posting my comment but they thanked me for my feedback and said they would work on making the start line more efficient the next year.  I wish all races were this good.


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