Thursday, April 4, 2013

Crescent City Classic 10K: The 2013 Recap

Runners, walkers, families, friends, and alcoholics alike look forward to the day that they get to take over main streets of the CBD and Mid City. This day is annually the Saturday before Easter, the day that plays host to a perennial favorite on the New Orleans Race calendar, the Crescent City Classic 10K.

The 2013 Crescent City Classic would be the fifth consecutive year I would be running the race; however, this year’s installment brought a few changes to the course that I anxiously waited to see play out. I met a friend near the finish line at City Park for 6:30am and quickly boarded bright yellow school buses for transport to the start. Previous years had the race starting in Jackson Square. Marred with chaos and confusion in the French Quarter, new ownership of the race moved the start to just outside the Superdome. After being dropped off just outside Champions’ Square and making a quick stop for last minute pre-race prep, we parted ways to head to our corrals.

In previous years, runners had been assigned to waves and corrals, but it was never strictly enforced. This led to issues with walkers being mixed with runners when the starting gun fired, as a result frustration and face-plants ensued . This year, corral placement was strictly enforced and appeared to be well organized ahead of the start. I was fortunate to be seeded in the third “Grey” corral and placed near the start line with all of the “fast runners” that I don’t consider myself to be one of. I knew my skepticism would ring true as I woke up with an incredibly sore throat (and in hindsight, probably a low grade fever) and felt like death in spite of the excitement of getting the run underway. Being surrounded by the leanest and meanest of the CCC competitors was daunting but thrilling, and led me to not even think about how much better this starting situation was in comparison to previous attempts.
The race started late, but as the gun fired and I went off with the first wave, all I could think about was getting off Poydras as soon as possible so that the sun would no longer be shining in my eyes. As I turned left on to S. Peters Street, I noticed a large group of people standing on the sidewalk wearing race number bibs and looking on with anticipation. They clearly were waiting for the first group of runners to get out of the way so they could seize their opportunity to shuffle in to the race and participate at their own pace. It reminded me of a question that I posed in the week before this year’s race; “If the city can barricade St. Charles Ave. from Lee Circle to Canal Street for Mardi Gras, why can’t Poydras be barricaded from the Superdome to the river for this race?” Obviously cost and traffic logistics come in to play, but random participants falling in to the race a quarter mile past the start is an issue that needs to be set high on a priority list of things that need to be addressed.
Just after the first mile marker I realized two things. First, I took the first mile very fast at a 7:30 pace. Secondly, I couldn’t swallow. As a sure sign of a sinus infection setting in, my throat had closed up and I was choking down fluids at the water stops. With the temps quickly increasing and humidity being unpleasantly high, I knew frequent stops for water were necessary. The run up Esplanade was interesting as always, with the usual cast of characters out to cheer on the runners. The quartet playing jazz and passing out cups of beer were in their traditional spot, the fire truck with cheerers were under the I-10 overpass, and water stops happened every mile. One thing I couldn’t understand was why the course took runners back and forth down Esplanade from one side of the street to the other. While the zig-zagged path was slightly inconvenient and confusing, I doubt it slowed down many. On Esplanade my pace evened out just above an 8 minute mile and I felt better than I expected. I took every water stop and enjoyed the run.
The last two miles around and in City Park were scenic and fun. The finish was exciting, as it was lined with spectators cheering on runners as they wrapped up their race. Once I crossed the finish line, medical staff was on-hand checking on participants and handing out water soon after the timing mats. That was when congestion quickly took over the exit chute. For the 35th anniversary of the Crescent City Classic 10K, organizers designed and distributed medals to all finishers of the race. However, the distribution of the medals caused many issues at the finish. The volunteers handing out the medals were kids (under the age of 8) who, while very cute, couldn’t keep up with the demand of hundreds of runners finishing a 6 mile race. The medal’s design is a great rendering of the logo that has come to be significant in the race’s history and a great memento for participants who make this the one race they enjoy during the year. It’s a tradition that I like and hope they keep up.
Overall, I’m thrilled with the improvements that were made to the Crescent City Classic 10K in its first year under new ownership. From the starting line improvements, to giant mile marker bridges at each mile denoting the distance run, to the medals for finishers at the end, it was a great event. As with any event of that size, there are areas for improvement. Ownership has shown that they have a commitment to putting on a “world class race in a world class city,” and I have no doubt that they will do just that.
There are a few things to keep in mind for the 2014 Crescent City Classic 10K. Primarily, the date of the race changes based on the date of Easter. Since Easter falls forty days after Mardi Gras, and Fat Tuesday is March 4, 2014 … Easter will fall on April 20, 2014 and the Classic will be run the day before (April 19th). This is a late Easter and weather will be very warm in New Orleans for this race day. Organizers need to keep that in mind for preparation with proper hydration for participants, runners need to think about that when training, and sufficient planning by all parties needs to be done. An earlier start time may even be a good idea to get more of the race done before the heat of the sun sets in. I’m sure more information will be provided as the 2014 race day approaches, but we’ve got a year to plan for that.

1 comment:

  1. Great recap. You're completely right about the issues at the finish line and the issues they're facing for next year's race. I also have been thinking about whether they should cap the race at a certain number of entries. Scarcity tends to be a good thing for races, and it would make this course safer and more enjoyable for runners.