“Hoist up a few tall cool ones, play some pool and listen
To that tenor saxophone calling me home
And I can hear the band begin ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’,
And by the whiskers on my chin, New Orleans, I’ll be there” – Tom Waits, I Wish I Was In New Orleans
Last Friday, my husband, Mike and I left our children sleeping in their beds (no worries, my dad was there to watch them) at 4:30 AM and headed to the airport to board a plane to New Orleans. The original intent of the trip was for me, Heather, and a few more of our running friends to run the New Orleans Rock N Roll Half Marathon but, after the last month or so we’ve had, it was really just to get away from it all. Running was secondary on this trip.
I love New Orleans. I know people say that about cities all the time but I can’t really adequately express my feelings for that city any other way. I wouldn’t want to live there full time because I think it would lose some of its charm but I visit any chance I get. This was my sixth trip. My first trip was right after I finished graduate school and I went with my very best friend, Karen. We had a fascination with the city since high school and it lived up to all of our expectations. I’ll never forget that first trip or any of the ones in between. I had my bachelorette party in New Orleans.
I used to be a bit wild (you’re shocked, I know). Since I have a grown-up job, two children and I have been adulting for some time now, I gave all that up. I’m the first one to suggest we go for a beer after run group and I have a glass of wine with dinner but we’re the people who are home on a Saturday night eating a $5 pizza from Aldi and watching the backlog of shows on our DVR, asleep by 10:30. Mike and I needed to have some fun. Heather and I needed to have some fun. We’ve known each other for years but we’ve worked for the same company for the past three years and we just solved a huge, all-consuming problem here and we wanted to cut lose.
It was less than an hour after our plane landed that Mike and I were at our favorite place on Decauter eating boiled crawfish, fried alligator tail and drinking tall draft Abita Amber beer. We then headed over to the Expo (Mike kept eating and drinking Abita because he doesn’t run) to get our race numbers.
The Expo was pretty small, as far as Expos go, but that was probably a good thing since I tend to overspend at these things. We had to hurry because our group was headed out on the Cocktail Walking Tour. We had a blast on the tour and I highly recommend it if you go to New Orleans. We walked a total of 12 miles on Friday. Rest wasn’t really part of the agenda!
Saturday we were supposed to “take it easy” but Mike and I ended up eating a fabulous breakfast at The Old Coffee Pot (poached eggs on crab cakes with creole sauce and callas cakes). We walked around the French Quarter for a bit and then ended up at Deanie’s Seafood to eat crawfish and drink some more Abita. (This will become a theme). We met two drunk guys at the bar who had been drinking there since 11 AM (it was 3 PM) who were in town for the one guy’s bachelor party. We talked to them for an hour and it was a hoot, giving all kinds of marriage advice. I think he might have ended up deciding to call the whole thing off (I’m kidding).
Somehow, we found ourselves on Bourbon Street (haha) which is not my favorite side of the French Quarter. We ended up listening to the house band at Huge Ass Beers (yes, that is the name of the bar) and drinking these beauties – 48 ounces of delicious Coors Light.
For the record, it took me well over 2 hours to drink that much beer. The bar had an ice cooler built in the bar for one to put their Huge Ass Beer on because, apparently, Huge Ass Beers become Really Gross and Warm Beer over time (especially when you are drinking Coors Light which is Kind of Gross to Begin With Beer). We left to meet for dinner at the pizza place where we were carb loading and were in bed by 10. I wasn’t asleep by 10 because New Orleans is a noisy place and we were staying right beside Jackson Square, which is only slightly less busy than Bourbon Street.
A mere 4 hours after I actually fell asleep, I was up and out the door to walk to the corrals. There were 22,000 people running this race and you could tell. Crowds were everywhere. We made it to our corral and waited 45 minutes from the first gun to cross the start. Heather and I decided before we even landed in New Orleans that this race was just going to be for fun. We didn’t really know what that meant other than that we were just going to see how it went. This was my 14th half marathon. I know I can run this distance so I just wanted to have fun. Each runner was going to do her own thing but Heather and I pledged to stick together since we didn’t care about time.
The course started in the Central Business District and turned down St. Charles Street and into the Garden District. The run down St. Charles lasted FOREVER and was, mostly, in full sun (we all ended up sunburned). We could see runners making their way back up St. Charles but we had no idea when the turnaround would come. It was boring and there were practically NO spectators. The few who were out were making an effort with costumes but it was sadly disappointing. I really thought New Orleans would bring it but I guess no rich white people want to get up early on a Sunday to watch strangers run by. Finally, we turned around and headed back up St. Charles. There were also no port-a-potties. I rarely stop during races to use them but when I saw one at mile 7, I waited in line because there were not many other chances. The bands were also pretty scarce. At this point, we were really bored. The course was just trees and the street car lines.
CAVEAT: The rest of the race report is NOT how one should run a half marathon. If you are trying the distance for the first few times, do not do this. Also, if you are a lightweight (no shame in that) do not try this. If, however, you give zero fucks, you have a relatively high tolerance to alcohol, you’ve run several races and are in a place where drinking on the street is legal, I say “Go for it” because this is the most fun I have ever had during a race.
Once we left the Garden District, the course headed into a less prestigious neighborhood but the crowds got a little better. Folks were out on their balconies drinking mimosas and a couple of folks had kegs of beer and were filling Dixie cups for the racers. Of course, Heather and I took free beer. A little before mile 9, on Magazine Street when the course was winding back to the French Quarter, we came up upon a crowd of women runners (they looked like moms) who were drinking mimosas and Bloody Mary’s while speed walking. We were like “hey, who was handing out those drinks and how did we miss that?” They said they stopped at a bar and bought them because they were trying to PR in Most Number of Drinks during a half marathon. Heather and I know each other so well, we didn’t even have to ask the other if we wanted to take this challenge. The next bar was just steps away so we stopped, ran into the bar and ordered our first mimosa!
OK, so rookie mistake, we forgot to get STRAWS! What?! Who knew running and drinking out of an open container was so challenging? This was our second-to-slowest mile because we pretty much had to speed walk and chug the drinks. We call it The Mimosa Mile on our splits. The spectators on the course were cheering and laughing at us. I would have, too, if I had seen someone like me.
Our slowest mile was the Casino Mile where we stopped to play the slot machines, because, hey, why not? In a city where gambling is legal right in the middle of downtown, you should visit all the sins while running.
Mimosa #2 came around mile 10 at a bar at the start of Decauter and the French Quarter. The bartender was slow but we got straws this time so our mile split was faster. The mimosas were on special so they were much smaller than our first and we finished them, quickly.
We switched to Bloody Mary’s at The Gazebo Cafe at mile 10.5 near the French Market (the mimosas WERE small, I said). This bartender was pretty fast but I don’t recommend the spicy version if you are running so that was rookie mistake #2. It was also hard to eat those olives off of toothpicks while running.
The Bloody Mary’s lasted for a while. Tomato juice just doesn’t go down as well as OJ. Heather let a couple of fellow runners try her drink. They were appreciative. At this point, the spectators started to pick up or Heather and I made our own fun. It is hard to say but the race really improved at this point and we were having so much fun. We talked to fellow runners. We talked to the cops on the course. We talked to the crowd.
By mile 12ish, we were out of alcohol so we stopped at bar and ordered a pitcher of beer when we saw a sign that said “$5 pitchers with race bib”. I’m pretty sure they meant AFTER the race but we weren’t sure we would come back that way so we took advantage of the sale. They let us take the pitcher.
Out on the course, we were now so off pace that we were with some people who were really struggling. We offered them beer because we had extra cups and a lot of beer. We filled this woman’s hydration bottles with beer. I sure hope she made it to the finish. She was running the full. We met a nice man named Donny who we also gave beer, too. He rushed past us after we gave him the beer so, clearly, we are responsible for his PR.
We crossed the finish line with an empty pitcher of beer and a head full of memories. This was my worst finishing time but the most fun I have ever had. There is very little chance that I will EVER do anything like this, again, so, although I didn’t take the running part very seriously, I am glad I had this experience. This isn’t my goal race this Spring. I’m not even sure I have a goal race. I’m just running for fun this Spring since training for the Marine Corps Marathon in the heat sucked all of the joy of running out of me. I need to find some joy in this, again, and New Orleans certainly helped. It also reminded me how much I love fellow runners and meeting new people.
We met up with our friends who took this seriously and did not drink on the course. Sissy, Jen and Heather’s mom, Sandy, thought we were insane (we probably are) but I think Lesley thought it was funny. Everyone had a good time and enjoyed the overall experience even if the course was a little more boring than one would expect from a city like New Orleans.
After the race, we all went to rest and then Mike and I went out for more crawfish and beer! We headed home on Monday morning. I have the Not So Normal Half Marathon and the Tarheel 10 Miler in April so I got back to real running last night with speedwork on the treadmill. No drinks involved. It wasn’t nearly as much fun.