When people think of road races in the greater New Orleans area, they almost automatically think of the Crescent City Classic — a hyper-popular 10K race that attracts thousands of participants each year.
Long-time area race director Chuck George thinks that’s the case, but George also knows that there is room for many other races in a city burgeoning with fast, flat and fun racing opportunities.
As an example, George pointed to the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure which will be held Saturday in City Park. As many as 14,000 people are expected to take part in either a 1-mile or 5-kilometer race that morning. Though the “race” really isn’t competitive (more of a “participatory event,” George said,) the huge number of people planning to take part proves that New Orleans’ running scene has stabilized since the seismic population ebb and flow after Hurricane Katrina more than nine years ago.
In fact, the Race for a Cure is the third-largest running event in south Louisiana (trailing only the CCC and the Rock and Roll Marathon in registrations.)
Mid-October begins the apex of the local racing schedule, which lasts until early spring. The reason for the season is just that — the weather is cooler here in the typically sub-tropical climates. As a result, the racing schedule boasts its biggest races of the year during that four-month stretch.
And it all starts with the Komen race on Saturday.
George said there is a tremendous difference in the racing community now, then when he was running local races more than 30 years ago.
“Back then, the ratio was probably 5 to 1 in terms of more men than women,” he said. “The races were all competitive. Walkers were few and far between. Then along came these charities that had really great fundraising ideas. They approached race management both locally and nationally. A place that used to be a bit of a clique became a place where everyone could participate.
“You look at groups like the (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s) Team in Training, or the MS group, or the people at Komen. They changed these races into real participatory events. And the fundraising has been phenomenal; just staggering.”
To point, many of the 20-plus races George’s Nola Running Group stages each year assist charities. It’s the same way at the New Orleans Track Club — the metro area’s largest running club with more than 2,200 members. The fastest-growing NOTC event is their YMCA Corporate Cup, which is expected to draw 3,000 or more participants when it’s held Dec. 6.
The idea of that race is teambuilding amongst local businesses, and proceeds benefit the YMCA’s Literacy Program.
“Most of our big races are in the fall and winter,” said NOTC Director Jennifer Neil. “But the Corporate Cup is growing by leaps and bounds. It supports a great cause.”
Also on the docket before the new year arrives is the Crescent City Fall Classic — the only qualifying 5K for the spring’s CCC. The Fall Classic attracts 3,000 or so participants each year and the CCC is well known for aiding local charities in every event it stages.
The Fall Classic provides another opportunity, besides helping others, however.
“If you want to run a 10K like the Crescent City Classic, you probably need a good four or five-month training program and a good schedule to follow,” said CCC Race Director Eric Stuart. “This is the time to get ready for that, and the Fall Classic gives you the perfect opportunity to work your way into the season.”