Thousands of runners from other states and countries have flocked to Baton Rouge this weekend for the fourth annual Louisiana Marathon.
Including out-of-towners, locals, amateurs and professionals, about 8,500 people are expected to race this weekend. More of the runners are from out of state — 5,600 — than from within Louisiana, and the Baton Rouge River Center buzzed with runners on Friday as they registered, received their bibs and read their race guides.
“We like to say we’re kind of a food and music festival with running,” said race Director Craig Sweeney. Marathon activities started with the expo on Friday that will continue Saturday.
A 5K, quarter-marathon and kids’ marathon are slated for Saturday morning, followed by a finish festival and a speaker series. A pastalaya dinner is scheduled for Saturday evening, a nod to South Louisiana’s cuisine. The marathon and half-marathon start Sunday morning, with another finish festival planned for afterward.
Teri Durrin is one of the thousands of visitors to Louisiana’s capital city. She flew into Baton Rouge from Yakima, Washington, on Thursday for a couple of firsts: her first time in Louisiana and her first time at a marathon.
Durrin came south because of her involvement with Ainsley’s Angels of America, an organization that provides ride-alongs for disabled people to participate in races. The company that Durrin works for, Adaptive Star, provides mobility gear for them.
The founder of Ainsley’s Angels will speak at the marathon’s pastalaya dinner Saturday evening. The organization is one of the marathon’s charity partners, along with the International Rett Syndrome Foundation, Mission Amatongas, Teach for America, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Team Gleason.
Durrin will run the 5K Saturday morning and said she is looking forward to taking in Baton Rouge.
People like Durrin have brought a lot of business to the city’s hotel industry this weekend, according to Katie Guasco, of Visit Baton Rouge. Guasco reported 5,600 non-local runners.
“The way the course is laid out really highlights the beauty of Baton Rouge,” Guasco said. “... It’s different; it’s not something they would see in another state.”
But the experience can be fun for local runners as well.
Scott Hemmerling, who lives in Baton Rouge and has run several marathons, said this is his first time running in the Louisiana Marathon. He’s also using it to train for the upcoming Boston Marathon.
“Running in your backyard, there’s a comfort level, and I get to see a lot of the people I run with,” he said.
Hemmerling encouraged his co-worker, Ryan Clark, to join him in running the marathon, and the two perused T-shirts and running gear at the expo on Friday. Clark said this is his first marathon and that he’s been training for a year.
The hardest part for him — aside from the physical pain — has been the time commitment and the time away from his family, he said. His goal for this weekend is to cross the finish line.
Elaine Withers, another local runner, said she ran the full marathon last year and will run the half-marathon this weekend because she is recovering from hamstring injuries. She said she will be happy if she beats her 2-hour, 11-minute race time from the St. Jude Memphis half marathon.
Withers said she loves to run and has been racing with Varsity Sports to prepare for all of the marathons and half-marathons she runs. She will start out running with her Varsity Sports friends on Sunday morning before breaking off and getting into “the zone.”
But what is she most looking forward to?
“The after-party,” she said with a laugh.