Longtime local runner Michelle Parks said she usually uses the annual Crescent City Classic as a litmus test to see just what kind of overall shape she’s in. If Saturday’s result is the indication, Parks is right where she wants to be.
Just five months after giving birth to her second son with husband Joshua, Parks was the top local women’s finisher in the race, running a time of 38 minutes 24 seconds.
“It was pretty good,” Parks said. “I’m just trying to get back into it. It’s always a good race, and it’s always a good race to see where you’re at, see what kind of shape I’m in.”
Parks has been the top local female finisher before, “but it’s been a minute,” she said. “Maybe six or seven years or so.”
She said Saturday’s overcast skies and cool temperatures were a nice surprise, too.
“It was probably a little too windy for me, but I’m a baby,” she said. “It was nice that I had a few guys around me who could block the wind for me.”
Andrew Shapiro of New Orleans was the top local male finisher in 32:31.
According to the on-the-spot finish line computing and race announcer Lynn Roberts, New Orleans runners were well-represented in the top 50 this year. Among them were local runner Richard Bouckaert, who, just days ago, was hit by a car while training for the race.
Scattered throughout this year’s race were several small teams of pink-clad runners pushing athlete riders in adapted wheelchairs. Together, they were a group called “Ainsley’s Angels,” a nonprofit organization that pairs able-bodied runners with the physically disabled to allow them to participate in events across the country. The organization and is named for Ainsley Rossiter, who was 4 years old when she was diagnosed with INAD, a terminal illness that causes progressive loss of vision, muscular control and mental skills. Her father, Kim, has pushed Ainsley through more than 80 races as a therapeutic way for the family to deal with their tragedy and to inspire other families. About 27 runners volunteered for Saturday’s race, taking turns pushing several riders, according to Southeast Louisiana ambassador Monica Cooney. “Everyone with disabilities, children and adults, get the same chance to participate,” Cooney said.
Among the most difficult tasks race organizers face every year is getting thousands of people who have just run/walked 6.2 miles (or more) not to stop when they are done. For the participants, the finish line is the ultimate goal, the end. But when everyone stops, it creates a major traffic jam worse than any on I-10. So about 30 volunteers are stationed near the finish line to urge the runners to keep moving past the finish and toward the post-race party held on the practice track in City Park. More volunteers are stationed along the way, enticing runners with their participation medals, water, Gatorade and photo stations. This year there was even a guy passing out “shots” of some chocolaty protein drink. Once they get to the party, runners are feted with food, drink and music.
After a week of gorgeous sunny days, Saturday dawned cloudy, cool and wind. Temperatures were in the upper 50s at start time, with an occasional light mist falling. Wind gusts blew down the barricades at the finish line several times. While some runners may have enjoyed the weather, many spectators seemed to be caught off-guard and unprepared for the cooler temperatures. Lots of folks did not stick around for the post-race party.
There was one benefit to Saturday’s weather: it gave the volunteers at the medical tent a nice break. Through the first hour, there were no post-race casualties treated by the volunteer staff from East Jefferson Hospital. Shortly after the 90-minute mark, staff was seen treating one runner who had fallen.
In case you’re wondering, the Easter Bunny (also known as Pat Gavin) first crossed the City Park finish line in 35:51. Gavin was one of a handful of runners who wore a complete, furry bunny suit for Saturday’s race. To no one’s surprise, bunnies were well-represented in Saturday’s race. Bunny ears have pretty much become a staple for the Easter weekend event, as have tutus. There were a few hula skirts this year too. But every year, a few folks get more creative than others. There was a basketball player and a referee running together, a policeman chasing an escapee, and many costumes understood only by those wearing them. The finalists in the annual costume contest were a group dressed as the popular video game Mario Kart and a group of Star Wars storm troopers.