In three years, the Shamrockin’ Run has become one of Louisiana’s most popular road races.
This year’s 8-kilometer race will start at 9 a.m. Sunday. More than 3,200 people are expected to take part in the run, which will begin near the National World War II Museum in the Warehouse District. They will travel toward Uptown primarily along Prytania Street, with a couple of slight jogs on side streets to avoid ongoing construction, before ending at Audubon Park.
The Shamrockin’ Run had 2,500 people participate last year, and Premier Event Management’s Bill Burke, the race director, said he foresees continued growth.
“This is a great scene,” Burke said. “To break into a new event on a crowded weekend with all the (St. Patrick’s Day) parades on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it takes time. But we’re seeing people want to be a part of this race right now, and we expect to see more people each year.”
While the overwhelming majority of participants will follow the aforementioned course, approximately 50 elite men and women from around the world will take part in an 8K event staged on a loop course completely within Audubon Park. Burke and Company have dangled a $25,000 bonus in front of the field; promising both the top elite man and woman the cash if they set a world record in New Orleans.
Because the Crescent City is known worldwide for being a flat (and thus fast) course, elites from Kenya, Eritrea, Morocco, Ethiopia, and the U.S. are coming to New Orleans. The elite race will begin at 11 a.m. Audubon Park.
The current 8K world mark is 22 minutes, 2 seconds.
Anyone setting a world record in last year’s Shamrockin’ Run would have earned a $10,000 bonus. Kenya’s Isiah Koech was 12 seconds faster than world-record pace at the 3-mile mark in last year’s race, but his mile splits increased from that point. Koech still won the race in 22:09.
An additional $70,000 in prize money will be awarded in this year’s Shamrockin’ run.
The top men in this year’s race, Burke said, should be Koech, Julius Kogo (second in the inaugural Shamrockin’ Run), Haron Lagat (a world-renowned pacer), Sam Chelenga (former NCAA 10K record holder), and Elvis Cheboi (an emerging star in the racing world). All five are Kenya natives.
On the women’s side, Burke said names to know include Risper Gesabwa (winner of the first Shamrockin’ Run), Betsy Saina (top ranked 10K runner by the IAAF in 2014), Buze Diriba (personal record of 14:50 in the 5K), Etalemahu Habtewold (a two-time member of the Ethiopian National Team), and Aziza Aliu Abite (who has a 10K best time of 32:26).
Gesabwa and Saina were born in Kenya. The others were born in Ethiopia.
Another new aspect at this year’s race includes the testing of all elite athletes for performance enhancing drugs. Burke said the move was made to build on the Shamrockin’ Run’s already significant worldwide credibility.
“When people look at your race as one of the top middle-distance events in the world, you have to have no doubt about the elites racing clean,” he said. “You have to have the prize money, you have to have the stable of athletes, and they have to be clean. So knowing that, we decided that it was time to do this. Every manager and every elite athlete we have has said ‘Great move.’ They want to see the race to continue to be successful, and this is the right step.”
A post-race party at Audubon will feature food, drink, a host of sponsor booths, a costume contest, and a concert by local favorites Flow Tribe and Cowboy Mouth. The festival will be held from 9:15 a.m. until 1 p.m. Shuttle service will be provided throughout the morning and early afternoon to ferry participants from Audubon Park to the Warehouse District.
Race-day registration will be held at the corner of St. Joseph and Camp streets in the Warehouse District from 6-7 a.m. Race packets can be picked up 6-8:45 a.m. at the same location on race day.
From 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Saturday, race packet pick-up and registration will be held at Audubon Park Shelter No. 10 near Magazine Street. Vendors also will be on site that day at the park.
Premier Event Management will make a $10,000 donation to the Audubon Nature Institute from race proceeds.