Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of stories on the Crescent City Classic, which will run on April 4.
Richard Bouckaert didn’t need much affirmation to remind him that he is one of Louisiana’s best long-distance runners.
He received the reminder on Jan. 25, nevertheless.
Bouckaert, a 30-year old attorney from New Orleans, finished sixth overall in the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon with an impressive time of 1 hour, 11 minutes, 21 seconds. It was a personal record for Bouckaert, whose previous best time at the 13.1-mile distance was 1:12.58, set last year in the Louisiana Marathon.
The sixth-place finish came while running against some of the finest long-distance specialists in the U.S., with runners from each of the 50 states and 25 foreign countries taking part in either half or full marathons that day. His eventual goal is to be the top local finisher in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent City Classic, which will be held on April 4 on the streets of New Orleans. Bouckaert is one of three local runners the New Orleans Advocate is following each Sunday while they train for the 10K CCC — by far, the state’s largest road race.
But on Jan. 25, Bouckaert’s mind was on the half marathon.
“Running the PR, it just proves to me that my training is going how I want it to go,” he said. “I noticed last February that I was taking too many days off. Now, I only take a day maybe once every six weeks. I took the Monday after the half marathon off, and I was second-guessing myself because it had been more than six weeks since I had not run.”
The dedication to training showed in the half marathon. Bouckaert said that despite his time, however, he was struggling through much of the race.
“I went back and looked at some of the race photos, and it looked like I was in a lot of pain in every single picture,” he said. “At Mile 8, I got to a 5:22 (split) but I usually was about a 5:27 or 5:30 in the race. I wanted to be under 5:25 in each mile. It’s just the way it goes. You have good races, you have bad races. I felt I could go 1:10:30. My legs just couldn’t do it that day.”
Bouckaert said he is going to cut back on the amount of long-distance competitions he enters before the CCC. He said he’d rather focus on some shorter runs to get his leg speed where it should be for the Classic. He is entered, however, in the 8K Shamrock Run on March 15, and is thinking about joining a USATF 3K indoor meet on March 7 at LSU.
“Things are moving in the right direction for me right now,” Bouckaert said. “(When I won) the Jackson Day Race (on Jan. 4), I felt much better than I did during Rock ‘n’ Roll. But I was still able to set a PR. That tells me I’m doing something right.”