The Crescent City Classic is, if anything, a kaleidoscope of personalities — even in a city filled with them.
New Orleans’ biggest road race is for serious competitors both local and from countries thousands of miles away. But it’s also for beginners. It’s for the young, the old, and the people in between. It’s for people in costume, people pushing strollers, and people pulling a wagon loaded down with a boom box and beer. It’s a colorful race; perhaps one of the most diverse running (or jogging, or sauntering) collections found on the planet.
And with that in mind, The New Orleans Advocate will focus on three persons who fit three very common categories seen at the race each year. Sure, there will be the same race-day coverage one would expect for one of New Orleans’ most popular sporting events. After all, the 10-kilometer race is expected to attract more than 25,000 people when the 37th annual event is held April 4. It’s one of the biggest, and one of the oldest, 10K events in the U.S.
But each Sunday until race day, you’ll get a glimpse into the lives of a trio of persons who will participate in the race. And if you don’t know them already, you surely will by the time April 4 arrives. And there’s a really good chance that you are the same type of runner as one of these three people.
Richard Bouckaert is a competitive runner who hopes to post the fastest time by a local in this year’s Classic. Thomas Schiffer is in this race (in part) to promote a charitable cause. Tisha Seghers is brand new to the racing scene, with her only participation in the Classic coming as a high school volunteer about 20 years ago.
Today, you get to meet each of them. And each Sunday, you’ll get to meet one of them again, and follow them as they train for the brass ring of local road-racing: the Crescent City Classic.
Bouckaert is a 30-year-old attorney from Omaha, Nebraska. He came to New Orleans to attend Loyola University, where he ran cross country and track.
The Lakeview resident began running as a junior at Creighton Prep School in Nebraska and hasn’t stopped improving since. His emergence as one of the top runners on the New Orleans racing scene was fast and impressive, as evidenced by his victory in the 5K Crescent City Fall Classic in November.
He ran his first CCC in 2007 and has a personal best time of 32 minutes, 54 seconds in the 10K — good enough for 15th in last year’s CCC. He said his training is improving and he’s running 60-70 miles a week. Bouckaert added that he thinks he can drop to about 32 flat in this year’s event.
“I want to compete,” he said. “This is the flagship race for New Orleans. I love history, and I love hearing about the history of this race. There’s just a lot of camaraderie. I know people who don’t run just come out to see this race because it’s that big of a deal. There are guys in costumes, people passing out Jell-O shots. Everyone is out there. Everybody in the city wants to be a part of this race.”
Bouckaert also has a goal in mind, besides dropping to the 32-minute range: He wants to be the top local. Last year, he was second.
“I want to be the fastest,” he said. “When I’m a bit longer in the tooth, maybe the focus changes and I take on the more community approach. Not so much now. I want to win.”
Schiffer is originally from Long Island, and at 44, he is retired from the U.S. Navy. He works as a fitness coordinator and recently began teaching physical education at a local elementary/middle school.
The Algiers resident is a good athlete and a good runner. He doesn’t have a particular time in mind that he’d like to post at the CCC, but he does have the goal of teaching kids about fitness.
That’s why Schiffer is running for the Kelly Gibson Foundation, which puts an emphasis on supporting children’s athletic programming, first responders and military initiatives. He learned about the group after competing in the Fall Classic.
“I run for myself mainly, but I got to talking with the woman at the Kelly Gibson booth at the Fall Classic, and she told me all about the foundation,” Schiffer said. “They focus on children’s athleticism and increasing the chances for kids. I thought it was great because I’m very interested in health and wellness, especially in kids.”
This will be the first CCC for the father of four, who began running seriously only four years ago while stationed in Jacksonville, Florida. The 10K is not foreign to him though.
“I’m a trainer, and I’ve trained people for these runs,” he said. “It’s all about strength and cardio and diet. I was always fit throughout my career because we had to be.”
Still, he wants to bring that same quality of life to the young people of New Orleans.
“Whether it’s with my clients or even with faculty (at school), it’s important,” Schiffer said. “I talked with the principal, and we’re working on getting some fitness programs going for the adults at school too.”
The closest Seghers has come to the CCC was when she was handing out water to participants while a student at Mount Carmel Academy. But the 37-year-old Metairie resident and mother of two is going to give the 10K a try.
It’s not the only major event she’s undertaking. She also just changed jobs after getting her master’s degree and now works as a nurse midwife at Touro Hospital.
Seghers said her husband, Dave, a talented local runner, encouraged her to take part in this year’s Classic.
“He kept saying ,‘You have to do something!’ When I was studying for my comprehensive final exams and boards, I literally sat with my legs crossed and a book on my lap for months. I didn’t move. I was sedentary. And I was tired. He said if you get up and move, you won’t feel that way. So I did.”
She began with “baby steps.” Her first run was for .61 miles, she said. And then, a week later, she found herself in the YMCA Corporate Cup 5K. Her running partner was her 10-year-old daughter Nicole, who finished just ahead of her in the 40-minute range.
Seghers knows the Classic is a big step for her, but she’s dedicated to training. When Nicole is at soccer practice, Seghers is running along the nearby levee. And just finishing the Corporate Cup Race, she said, was a motivator for the CCC.
“I’m not sure what a realistic goal is for me timewise,” she said. “I just want to finish. But I’m very excited. I went from doing nothing to doing a 5K. I’m going to train and be ready for this Classic.”