How many race organizers want rain during their sporting events?
The answer, of course, is not many — not many at all.
But the New Orleans Track Club’s Spillway Classic Trail Run is not your ordinary race. The 3-mile outing, which will be held at 8 a.m. Sunday, is staged in the Bonnet Carre Spillway and surrounding woods. There is a “gauntlet” on the course that will ask competitors to wade through waist-deep water to reach the finish line. Runners often get so muddy that a fire truck is on hand to “hose down” people as they cross the finish line.
And at 27 years old, the Spillway Classic Trail Run is one of the longest-running trail races in the U.S. About 1,000 people are expected to take part in the run, as well as attend numerous (yes, numerous) postrace parties that take place after the mud stops flying.
“The gauntlet is about a quarter-mile stretch of mud and slop, depending on how much it rains,” said New Orleans Track Club Race Director Jennifer Neil. “The cool thing about it is that the course is not man-made. We just utilize what’s already there. …But heck yeah, we want more rain. That definitely makes it better.”
Don Brinkman, a former NOTC president, has taken part in every Spillway Classic since it first was staged in 1988. He said the race is a precursor to the popular sport of adventure racing, when participants race off-road on foot and on bicycles. Brinkman also said the race’s longevity is testament to its ability to attract a good number of young racers, who he said may be more likely to enjoy a playful mud bath.
“It’s the oldest trail run locally, at least I don’t know of any one that’s been around longer,” Brinkman said. “It’s a fun race and it’s a challenge. A lot of high school and college-aged runners come out and stick together; do what they can to finish.”
Brinkman vividly recalls the first Spillway Run in 1988. Seventy-four people finished a slow and extremely muddy course that day, he said.
“Water was practically everywhere on the trail,” he said. “I personally came upon a runner who was on all fours, and I asked if he needed any help. He said, ‘No, I’m just trying to find my shoe.’ It was sucked off his foot by the muck.”
Neil said NOTC officials are hoping for more of the same offbeat happenings at this year’s race.
“Before the other mud runs, the color runs, the zombie runs … there was the Spillway Race,” she said.
Race-day registration for the 27th annual Spillway Classic Trail Run will begin at 7 a.m. Cost is $25 and includes post-race hot dogs, jambalaya, snow balls, chips, water and beer.
The staging area for the race is located at 15641 Louisiana Highway 61, west of New Orleans. Take Airline Hwy. (U.S. 61) west toward Baton Rouge and pass the Shell Motiva Refinery in Norco. Shortly thereafter, signs will direct you to cross the levee to the right. NOTC members will be on hand to assist with parking.
For more information, call (504) 304-2326 or go online to www.runnotc.org.