Ideal weather conditions and more than 2,000 runners met in downtown Baton Rouge on Saturday morning, and a family atmosphere took over as the fourth annual Louisiana Marathon weekend running festival kicked into high gear.
Three races were staged: the Louisiana Quarter Marathon, the 5K sponsored by The Advocate and the Louisiana Kids Marathon.
The 5k had the most participants (1,000), but more than 600 entrants for the kids marathon gave the events a familial air.
The quarter marathon, a first-time event, attracted more than 350 runners. Baton Rouge attorney Ryan Brehm’s interest in the race wasn’t piqued until Friday, when he decided to enter.
Brehm easily achieved his pre-race goal of breaking the 40-minute mark, winning with a time of 39 minutes, 31 seconds. The mark was more than two minutes better than second-place finisher Marco Salvadores, who was at 41:51.
“I just kind of run for fun in the mornings to keep in shape,” said Brehm, 31. “I heard about this and signed up (Friday). I figured I’d give it a shot.”
It turned out to be quite a shot for Brehm. Not only had he never won a race, the quarter marathon was the first race he had ever run at all.
“I typically run six to 10 miles in the morning,” Brehm said. “The distance wasn’t a problem. It was a matter of picking up speed a little bit for the competition. That was the issue.”
In the women’s competition, occupational therapist Amber Abbott of Walker was the top finisher. Abbot’s time of 46:10 was fourth-best overall.
Abbott ran cross country for LSU after earning all-state cross country honors at Walker High. Despite her running pedigree, Abbott had modest expectations for Saturday’s competition.
“I really didn’t expect to do well today because I haven’t run in two weeks,” Abbott said. “This is actually surprising for me.”
Abbott was hoping to use the run as a tuneup for the 10-kilometer Crescent City Classic in April. The tuneup showed she doesn’t need as much work as she thought.
“I realized it was 6.5 (miles) right before the start,” Abbott said. “I was trying to go under 45 (minutes) for 6.2 miles so I could be in the seeding time for the Crescent City Classic.
“Its exciting because I didn’t expect to win.”
In the 5K, Keith Kotar, 24, of Benbrook, Texas, turned a family visit into a winning excursion after running 16:55.
Kotar traveled with wife Jacquelyn to visit her family in Springfield on Friday. Arriving after midnight, the pair made the most of a quick turnaround for Saturday’s race.
“I just wanted to run a good time,” Kotar said. “I’m a professional triathlete, so I don’t want to run anything too long. It’s my offseason, so I figured a 5K would be fun.”
Jacquelyn Kotar finished the 5K at 23:51. She also plans to run in Sunday’s half marathon.
Baton Rouge’s Andrea Miller was the top female runner in the 5K with a time of 18:50.
Also on hand for the 5K were 12 captains and runners associated with Ainsley’s Angels, an athletic ride-along program in which runners pilot a “captain” around the course in a specially outfitted wheelchair.
Amanda Turner of Lake Charles was the only Ainsley’s Angels participant last year. Turner and most of Saturday’s 5K participants will return Sunday as part of a 26-person fleet entered in the half marathon.