In this year’s Louisiana Bridge Run Series, the Great Huey P. Long Bridge Run stands out.
That’s partly because the two other races in the popular series are not using bridges this year because of construction on the spans on which they typically are held. But it’s also because the Huey P. Run seems to have settled into a race structure that should suit it well for a long time.
The fourth annual 5-kilometer run/walk, which is scheduled for Saturday, will travel from the East Bank to the West Bank of the Mississippi River for the second consecutive year. Slightly new starting and finishing points also figure to help make what already was a smooth race flow that much better.
The Great Huey P. Long Bridge Run will begin this year at the corner of Corporate Drive and Mounes Street near Elmwood at 8 a.m. After crossing the bridge, runners now will finish at the Gumbo Festival Park behind Holy Guardian Angels Church on the West Bank.
Race director Mike Wattigny said he is excited about the adjusted course and the opportunity to stick with it.
“Really, this is about finally having a finishing home to the race,” he said. “The first year, we were part of the reopening of the Huey P. Long Bridge. It was on Father’s Day, and it was in summer, and it was brutally hot. So we moved to May, which was good, but we lost some continuity. The third year, we changed course and ran from the East Bank to the West Bank.
“Now in the fourth year, we’ve partnered with the Gumbo Fest. It give us a home. We are the day before Mother’s Day, and that’s a nice place to nestle into on what is a really crowded race scene in New Orleans. You have to have something unique to make you stand out in that field and with the views over the Mississippi River, we do.”
About 1,500 people participated in the race last year, and that number could increase given that the Louisiana Bridge Run Series continues to grow in popularity. And with the United Way of St. Charles Bridge Run and the Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent Connection Bridge Run taking place on river levees this year, even more people could venture to the Huey for a chance to run over the Mississippi.
Wattigny said regardless of how many people participate, the series remains intact and strong.
“There may be some doubt whether or not there is a Bridge Series this year,” he said. “But this definitely is the second leg of the series. You run all three races, and you get the Bridge Series medal.”
Last year, about 600 people were awarded medals for competing in all three races in the series. Kenner’s Ian Carr has won the three previous series championships, and Jamie Sauer of Belle Chasse is the two-time champion on the women’s side. The “King and Queen of the Mississippi” are determined by their combined times in the three races.
In all, approximately 6,500 people took part in a Louisiana Bridge Run Series event in 2015.
This year, Wattigny said the west bound span of the Huey P. Long Bridge will close to vehicular traffic at about 7:30 a.m. and will remain closed until the final person is across the bridge. The new finish line, which is just off Bridge City Avenue, is closer to the bridge than former finishes, and should speed up the span’s reopening.
A postrace festival will take place at the Gumbo Festival Park with food, drink, vendors, live music by Imaginary Frenz, and more. Ample parking will be available at the park before the race, and shuttles will ferry participants to the starting line.
There will be no postrace shuttles to the East Bank. Race-day registration from 6-7:15 a.m. also will take place at Gumbo Festival Park.
Participants also can enter a contest pitting East Bank versus West Bank. Different-colored bibs will be given to those who want them and will denote on which side of the river they reside. The “bank” with the most entries wins bragging rights in the friendly competition. Persons can also choose to remain “neutral,” should they want, and wear a white racing bib.
For information on the race or to register, go to www.hueyprun.com.