Unbeknownst to just about everyone, Jan. 8 is a special date in New Orleans history.
In 1815, Gen. Andrew Jackson called for all assistance to fend off a British invasion during what now is known as the Battle of New Orleans.
Of course, the bicentennial celebration of that same date will come with added significance. And that brings us to the year 2015 and to, of all things, the New Orleans Track Club.
Of all the people keenly aware of the local (and national) importance of Jackson Day, the number has to include members of the NOTC. After all, the club has held the Jackson Day Race around that same date for the past 108 years to commemorate the anniversary.
The NOTC will do so again this year. On Sunday, the 108th Jackson Day Race will be held — moved up four days to accommodate the weekend running crowd.
The race will follow the course American fighters ran two centuries ago, when Jean Lafitte and his pirates ran from the Old Spanish Fort (currently the corner of Wisner and Robert E. Lee) to the Place d’Armes (today called Jackson Square). There, they joined forces with all other able-bodied persons in the city to fend off a pending British invasion in the War of 1812.
The mood will be much more subdued for Sunday’s race, but it should be exciting nonetheless.
As many as 700 people are expected to take part in the 9K run (5.6 miles). They will run roughly the same course as did Lafitte and his pirates 200 years ago — following the traditional route of Bayou St. John to the French Quarter.
“This year is special,” said Jennifer Neil, NOTC Race Director. “There are going to be many events throughout the year to commemorate the Battle of New Orleans. We get to be one of the first.”
In a nod to the rich history of the race, Neil said they hope to include members of the family of George Mike Ziegler, who won the race in 1908, 1909, 1913-15, and in 1917.
Neil said she wasn’t certain of race-day plans, but it could involve family members firing the starting pistol, speaking to the crowd or being involved in a social media campaign to attract additional participants. Members of the Ziegler family walked in the 100th anniversary race, and Ziegler (the six-time champ) was featured on the 2010 race sweatshirt. A host of Ziegler family photos concerning New Orleans-area racing can be found on the NOTC’s Facebook page, Neil said.
The historic Jackson Day Race (the oldest in New Orleans, and one of the oldest road races in North America) will begin at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. The race will begin just off Robert E. Lee at Wisner boulevards near Lake Pontchartrain, and a postrace party will be on Wilkinson Street (between Rue Chartres and Decatur) in the Vieux Carré. Food, drinks and more will be available at the postrace festivities.
Cost from Dec. 30 until race day is $40. Payment includes T-shirt and entry to the postrace party. For information, call the NOTC at (504) 304-2326 or go to runnotc.org.