There are dozens of road races held each year in the greater New Orleans area, but less than a half-dozen of them are on St. Charles Avenue.
The Jazz Half Marathon and 5K is one of those events that happen in part on one of the city’s most renowned boulevards.
The seventh annual “Jazz Half” will be at 7 a.m. Saturday. More than 4,000 people are entered in either the 13.1-mile half marathon or the concurrent 5-kilometer race.
Proceeds will benefit the Cancer Program at Children’s Hospital of New Orleans.
Chuck George of New Orleans Running Systems is event director. He said the combination of the St. Charles Avenue course and the Children’s Hospital cause makes the race an easy sell for local and visiting runners.
“With the height of tourism season here again, this is a popular race,” George said. “There aren’t that many half marathons out there, especially in New Orleans. Plus, the beneficiary being Children’s, they are recognized nationally for their support and care for children. When people hear that, many choose us as the race they want to be in.”
The races begin at Lafayette Square and travel to Convention Center Boulevard via Camp and St. Joseph streets. There, runners will head downtown to Poydras and make a loop there.
Heading toward the river, the half marathon field will hang a right on St. Charles and travel all the way to Audubon Park, where runners will make another loop on the jogging path across from the universities. The field will head back to Lee Circle, veer right on Andrew Higgins Boulevard and then downtown on Camp before ending back at Lafayette Square.
It’s a chance for runners to see some of the most popular spots in the city. And being able to run on streets free from car traffic is a major attraction, George said.
“I think there would be more races on St. Charles, but I think why there’s not more is the cost of it; the expense,” he said. “That’s a long stretch of road. And really, I think there may be enough races there. It’s a great venue, but you don’t want every race on that stretch. That’s what makes this race special. ... You want to showcase what New Orleans is all about, and people want to see St. Charles. It’s part of what they think of when they think of New Orleans.”
George said there will be a four-hour time limit to complete the half marathon.
Participants can continue the race at that point if they choose, but streets will re-open to cars.
George said a few of the area’s top runners are expected to take part, and that a few visitors always post impressive times, as well. He expects the leading man to finish in less than 1 hour, 14 minutes; with the leading woman coming in under 1:21.
A pre-race expo will be at the Hyatt Regency from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday. Several dozen vendors will be on hand, and race participants can pick up their race packets at that time. Last-minute registration is also available at the expo.
A post-race festival will include live music by Flow Tribe, as well as ample food and drinks. A parking service is available on the race website, which allows participants to buy parking in lots around Lafayette Square before race day.
Cost is $40 to enter the 5K, and $100 to enter the half marathon.
For information, go to jazzhalf.com.