The Guns N’ Roses classic “Welcome to the Jungle” was blared over loudspeakers to begin the 27th Great Spillway Classic Trail Run.
It was as appropriate a song one could play to kick off one of the most unique events the New Orleans Track Club organizes each year.
The Spillway Classic is held annually in the Bonnet Carre’ Spillway in Norco. The first mile of the three-mile race is run on a levee, but the next two miles wind through woods, mud, and grassy fields along neighboring waterways. There is a gauntlet through which more than 700 participants slogged through knee-deep mud.
There were mosquitoes, and bees, and who knows what else on the trail leading back toward Airline Highway — in close proximity to where the race began and ended.
Brothers Beau and Bryce Robertson, both 19 and former Hahnville High School runners, had the lead when the race headed into the woods, which boasts a myriad of trails for runners to take. But the first person to exit the trails was longtime distance stalwart Pat Gavin, who raced ahead toward the finish.
Gavin, 31, said knew he took a more fortuitous path than his other young competitors, so he let up at the finish and allowed the Brothers Robertson to break the tape.
Beau got the nod for the Spillway win — finishing the trail course in 16 minutes, 32 seconds. Bryce was a second behind. When they both were across the timing pad, Gavin stepped across to finish third in 16:34.
“I felt guilty,” Gavin said. “There are several places you can run in the woods. Beau and Bryce were right ahead of me when we entered. They took a wrong turn. I would have felt guilty taking it from them.”
Gavin has plenty of wins in his lengthy racing career, so that’s not why he entered the Great Spillway Classic Trail Race.
“This one is unique because it’s not every day you get to run on trails around here,” he said. “You never know who’s going to show up. It’s the end of the summer, and some guys come out to run fast. It’s nice to see who’s here.
“But I’ve lived in the New Orleans metro area just about my whole life,” Gavin said. “I moved to Portland one time, and you take this stuff happening here for granted. When you finish a race here, there’s beer, food, music. So all of this is really different from any place I’ve ever run.”
Bryce Robinson lost one of his shoes in the Spillway mud last year, and did so again this year, even though he wrapped tape around his shoes and feet to keep them together.
“There was standing water last year. There wasn’t much this year, but it still was like quicksand,” Robinson said. “The shoe still fell off.”
Megan Gohres led the women’s field in 19:30. Mia Meydrich placed second in 19:40, and Andi Aguilar was third in 20:02.
Though the course was drier than usual, Gohres still was covered in sweat and mud when she reached the finish. She’s competed in four Spillway Classics before, and the tradition of the event brings her back when she is able to compete. The race is one of the longest-running trail races in the U.S.
“It’s not the muddiest it’s ever been, but it’s still muddy,” she said. “Don’t let anyone fool you. The Gauntlet is still a weird obstacle. And the after-parties are so much fun.”
1. Beau Robinson, 16:32; 2. Bryce Robinson, 16:33; 3. Patrick Gavin, 16:34; 4. Joe Binder, 16:39; 5. Nick Accardo, 16:43; 6. Richard Bouckaert, 16:57; 7. Brian Lozes, 18:29; 8. Matt Greco, 18:39; 9. Beau Veazey, 19:00; 10. Will Wherritt, 19:01.
1. Megan Gohres, 19:30; 2. Mia Meydrich, 19:40; 3. Andi Aguilar, 20:02; 4. Chaiss Matthews, 21:05; 5. Carola Binder, 21:49; 6. Stephanie Mcnabb, 22:31; 7. Lauren Ybarzabal, 22:39; 8. Ashley Welborn, 22:44; 9. Ellery Hayden, 23:08; 10. Brooke Peaden, 24:02.