Two world wars and the costliest natural/manmade disaster in American history couldn’t affect New Orleans’ oldest road race — but road construction will.
The 109th Jackson Day Race will take place Jan. 3 as scheduled, though its course will be altered because of ongoing work on the Interstate 610 overpass on Wisner Boulevard near City Park.
The race’s longtime route from Old Spanish Fort (current corner of Robert E. Lee and Wisner boulevards) to the Place d’Armes (today called Jackson Square) was the same one taken in 1815 by Jean Lafitte and his pirates when they rushed to the Mississippi River to join forces with American armies defending the city from a pending British invasion.
This year, however, the race will begin at the corner of Robert E. Lee and Marconi Dr.; just west of the original starting point. At least 700 runners are expected to participate in the 9-kilometer (5.6-mile race,) which will travel down Marconi to Orleans Ave. and follow that thoroughfare into the French Quarter to Jackson Square.
The race will begin at 8:30 a.m.
New Orleans Track Club Race Director Jennifer Neil, whose group organizes the annual Jackson Day Race, said the original course probably won’t be followed again until 2018 because of the projected completion date for the new Wisner overpass.
“It changes the history of it a little bit this year, because we can’t follow the original historical path along (Bayou St. John,)” Neil said. “But this is as close as we could get, and I think people understand that.
“When the overpass is done, we’ll be back to the old course.”
Neil said the change in course won’t affect the number of participants. Jackson Day is one of the NOTC’s biggest races each year, and it’s one of the oldest in the U.S.
“Some people come out because this is the first big race of the year,” she said. “(People enjoy the history of it), but most people just come out to compete or have a good time.”
Neil said the new starting location does offer less parking than the Old Spanish Fort site, however. To allay that situation, she suggested race participants park downtown and catch a free shuttle to the start.
Shuttle service will begin at 6:30 a.m. and continue until 7:45 a.m.
Additional shuttles will be available from 9-11:15 a.m. for runners heading from the French Quarter back to the starting line.
The downtown shuttle stop will be located at the corner of Decatur and Toulouse. Neil said discount parking is available for $3 (with race entry) at the Jax and Sugar lots (located where Conti St. meets the river).
Cost to enter through Dec. 28 is $35 for NOTC members, $40 for nonmembers, and $50 for NOTC families. Race-day registration will begin at 7 a.m. and fee is $40 per person. No family registration will be available Jan. 3.
Cost includes an official race T-shirt and a postrace party in the French Quarter with food and drink.
Awards will be given to the first overall man and woman, as well as the first overall youths, masters, grandmasters, seniors, and racewalkers. Additional age group awards will be presented as well.
For information, go online to www.runnotc.org or call (504) 304-2326.