Sixty members of Youth Run NOLA participated in Sunday morning’s half marathon as part of the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & Half Marathon Race, although the organization was less concerned with finishing times versus finishing.

The group, founded five years ago in St. Bernard Parish, empowers underserved youth through running, while also offering school teachers another avenue to connect with their students.

The organization has spread to Orleans and Jefferson parishes, and has about 300 student runners.

“A lot of our runners are discovering the sport for the first time,” said Tom Mayer, who serves as the organization’s race director. “They weren’t interested in basketball or football, but they want to be an athlete. It was really a way to teach youth life skills through long distance running.

“We’re not out here trying to train five-minute milers. We’re trying to get them active.”

Sunday’s race served as a primer for Youth Run NOLA’s 5.04K race on Feb. 8. Details are available on the organization’s web site.

Could this group move up to the 26.3-mile distance in 2016?

“We’ve got our eyes on it for next year,” Mayer said.

Pick your prop

Alex Bernadett finished Sunday morning’s 13.1-mile course with an electric guitar in his hand.

Well, sort of.

His plastic, musical instrument was filled with air, albeit colorful.

Bernadett’s prop was fitting of the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & Half Marathon Race, one of many racers carried, towed and blew from the downtown starting line to the finish line in City Park.

Some of the more colorful items ranged from a Flash outfit, a tribute to the speedy super hero, American flags, plastic horns and Go-Pro cameras, which offer high-quality footage in devices that fit in pockets.

Sunday marked Bernadett’s second time running with his guitar.

“It was just fun to have on the route,” said Bernadett, a rookie member of the 610 Stompers. Sunday marked his seventh year in the New Orleans race. “It gives you something to do. You’re out there for three-and-a-half, four hours, and you can get bored.

“Especially in a race like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon where they’re playing music the whole time, it’s fun to play along.”

Bonus time

Every runner in the marathon and half marathon had an opportunity to earn a performance bonus if they finished under designated times, no matter their finish in the race.

That’s why Janet Cherobon Bawcom left City Park with not only $500 for winning the half marathon, but finishing under 1:15 earned her a $500 bonus. Her time was 1:12:22.

All half marathon runners finishing under 1:05:00 (men) and 1:15:00 (women) earn $500. Also, marathon runners finishing under 2:18:00 (men) and 2:43:00 (women) were poised to receive $1,000.

A new addition

The Rock ‘n’ Roll added a 10K this year, where Mike Griffin won the men’s division with a time of 36:37. Timothy Priest of Gretna was second (42:16).

“I wanted to try the new distance this year because I have been running shorter races and am starting to think about Crescent City Classic,” said Priest, who sits on the board of the New Orleans Track Club.

In the women’s division, Ruth Waller of Fort Collins, Colorado, finished in 39:04 to take the title.

Lauren Jewett, a native of Rochester, N.Y., living in New Orleans, finished second (43:10) in the women’s division. At a variety if distances, Jewett has participated in the last four Rock ‘n’ Roll races in New Orleans.

“I just completed a marathon a few weeks ago in Honolulu and wanted something shorter to run, so I was excited for the 10K option to get a feel for my fitness going into the spring,” said Jewett, who is a member of the New Orleans Track Club. “Anytime you get to run down past Jackson Square and Cafe Du Monde on a sunny day like today makes you appreciate New Orleans.”

Lagniappe

Patrick House, the Season 10 winner of ‘The Biggest Loser,’ finished the half marathon in a time of 2:16:23... Saints punter Thomas Morstead and his wife, Lauren, finished the 10K at 1:07:47... Before the Pelicans hosted the Dallas Mavericks in an NBA game at the Smoothie King Center, Mavericks assistant coach Jamahl Mosley competed in the half marathon (2:00:00).