There’s no question that New Orleans is a unique place. The people, the food, and the music are just a few things that are very much different here than in the rest of the nation.
Even many of the road races are different, and the local “Run Through History” fits the bill.
The run is touted as the “Largest Cemetery Race in the U.S.A.,” and the 14th annual event aims to deliver on that promise. Both the 5K and 1-mile runs are held entirely in Metairie Cemetery — perhaps the Crescent City’s most-ballyhooed burial ground. Inside its labyrinth of above-ground marble monuments are the final resting places of famous politicians, artists, athletes, and many more.
Run Through History director Chuck George, said in New Orleans, however, it’s nothing completely out of the ordinary — if you’re from here, at least.
“I had been thinking about doing a cemetery run for a couple decades when Jerry Schoen called me about putting it together 15 years ago,” George recalled. “We both thought it would be a great idea. Funerals here are a celebration as much as anything, so we had that going for us. But we were a bit concerned with what the response would be from the families of the people entombed there.
“The first call I got was someone asking if we could change the course so the run would pass in front of their family’s tomb. We didn’t pass it on the first run.
“I knew everything would be fine from that point.”
And so it has. George said there are other runs in cemeteries and battlefields in the U.S., but the Run Through History is expected to draw easily more than 700 people, which makes it one of the “upper mid-tier” races in the greater New Orleans area (as far as registration is concerned.)
It’s the “history” that makes the event such a draw, George said.
“The course roughly follows Metairie Avenue, which is not to be confused with Metairie Road,” George said. “Both the 5K and the 1-mile are held entirely within the cemetery, and the layout of Metairie Avenue was a race track dating back to the 19th Century.”
Indeed, long before the land was used as a cemetery, it was home to Metairie Race Track (which dates to the 1830s.)
“The architecture, the tombs — many of these are dedicated to people who built and made New Orleans and Louisiana what it is,” George said. “It’s so beautiful out there, many of the people who participate walk the course. I’d say maybe 60-percent of the people entered will walk it. It’s a great way to see such a magnificent part of the city and its history.”
Fittingly, proceeds will benefit Save Our Cemeteries — the local group which is “dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and protection of New Orleans’ historic cemeteries through restoration, education, and advocacy.”
Online registration for Run Through History is closed, but race-day registration will begin adjacent to Lake Lawn Funeral Home at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday (as will official race packet pick-up.) The 1-mile run/walk will begin at 8:30 a.m., and the 5K event will begin at 9 a.m.
Cost is $35 for adults 18-64, and $25 for everyone else. That price includes various awards in both runs, a commemorative Run Through History T-shirt, food from numerous restaurants, fresh fruit, Elmer’s Chee Wees snacks, Kentwood water, and Abita Beer and root beer products. Live music will be provided by the Benny Maygarden Band.
Metairie Cemetery is located at 5100 Pontchartrain Blvd., in New Orleans. Directions and race location information can be found online at www.lakelawnmetairie.com.
For more information on Run Through History or on other New Orleans Running Systems races, go online to www.nolarunning.com.