Running isn’t the biggest pastime in south Louisiana, but it certainly is growing in popularity with a wave of newcomers to the area post-Katrina, and a host of dedicated locals helping keep the trend moving upward.
But in summer? Well, common belief is that just about everyone wants to run to the nearest beach instead of running a race.
But perhaps surprisingly, there is quite an active running scene in south Louisiana each summer, despite temperatures that climb close to triple digits on a regular basis.
The secrets to the success, race organizers say, are fairly obvious.
“First and foremost, the races are much shorter in the summer,” Chuck George of New Orleans Running Systems said. “It’s that way just about everywhere in the Deep South. … And second, we have races either more early or late in the day to beat the heat.”
George’s operation hosts a popular Trail Run Series each summer, with three races set this year (a 3-mile run/walk in Belle Chasse on Saturday, a 2-miler on June 27 in the Bonnet Carre Spillway, and another 2-miler on July 11 in New Orleans’ City Park).
This marks the third year the Trail Run Series will take place, and George estimated that about 300 people take part in each, with 60 percent doing all three races. Each race will have an 8 a.m. start.
He expects much larger crowds at an additional River Run (a 2-miler on July 24,) and the Lakefront Lighthouse Run (another 2-miler scheduled for Aug. 7.)
One thing George tells everyone who participates in one of his events during the summer is another obvious thing, he said.
“Proper hydration,” he said. “You have to have it. We don’t have 2-mile races in the winter, but theoretically if we did, you probably can go without a water station.
“In the summer, we have water stations at every mile. We also have an ATV and active help from our volunteers to get water out into the woods for runners and walkers, as well.”
The New Orleans Track Club takes similar precautions during all of its warm weather events, said Jennifer Neil, the club’s executive race director. All have water, at the very least, with most having food and other beverages provided by race sponsors.
The NOTC’s calling card during the offseason is its NOTC Summer Series. Four races are scheduled this year: June 24, July 8 and 22. The first summer race was June 10. Each is held on the festival grounds of New Orleans City Park and each is a 2-mile event.
Each has at least 600 people participating, with the final date routinely attracting a much larger crowd.
“The summer series is free for our members, and only $5 for everyone else,” Neil said. “We see a lot of different people at the summer races. It’s inexpensive, and it’s a shorter distance. It’s also later in the night (7 p.m. starts.) It’s not timed officially, it’s just fun.”
One unique thing the NOTC stages each summer is its All Comers Track Meet Series, which will be held June 26, July 10 and July 31 at St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie.
As many as 100 people of all ages and abilities participate in each and all have a chance to enter races of 1 and 2 miles; 100, 200, and 800 meters; as well as 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays. There is no cost to participate in any part of the track meets, though all participants must sign a waiver to join.
“We don’t have preregistration for the summer series or the track meets, so people can show up as early as 6 p.m. to sign up,” Neil said.
The NOTC also hosts a Father’s Day Race on June 21, its own Bonnet Carre Spillway Run on July 19, and the club’s anniversary race Aug. 15. Information on each those races, as well as the summer series and track meets, can be found at runnotc.org.
Information on any of New Orleans Running Systems can be found at nolarunning.com.
On the north shore, the 15th Street Flyers Running Club hosts its popular Four on the Fourth race on Independence Day. The 4-miler begins and ends at Hubie Gallagher Park in Covington.
More information can be found at 15thstreetflyers.com.