As the sun rises Saturday morning, thousands of athletes, wannabe athletes, runners, walkers, strollers and more than a few day drinkers will be taking to the streets to participate in the 40th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent City Classic 10K road race — many of them in costume.

This is New Orleans, after all.

When the gun goes off at 8 a.m in the French Quarter, some will be running to win, some will be running (or walking) for fun and others for a cause.

And some will be pushing them.

It’s been a dozen years since Covington’s Mary Mayo participated in the Classic with a bunch of her friends, making numerous stops along the way for refreshments.

“We had a blast,” she said.

Just a short time later, Mayo’s life was changed forever.

She and her fiancé, Beau Raimer, both St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Deputies, were leading a funeral procession for another Deputy who had been killed in a car crash, when a sudden storm came out of nowhere. As rain, wind and hail peppered their police cruiser, Mayo remembers wondering how they were going to perform the burial at the cemetery.

“I said, ‘Babe, we’ve got to get out of this,’ ” she said.

Moments later, a rotten pine tree cracked and landed on the car, killing Raimer instantly and crushing Mayo. She was paralyzed from the chest down.

The last decade has been a blur of pain, treatments, surgeries and adjustments. After a short stint as a dispatcher, she retired and spent nearly four and a half years practically bedridden and house-bound, in excruciating pain.

Then she met local firefighter Ryan Mast. You might know him. He’s the guy who runs races around the country dressed in his full fire gear and carrying an American flag, often accompanied by Elena Paulina, a Marine veteran who runs in full fatigues, and Randy Cohn, who runs in SWAT gear. Mast and his group, Flags to the Finish, has helped raise thousands of dollars for various charities — and spirits.

“I literally met Mary Mayo when I was picking her up off the floor after a fall,” said Mast, who recently hired Mayo to work for his water infiltration company. “She and I became friends instantly.”

Over the past few months, Mast has pushed Mayo to be more independent and to regain some of her former life. She recently received a specially equipped truck thanks to a GoFundMe campaign and got a specially equipped wheelchair through the charity Ainsley’s Angels.

Then Mast convinced Mayo to do the Crescent City Classic with him.

“She asked if I was doing it, and I said, ‘I sure am, and I’d like you to do it with me,’ ” Mast said. “At first she was, like, ‘I don’t know. I don’t really want to.’ Then she got excited when she realized she could actually do it because she had someone to push her.”

For Mayo, it’s another piece of her former life regained.

“I’m just doing it to have fun,” Mayo said. “I’m not going out to set any records or anything like that. I’m just looking for a good time.”

What Mayo doesn’t know (unless she reads this), is that Mast’s crew will present the colors before today’s race and that she will be presenting the American flag. Mast is hoping a slew of law enforcement officers will then join them for the 6.2 mile run to City Park.

“She thinks that just me and her are going to be running,” Mast said. “She doesn’t know about the (fire) gear, she doesn’t know about the flag or the color guard. She thinks she’s just going to go get pushed. I’m setting that up as a big secret. It’s a miracle in this day and age of social media that she doesn’t know about it. I should be an undercover cop.”


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