Madri Gras Marathon
February 5, 2006
Race Report by Bob Dolphin
It was a surprise to many that the 41st annual running of the Mardi Gras Marathon at New Orleans, Louisiana, would take place on Sunday, February 5, 2006, only five months after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed. To the credit of the New Orleans Track Club and the people of the area, they made it happen!
Their motto was "Renew. Recover. Rebuild. Come Running." And there was evidence that this was happening with enthusiasm and vigor. There were over 3,200 runners who accepted this invitation. Participants in the 5K, ½ marathon and full marathon came from all 50 states and 11 different countries to show their support. Lenore and I were happy to be part of this group as a volunteer and a runner.
Our "red-eye" flight from Seattle brought us to New Orleans on Saturday morning, so we went directly to the race headquarters at the Intercontinental Hotel in the downtown area. I picked up my bib number, timing chip and classy, long-sleeved T-shirt, and Lenore checked in with volunteer coordinator Martha George.
To our surprise, Marathon Maniacs Fiona and Wayne Wright of Melbourne, Florida, "found" us at the Expo. We had met them at the January Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge, so it was great to be able to spend the day with our new friends.
For the pasta dinner at the headquarters hotel in the evening, the four of us were joined by Lois and Ed Driver of Palm Desert, California, Tom Briggs of Arcadia, Oklahoma, and Nels Bentson of Oklahoma City. We were Lois and Ed's guests at their timeshare suite at the Quarter House Hotel in the French Quarter. Tom and Nels had run the Antarctic Marathon with Fiona and Wayne in 2005.
On the morning of the marathon we drove to the Louisiana Superdome which was central to the day's events. The start and finish areas were adjacent to the dome, and ample free parking was available in the parking garage. Above these areas an outside, upper deck was used for a post race party where hot beans & rice, beer, soda pop, sub sandwiches and fruit were served. Music was provided here and on the race course.
It was a bit cool waiting for the 7:00 a.m. joint start for the marathon and ½ marathon. Actually, once we began moving, the weather seemed ideal. The temperature was 40 degrees at the start and rose to the high 50's during the race. The skies were clear, and an intermittent breeze was welcome.
Except for one "bridge hill" on an out-and-back, the course was essentially flat. It was laid out in two half marathon sections that went in opposite directions from the Superdome. Most of the course was out-and back with each section having a loop.
It was quite scenic and interesting passing by the tall downtown buildings and going into the picturesque French Quarter. Running near the Mississippi River, we passed Jackson Square Park, St. Louis Cathedral and the Café Du Monde, an open-sided coffee shop.
We ran through older areas and suburbs to a street that was on the edge of City Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country. We followed a canal that was serene and then crossed over it on a bridge to a housing area of modern homes that were devastated when the canal's levees failed after the hurricane passed.
This area had an abandoned large shopping center and uninhabitable, deserted houses that showed flood damage with the water line near the roof eaves. Contractors were working at repairing a few of the houses, but most of them sat there with piles of debris inside or in the yards.
A course turn-around took us back to City Park, and eventually we made our way back to the Superdome where the half marathoners finished their race. The rest of us crossed the timing mat and went on to the second out-and-back section.
We passed through an area with well-built homes that didn't appear to sustain as much hurricane or flood damage as what we had just seen near Lake Ponchartrain. The highlight of this leg was a lap around scenic Audubon Park on a paved trail. There was a small lake that we passed that had a lot of birds on the water or in the trees. Snowy egrets, double-crested cormorants, white ibis, mallards, wood ducks, domestic geese, and black-bellied whistling tree ducks had found a sanctuary there. I had never seen tree ducks before. They lived up to their name and were sitting in the trees!!
Because the course was mostly out-and-back, I saw many runners whom I knew. Among them were Marathon Maniacs Steve Supkoff of North Bend, WA, and Phil DeYoung from Sachse, TX. In about the third mile I briefly ran with Maniacs Larry Macon (San Antonio, TX) and Steve Boone (Humble, TX), Michael Swanson (Plymouth, MN) and Ed Driver.
Ed and I leap-frogged awhile, but at Mile 10 I couldn't keep up with him, and he went out of sight. He's a fast 80 year old. As the oldest runner in the marathon, he ran a 5:20:04 for first place in the 75+M division.
Cheryl Murdock was wearing her bright yellow Marathon Maniac singlet when I saw her on the course. She finished her 99th marathon at New Orleans in 5:38:41. The Pensacola Marathon in her Florida hometown on February 19, 2006, will be her 100th Marathon. Then she'll become a member of the 100 Marathon Club North America.
With a time of 5:30:19 Sherry Watts, 52, of London, Ontario, was the first woman race walker to finish. Her friend Paula Maxlow, 48, also from London, had finished the half marathon in 2:14:13.
Ray Scharenbrock, 72, of South Milwaukee, WI, has run over 500 marathons and has finished almost nine cycles of the 50 states. Now he's running a half marathon in all 50 states. His time was 2:48:25.
Bill Whipp (Harrison, OH) walked the whole race and passed me in the last tenth of a mile to finish in 5:36:54. The Superdome was a welcome sight in the last mile. I crossed the line in 5:37:13, second in the 75+M division.
In a time of 2:36:44 the marathon was won by Brendan Minihan, 30, a school teacher from New Orleans. In second place was Tom Sawyer, 39, also from New Orleans, with a 2:39:05. Ben Gaspar, 23, of Chapel Hill, NC, came in third with a 2:40:52. Six of the first ten runners were from Louisiana, and four of these were from New Orleans.
In the women's division Karen Voss, 40, a physical therapist from Denver, CO, ran unchallenged to a 3:11:08 win. The race for second place woman was tight. With a time of 3:15:41 Dina Cidade, 34, of Fall River, MA, finished 5 seconds ahead of Jennifer Lash, 37, of New York City.
In the time period of 2:36:44 to 7:45:46 there were 698 runners and walkers who finished the marathon. I'm glad to be included in this group.
Lenore and Lois Driver were volunteers all day at the finish line and gave finishers medals to the 5K, ½ marathon and marathon participants. They became acquainted with many of the locals who have a wonderful, upbeat attitude. "Renew. Recover. Rebuild." It will happen!
We saw the unbelievable devastation, but what we'll remember most are the hospitable and friendly people we met in our unforgettable Mardi Gras Marathon adventure.
We enjoyed our tour of Mardi Gras World across the river in Algiers where parade floats are made and stored, our many trips to Café Du Monde for beignets (French doughnuts) and coffee, our drive from New Orleans across Mississippi to Alabama AND lots of King Cake.
Thanks go to race director Bill Burke, Chuck & Martha George, Ken Vicknair and all of the great people who made the running of the 41st annual Mardi Gras Marathon possible.
Written by Bob Dolphin
Partial Results - Mardi Gras Marathon, February 5, 2006
2:36:44 Brendan Minihan, 30, New Orleans, First Overall
2:39:05 Tom Sawyer, 39, New Orleans, Second Overall
2:40:52 Ben Gaspar, 23, Chapel Hill, NC, Third Overall
3:11:08 Karen Voss, 40, Denver, CO, First Overall Female
3:15:41 Dina Cidade, 34, Fall River, MA, Second Overall Female
3:15:46 Jennifer Lash, 37, New York, NY, Third Overall Female
3:30:52 Steve Supkoff, 40, North Bend, WA, Marathon Maniac (MM)
3:36:24 Phil DeYoung, 37, Sachse, TX, MM
3:57:34 Francesco Criniti, 61, Philadelphia, PA, 100 Marathon Club North America
4:10:08 Wayne Wright, 57, Melbourne, FL, MM
4:15:24 Edson Sanches, 56, New York, NY, 100MC
4:21:37 Steve Boone, 56, Humble, TX, MM, 100MC
4:26:09 Claude Hicks, Jr, Forth Worth, TX
4:34:09 Fiona Wright, 43, Melbourne, FL, MM
4:34:29 Tom Briggs, 72, Arcadia, OK
4:38:43 Michael Ahrens, 55, Marion, IL
5:10:02 Michael Swanson, 54, Plymouth, MN
5:20:04 Ed Driver, 80, Palm Desert, CA
5:25:34 Nels Bentson, 61, Oklahoma City, OK
5:30:19 Sherry Watts, 52, London, ON
5:36:54 Bill Whipp, 61, Harrison, OH, 100MC
5:37:13 Bob Dolphin, 76, Renton/Yakima, WA, MM, 100MC
5:38:41 Cheryl Murdock, 55, Pensacola, FL, MM
5:54:17 Paula Boone, 39, Humble, TX, MM, 100MC
5:54:18 Larry Macon, 61, San Antonio, TX
6:01:08 Eugene Bruckert, 70, Arlington Heights, IL
6:02:43 Henry Rueden, De Pere, WI, 100MC
6:09:05 Sharon Kerson, 63, Culver City, CA, 100MC
7:45:46 Phil Gioia, 54, Belle Chasse, LA
7:45:46 James Squires, 61, New York, NV