I've found myself as an accidental connoisseur of marathons and half marathons.
As a spectator, husband, and father with kids.
The marathon is gruelling, the half-marathon perhaps more so, since there are more time constraints in being able to move from observation location #1 to #2 and then to #3 with kids and signs.
I envy the runners with their freedom from whining and being untethered from the car and the signs, with beer and a medal waiting for them to celebrate their two hours of freedom from "are we there yet?" and "is the tablet charged?". But we do things not because they are easy but because they are hard, and pushing yourself to do a marathon or half marathon as a spectator with no time for practice or training is something everyone should put on their bucket list.
They all seem the same, yet different. I've done a couple in Pensacola, and Mandeville and Gulf Shores, and a few different ones in New Orleans.
This morning started out typically, with difficulties getting the kids to see any redeeming quality in getting out of bed.
Luckily with these events, you start so early, you NEVER have to worry about traffic. So in 20 minutes I was already at the bar at St. Charles Tavern getting a mimosa before the runners arrived shortly after 7am. Did I forget to mention the ridiculous whining about the kids having to walk a WHOLE SMALL NEW ORLEANS BLOCK from the car?
We appreciated only a small amount of pre-recorded music before the band at mile 1 was playing live, and luckily/unluckily, my wife had gotten into a pretty good corral and was on pace for a decent time, so we were leaving by about 7:20.
We arrived by Audubon Park for our second mommy sighting with our signs just a couple minutes before she arrived and everything was going swimmingly. Not much of a walk and the whining had subsided somewhat. As we were turning to talk to another man who was moving to the finish line and getting ready to leave, Evan also spotted "Look a Saint, Daddy!", and I was somewhat intrigued by the giant jogging stroller he was pushing - it turned out to be Steve Gleason in the stroller and Team Gleason. That was a bit emotional for me.
I wasn't looking forward to the third leg of this marathon relay. I wasn't bringing the wagon this year - the kids are big enough that they can go self-powered. But I knew it would still be a walk from our legal parking almost to Fellini's on Carrollton.
So my observations on the marathon's organization here may be slightly colored by the rapidly increasing level of whininess by my fellow marathon observers who have not cultivated such an appreciation for spectating.
Because of the way the chutes and tents are set up at the end of the race, the sidewalks are unusable, which has been bad in past years, but this year, due to the recent rain, the mud and puddles made it very difficult to traverse. This has historically not been a very good finish line for spectators, and I should have been more prepared for the annoyance.
The race is far more commercialized than any other race, but they don't give anyone anything for free.
Runners get two Michelob Ultras (blech!) and that's it. All the food has to be purchased, even sodas and water. Even our poorly organized two-mile Christmas Run/Walk has (good) free beer, coffee, hot chocolate, red beans, etc, etc.
The Creole String Beans looked to be the opening act, and they got the job done, but like in past years, when they were done, there was a long break with no music. This has been a problem in the past with this event. In fact, at a lot of the stages, there are significant band breaks where recorded music is played. This might still be a novelty for people from outside New Orleans, but as a race here, it's not something particularly special, since people here play music while waiting for a parade.
Dirty Dozen was up next, but the break was over an hour after the Creole String Beans finished. I've been to tiny races in Elmwood with more consistent live music and certainly no shortage of free beer and food. You'd think for a widely hyped NATIONAL race called the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series, they would actually bring something novel to the New Orleans running scene, but apart from a slightly better organized start and finish, it doesn't compare favorably to our worst organized race in New Orleans, the Crescent City Classic, which has only gone from bad to worse with the death of the long time race director a couple years ago.
The music announcer was HORRIBLE. From the New OrlEEEns pronunciation to calling the Creole String Beans the Creole String Band (which is rather humorously obviously wrong given that they are NOT a String Band).
Then the results announcer was clearly a marathon aficionado himself, but one of a more athletic and competitive bent. The runners he was announcing were "not having their best race", or being "scalped" by "pikers". He was intimately familiar with their form and their thrills of victory and agonies of defeat, but it was his pronunciation of EsplaNOD (twice) that was more unforgivable than the state of its road surface. WHO EVEN SAYS THAT? It's not like tapenade or promenade - I don't know anyone who uses that pronunciation.
Anyway, the kids found the long jump sand pit and got in a better mood, and then it was time to bring the wife to her car so she could go to work. Yes, the work never stops - we each go back to work after our respective half-marathons.
I envy Mo Farah, who doesn't have to go to a job or take care of his kids AFTER finishing HIS half-marathon.