Me looking like a muppet (again!) and happier than any normal human being should be when running 13.1 miles. Overcompensation anyone?
Disclaimer: The following review is based upon a mid-pack, slower, 40-something runner who waited six-months before writing this review. Many details are from a questionable memory recall, primary from the ingestion of a premium bottle of Justin wine ca. 2015 the night before writing this recap. So, not very objective IMO; your experience might differ.
This past spring, the hubs and I went to New Orleans for a family wedding. As stated in previous reviews, I LOVE New Orleans and South Louisiana and jump at any chance I get to partake in ANY activity there (primarily eating). So being the overachieving neurotic that I am, I had to squeeze in a Half-Marathon to prove that I am truly pathological in my love for Louisiana and running. This time, that race happened to be the inaugural Best Damn Race–New Orleans!
I, for one, was not familiar with this series of races, as after reading the website, turns out to be because they are located primarily in Florida and I don’t get east of the Mississippi much. The other interesting thing about this series of races is their principle of making racing accessible for everyone. The way they make this happen is to have a sliding scale of sorts for the registration fees. The first 200 entrants pay only $35 dollars, the next 200 entrants, pays $45 dollars, and so on. You get the drift. Interesting concept which works well for the early registrants (another perk for management as they get many registering early), but not so much if you are a later registrant.
Cost: OK, so talking about the money, I think I paid $85 for this race which I think is a pretty good deal. For that $85, I received race entry, a shirt, a bag, and quite possibly, the BEST DAMN MEDAL I have received to date. The cost to travel here was minimal for me, as we flew on points, stayed with family, and stayed one night in a hotel on points, so I can’t really advise in that area. However, that being said, hotels will run the standard $120/night or more. Food in the Big Easy is not to be skimped on, as it is some of the best in the world, so plan on shelling out some $$ for that while you are here.
The weather on packet pickup day. OK, so maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but to someone from Arizona it seemed to be like this. Anyone from Louisiana would think it would be normal weather.
Hyatt Regency Downtown New Orleans. Photo Courtesy of TripAdvisor.
Expo/Packet pickup: The day of the Expo turned out to be storming and raining, like any other day in South Louisiana. However, the Expo and packet pickup had originally been scheduled to be outside at Congo Square (Louis Armstrong Park). Thankfully, the venue was changed to be inside at The Hyatt Regency on Loyola Ave. The Expo was in a ballroom at the hotel and had your typical vendors, if I remember correctly, and of course a place to pick up packets and the t-shirt. I honestly don’t remember much because I was concentrating on not getting my hair wet, as I had just gotten it done for the wedding we were attending that afternoon. Hence I have no pictures, other than stock a TripAdvisor photo, for the Hotel and Expo location. Just picture any other expo in a hotel ballroom that you’ve attended, and you have the idea. I must say however, management had EXCELLENT communication, texting and emailing the change of venue for the Expo early that morning.
The pre-race congregation at Louis Armstrong Park Race morning
Race Day Parking/Access: Anyone familiar with New Orleans knows two things: 1. None of the street names are pronounced the way they are spelled and 2. Parking does not exist. So, due two these aforementioned facts, George drove me to Louis Armstrong Park on race morning and slowed down just enough so that I could jump out of the car and head into the park. You think I’m kidding. I’m not. Along with the non-existent parking, comes the New Orleans PD, who are NOT. MESSING.AROUND. when it comes to directing people and traffic (think Mardi Gras). So, having barely escaped with my life from a moving vehicle, I headed into the park to the most important pre-race place, AKA The Bathrooms.
Action shot of me being dropped off on race morning and living to tell about it.
Pre-Race: One word–BATHROOMS. In this case, it was a large, typical bank of Porta-Potties (no surprise here). What was a surprise was how long it look to get into one of the said Porta-Potties. It took so long that I think I almost missed the start of the race. Note to race management, MORE POTS PLEASE next year.
Typical pre-race Porta-Potty scene. Luckily, I was in the South; anywhere else a riot would have erupted due to the long wait. Southern hospitality prevailed.
Starting Corrals: There were assigned corrals, however it didn’t seem like they were enforced much. Having arrived to the Start after the National Anthem was played, I sort of just merged into the herd as they were already moving forward (see my comment about the bathroom lines). Also note the weather– it turned out to be a slightly overcast for part of the run, sunny for the other– beautiful day!
Course: Due to being at sea level, the whole course is flat and fast. Since New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, I’m a little biased, but I think most people would agree that it is a beautiful and scenic city. Therefore, the scenery along this course, IMO is THE BEST DAMN SCENERY EVER. The course takes runners through some pretty cool parts of New Orleans such as the Treme district of New Orleans, the CBD (Central Business District), and St. Charles Street and the Garden District (the best part of the whole run). I love, love, love this part of the city for it’s history, mystery, and charm. The scenery and flat/fast aspect of the course gets an A+ in my book!
Course Summary through pictures:
Coming out of Louis Armstrong Park, mile 1.
- The Best Damn Shirt of the Race Award goes to Suck It Up Buttercup 2. Ummm, kinda sketchy part of town, no? 3. Skyline Downtown New Orleans, heading into Treme
Below: Treme Neighborhood
1.The short stretch of the CBD, 2. Exercise AND Runner Support!!
Heading down St. Charles Street and into the Garden District–the Best Damn Part
Garden District Roll Call: Anne Rice, Archie Manning, Payton Manning, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Drew Brees, Nicholas Cage all own homes here. So think about this when running mile ten through the Garden District: If Nicolas Cage can still get work, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!
George and my mom-in-law cheering me on!! AWESOME!!
- Second Best Damn Shirt of the Race. Love me some Texas! 2. Loyola University 3. Me (again!)
- The Best Damn Honest Selfie at Mile 12 2. Realizing I need a much better Best Damn Selfie
The Best Damn Finish Line Ever!
Post-Race: Well, I’m gonna spare you the obligatory post-race picture of ME, because thankfully I did not get one. You see, in order to pick me up from the race, George had to go into the French Quarter and we had to synchronize watches and GPS systems for him to find me. AND continuing the pattern of the morning, I had to JUMP BACK INTO a moving car, after running 13.2 miles (according to Garmin) AND walking half a mile into the Quarter to find my ride. Oh well, I had a ball, and I can honestly say this might just be THE BEST DAMN RACE I’ve run, in New Orleans anyway!
At least I worked off that wedding cake!!
Swag/Bling/Goodies: OMG. If the race doesn’t live up to it’s name, the medal sure does!! I LOVE THIS MEDAL! It is high quality and HEAVY! Maybe even the heaviest medal I have to date. The design of the sugar skull is AWESOME and I of course love the colors (purple, how can you go wrong?). The shirt has the same design and color–bonus points, but the quality is a little low IMHO, as it is not a tech shirt and the material is a little flimsy. That being said, I get compliments when I wear it, so I will forgive the race managements decision to not make it a tech-type shirt.
Final thoughts: Would I run this race again? Absolutely I would and for the following reasons: The pre-race communication was spot on, the race bathrooms adequate, the BEST DAMN scenery in Louisiana, and of course THAT MEDAL. Overall, I think it was a well-run, well-priced, and well thought out course that I think any level of runner would enjoy. Laissez les bon temps rouler, Y’all!!
Due to the Best Damn medal, scenery, and shirt design is give this race 4 and 1/2 BEST DAMN Races: