In grammar school, I would usually win the 100-yard dash from when I was in kindergarten until about 6th grade, when I got less involved in sports and more sedentary - long before computers and electronic games. By my junior year in high school, as the jogging craze was catching on, I started getting interested in running again but for longer distances.
Most of the races that began around that time like the CCC were 10Ks - 6.2 milers, as opposed to the ones that are usually organized nowadays - 5Ks - 3.1 miles. I must have run one every month like the Jackson Day 10K and the Corporate Cups that also started in the French Quarter area.
One of the toughest races I did was a Corporate Cup that began with a big rain drenching just as we were all lined up and ready for the sound horn to alert us to go. It was so hard running all of those 6 miles with socks and shoes that were soaking. Most runners had gone to the Marriott the night before to get our "Carbo-filling," to prepare us to store up those carbohydrates for the run.
My usual 2 - 3 weekly runs were about 7 - 9 miles each. I would start near our house on Broadway near Claiborne Ave., head on down to St. Charles Ave., then go around all of Audubon Park and back home. Sometimes, when I was feeling giddy, I would head also down all the way to Lee Circle and back to home for almost do a 1/2 Marathon.
Well, after college, before Graduate School, I was out in the San Joaquin Valley of California doing Volunteer work for a year with the Jesuits - in a program like Vista or the Peace Corps. Per my neat runs out where so much fruit is produced, I found out about an upcoming marathon in Porterville, where I was working.
So I started preparing by running at least 120 miles a week - much more than the 60 or 70 I had been doing. I had always thought that something like completing a marathon would be impossible for me. As most will tell you, actually running a marathon is mainly a mind game - as long as you have worked up properly to being physically fit for it.
So race day came and I was so excited! I took off too quickly like I mostly did in those 10Ks. But I had the endurance and stamina to press on. Well, I finally found out what "hitting the wall" was! At mile 21, I just nearly dropped dead - even though I'd gotten a lot of water on the way.
After walking about 1/2 mile, I went back to the mental gymnastics: If I've come that far, I was going to finish that sucker! While my last few miles were done in a slow 13 minute per mile fashion, I finished it and actually came in 3rd Place - as was noted in the Porterville paper the next day! I love to show off that article to friends and conveniently cover the time noted of 4 hours and 10 minutes, as well as that I was the last person to finish in the race. Only 36 people had entered!
The Mahatma 1/2 Marathon I did in 1991 along Lake Pontchartrain is also a special memory. The night before the race, I had to go to Le Ruth's Restaurant for a business meeting. When the host ordered a dessert wine bottle, he thought it was $ 50. We all enjoyed a little too much of it and got home real late but safely. The big surprise for the host was that it actually cost $150. While I only got 3 hours sleep before the race, I did my best time ever in such a race, which I have always attributed to the dessert wine!
One last fun note about running is about the Summer "Banana Relay," which used to end with Watermelon and goodies at the BREC Webb Pool! The first runner would complete 1/2 of a 5K Loop, pass the banana onto to a partner who would do the same, then the first runner and partner would do the same again. By the time that banana got passed the 3rd and 4th time, it would be coming to shreds. The serious entrants would put duct tape on the fruit!