This is the one where I tell you about how, at the Crescent City Classic, I ran my first 10k ever. The weather was perfect for my debut in New Orleans and my finish was a thing of legend. As I stormed down Esplanade, not unlike a gazelle bolting across an African savannah, I realized that the group in front of me consisted exclusively of Kenyans and the camera truck was right in front of them. That’s when it dawned on me that I had a chance to win this damn thing. Then I tripped but instead of falling I floated upwards into the blue sky where the angels above all gave me slices of Theo’s pizza and pints of beer.
Then I woke up and got ready to go watch my partner, my editor, my favorite athlete, Melanie, run in the Crescent City Classic. I was grumpy and a bit foggy-headed as we had celebrated Good Friday over at Boilin’ Bill’s house with a great group of folks and some sacks of Louisiana’s favorite crustaceans. Which, in a way, was great practice — as standing in Boilin Bill’s driveway on Friday perfectly prepared me for standing in front of Buffa’s Bar on Saturday morning awaiting Melanie to do her run by.
The Big “Race”
I walked into Buffa’s Bar with my homeys Scott and Jenelle and, unbelievably, we were the first ones there. Which, is probably impossible since Buffa’s front bar never closes. So, like, who was really first or last or even next? This was not a time for philosophy, it was however definitely time for Bloody Mary’s.
As I stared blankly into my Bloody Mary I reflected on my real running career. It all began (and ended) with a 5k that was imposed upon yours truly by the Boone County, Kentucky Juvenile Court System. Along with the race, me and my fellow artistically-inclined friends (aka spray painters), were given a tour of the inside of a jail cell, had to put in some hours of cleanup after a local festival and write an eight-page paper about “our life so far.” Being all of 13, I wrote a rousing rendition of my football team’s, the Burlington Express, undefeated (and only scored on once) championship season. It was precisely eight pages long, to which my father responded/yelled, “Your entire life isn’t just about football.” To which I responded, in my mind, “I know. But the spray painting part got me here in the first place so I figured I shouldn’t write about that.” And, hey, look at me now sitting here writing for you. See? Everything always works out perfectly in fairy tales.
About half way through my Bloody Mary everyone started looking out the front window of Buffa’s as the first group approached. To say they were running fast would be a gross understatement as these runners were flying. Looking at the post-race stats I assume eventual winner Jairus Birech and runner-up Silas Kipruto were in this group. They may be famous or, maybe not, but these humans can fly.
Just Standing Around
Then the long wait began for Melanie’s arrival. She was running with Scott’s wife, Nicki, who was an experienced runner that had previously conquered a half-marathon (gross). We waited and waited as Scott threw on his overcoat and held a speaker. It was his classic “Say Anything” costume of Muses-night fame (he caught four shoes) that he wanted to surprise Nicki with. My surprise for Melanie was that I was awake at this ungodly hour.
As day turned into night — OK, it wasn’t that bad. As we waited we decided that next year we were going to put a tracker on one of the runners so we would know where they always were and, just as importantly, can we go inside and order another drink without missing them?
Waves of runners were now crashing down Esplanade, the smartest of which were running directly into the front door of Buffa’s for libations. It’s all about finishing strong, folks.
Our friend Ashley, editor of New Orleans Magazine, waved as she ran by. We yelled as our friends Hillary and Zach, in matching capes, jogged past. At that point I recognized that many of my friends might be suffering from this affliction called running.
Another runner stopped close by and shouted encouragements to everyone else. “Free hot dogs in 30 meters!” He was possibly lying.
Then, lo and behold, here came our favorite runners, Melanie and Nicki. Scott threw his speaker up in the air. Everyone exchanged hugs, laughter and high fives and, just like that, the running twosome took off towards the finish line in City Park.
Jenelle, Scott and I — being the natural athletes that we are — had another round and hopped into his car.
After-Party? Say What!
Out of all the groups in the world that I could party with, I have to say “joggers” would be pretty close to the bottom of that list. Yet, there I was, drinking Michelob Ultra’s (because I’m athletic) and enjoying a great after-party. Props to Melanie and Nicki (who raised money for Girls on the Run) and everyone involved. Especially that guy who invited us to his group’s tent where they fed us meatballs, pasta, chicken wings and ribs.
I never thought I would be there. Hours previous, it just didn’t make any sense but, in the long run, it was a blast. As we left the park, our buddy Hillary said she lost her fellow caped crusader Zach in the crowd. But, there was a puppy involved, so that made sense too.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Michelob Ultra (never thought I would say that)
Playlist Recommendation: Vangelis – “Chariots of Fire”
Around the Way
Shout out to everyone who raised money for the various causes at the Crescent City Classic. You’re all winners in my book! And a tip of the hat to Jen Rhines who led all female runners finishing in 35:34. Also, congrats to John Elliot, who at the age of 84, finished the race in 1:07:14 because good heavens that’s crazy.