Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! I hope you all get to spend this day doing something you love or spending time with someone you love. Yesterday I spent the day doing what I love most–racing! I ran the Mardi Gras Mambo 10K in downtown Baton Rouge, with a goal of finishing in under an hour. I surprised myself by surpassing that goal and finishing in 55 minutes. What a great Valentine’s gift to myself.
This was my first year doing this race, and I’m definitely adding it to my list of favorites. It was super fun–from making my purple-and-green tutu, to enjoying the lovely route and the post-race party, I loved this race. There were over 1,000 runners in the 10K, and we were grouped with those running the 15K distance as well. Before we all took off, a group ran the 1-mile fun run. Basically, there were a lot of people in North Boulevard Town Square that morning.
Everyone was dressed in Mardi Gras colors, with several (myself included) wearing tutus, costumes, wigs, or beads. A DJ was already playing at 7 a.m., so the party had started. I got to the square an hour early, wearing nothing but a tank top, shorts, and my tutu. The temperature was in the 50’s and a cold wind was blowing. I was freezing! But I knew once I started running, these conditions would be perfect. (Which they were. Once the sun came out, the temperature rose into the 60’s or 70’s. It was a beautiful day.)
When race officials opened the corral around 8 a.m., they had pace signs set up for walkers, 10-minute milers, 9-minute milers, etc.. I lined up at the 9-minute sign and took note of the people standing around me. If I kept up with these individuals, I’d reach my goal.
A mile or so into the run, I picked one guy in particular and made it my mission to keep up with him. He was lean, in his mid-twenties, and wore a Louisiana Marathon hat and compression socks; I reasoned that he was probably an experienced and fast runner.
Whenever he got ahead of me or people came between us, I sprinted until I was right next to him again. We were neck-and-neck for miles. Then, on the last mile I passed him up. Then he passed me up. And so on and so forth. I wondered if he noticed or got annoyed that a twig of a girl in a gigantic tutu was getting a competitive edge on him. In the end I actually beat the guy. If he’s reading this, thank you for being an awesome pacer!
As I approached the finish line, I spotted my big brother, Jacob. “Lengthen your stride!” he shouted, as he ran alongside me to the finish line. I was so happy that he showed up to cheer! It’s a little disappointing that no one wanted to do this run with me. I guess people don’t get as excited about running 6.5 miles as I do (confession: I could hardly sleep the night before, I was so excited…).
That being said, I did make a new acquaintance that day. He’s a 70-year-old man who ran the 15K in 1:07. That’s impressive at any age! He gave me some training tips and encouragement, saying that it takes 10 years of running for you to reach your peak. He also said that with the right training, I could be running a 10K with a time in the mid-40’s. So that’s my new ambition.
I also met a lady while I was grabbing a jacket from my car after the race. She’d just moved to Baton Rouge from Houston and, seeing my tutu, was wondering what was going on. I told her to come check out the post-race party. She seemed excited about it. Later, as I was enjoying the free beer and live music, I saw her taking pictures on a very nice, professional-looking camera. She waved and snapped a picture of me. I wondered if she is a journalist or fellow blogger. Maybe my picture will show up somewhere 🙂
The post-race party included live music from Baton Rouge Studios, and jambalaya, pulled pork sandwiches, Jimmy John’s, king cake, cake balls, Cane’s lemonade, beer, and more. All of which was all free and all-you-can-eat. Core Power, the main race sponsor, gave free drinks to all the finishers. There was also a gumbo cook-off fundraiser going on, and for a $10 donation you could have all-you-can-eat gumbo. Gosh I love south Louisiana.
I’d recommend this race to anyone. It’s a great way to have some family-friendly Mardi Gras fun, and the race is large and competitive enough for serious runners.