A spectator’s narrative of Youth Run NOLA in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.
When I left my house Sunday morning, the sky was gray. Not from impending rain, mind you — it would turn out to be the most perfect day for a marathon, bright and temperate with a slight breeze — but because the sun was just then coming up. The students and coaches would have had to rise even earlier, gathered from St. Bernard, Jefferson, and Orleans Parishes to Lafayette Square Park for a 6:00 a.m. warmup of jumping jacks, stretches, and cheers.
After a few photo ops, including one with Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who dropped by to speak some words of encouragement, I was off (loaded with the apparel detritus of a cold morning that was to be followed by a long run), trying to get a head start on visiting two locations along the route and then making it to the finish line. At Mile 2, it was all smiles; a group of girls in tutus blocked Felicity Street with their boisterous cheers. Even runners with 11.1 miles to go couldn’t help but grin. At Mile 8, I saw students and coaches mixing calmness and determination. For some along this stretch of Melpomene, it was time to power through the wall that had been hit. For others, it was — at least for now — smooth sailing.
I hopped in my car, circumnavigated the route by traversing most of the city, nearly lost my head over parking, and booked it for the finish line. I was tired and I hadn’t even run the damn thing! So I was, if not surprised — these are spry kids, and they’d been training hard — I was at least a little taken aback by the fact that pushing beyond the Mile 8 wall led back to the smiles of Mile 2. Watching the students and coaches cool down, exchange hugs and congratulations, and gather to share what had made them most proud that morning, I was reminded of what James Brown once said about rocking and rolling. “Music has to breathe and sweat,” he noted. “You have to play it live.”
Done and done.