by: Pat Fellows
The Louisiana Marathon: Year 0
This week marks the 9th running of the Louisiana Marathon and with that , we were reflecting a lot upon the highs and lows of the past 10 years. While I’m sure next year we will celebrate the full gammut of stories, today I’m thinking about how it came to be in the first place.
In 2009-2010 my friend from high school bCraig Sweeney had joined Rocket Racing (the precursor to FJR) and was looking to shift away from the staffing business he was in. We were running races through the Rocketkidz Foundation and were looking to grow. One afternoon we met to discuss possibilities for future races.
What has become the Louisiana Marathon started out as a point to point 10k. The Great River Road Race, a 10k that had been put on by a local running club had been shuttered years before and our initial idea was to run the Tower to Tower 10k from The State Capital to LSU’s bell tower. Our biggest challenge was a particular stretch we had to run down that was a state Highway that would require moving mountains to get shut down. We kept brainstorming.
One thing we were sure of was an after party celebrating all things Louisiana. Food, beer and music. As our aspirations for participants grew and we wondered aloud if we could get someone to cook crawfish for 5000-10000 people. Our big idea minds assured us it was possible.
Somewhere along the way that day we decided that a 10k wasn’t enough. We would instead put on a marathon, half, 5k and kids race. We wanted to keep the RKF mission of building opportunities for healthy families and tie it to this idea of taking Louisiana from the 49th ranked state and try to slowly approach #1. Anchored in our belief that it was possible, we set out to start drumming up interest.
One of our first ideas was to see if we could lure Rock N Roll Marathon to Baton Rouge. The Competitor Group, which owned the races was in an aggressive growth mode and we thought this would be an opportunity. No sooner had we decided to start the progress of looking for a contact to call, RnR announced that they had purchased the Mardi Gras Marathon and would be coming to New Orleans. Back to the drawing board.
Over the next weeks we kept moving forward and went ahead and named our race The Louisiana Marathon. Our goal was to produce a race that celebrated the whole state as opposed to just New Orleans. Louisiana, like most states has a culture splintered by geographic regions and we wanted to do our best to celebrate all of them. We kept on.
Some of our first meetings were with LSU. We knew of some other iconic races that finished in collegiate stardom’s and with Deatj Valley at our doorstep, we thought it a no brainer. As you may have heard this year, LSU football is king and this has always been the case. They prepare that field all year for 7 nights of games and our suggestions of letting 5-10000 runners tromp through it wasn’t met with much enthusiasm. Back to the drawing board.
We continued to have meetings and were eventually courted to host this event in downtown Baton Rouge. We received permission to start it at the steps of the tallest state capital in the USA and in March of 2010 made announcements for the first running of the Louisiana Marathon on the third weekend in January, 2012. Since that time, over 40,000 runners from all 50 states and 39 countries have come to Baton Rouge to run with us and we couldn’t be happier. As we go into RACE WEEK, we can’t help reflect on how far we’ve come and where we are going.