It was the height of rush hour and traffic was at a standstill in the Central Business
District. Looking at the clock on the console of my Jeep, I realized I was about to start stressing out. The time read 6:10 p.m. It was August 8, 2008 and the day had arrived for the 15th Annual Tom Sawyer Mississippi River Run. The race with a reputation for being one of the most fun races held in the New Orleans metro area was going down tonight. In addition to the cool awards that are given to the winners, there are also great raffle prizes to try for. All proceeds from the race are to benefit the Cancer Center For the Greater New Orleans area.
Judging by the way the traffic was at such a slow creep, I started to think I would not make it in time to find a parking spot or get a decent warm up. As usual, my nerves were on edge. This was not the way I wanted to get started.
A milli, A milli, A milli… Weezy F. Baby was blaring through my speakers and I had zero tolerance to listen to him. Without taking my eyes off the slow-moving traffic, I slammed the button of my radio to the off position. It was now 6:15 p.m. and I’m fairly certain that I would be late and this was all my fault. You see, although I know the streets of New Orleans like the back of my hand, I’m still intrigued by my GPS system and I always trust that it’ll give me the fastest route. It obviously gave me the slowest route at this hour. Of course it would. Why would it work correctly on this day? That was just typical. I was fairly certain I would be late. Andrew Higgins was at least a mile away and cars were backed up as though G.W. Bush had come to town! What in the world would I do if I missed the race?
At this point I reached for my Blackberry. Surely calling someone to tell that I’d be late would help. I was kind of hoping they’d hold up just a bit. I did help with things a bit, after all. I thought of calling Andrew Lilly but decided on Kristin B. instead.
Honestly, one has a better chance of hitting the Power Ball than getting her to pick up the phone. The odds are just not in your favor. Sure as shootin’ a few rings sounded and on came the voice mail wit the innocent-sounding tone that is all too familiar to me. I felt helpless.
Around 6:25 I’d inched my way closer to Andrew Higgins Drive. I noticed the Power Milers (Brenden M., Brandon W. Sean A., Ryan G and Chris Kelly) were warming up. Each guy seemed to have a smile on his face. There was a good chance that a winner would come from this bunch. I’d already had it on good authority that the LSU guys were not coming to town.
Around 6:30 I arrived to my destination. People were scattered everywhere but mostly congregated in the entry way to Generations Hall (the center of activity). The slight feel of excitement stirred the air. I looked around at all the familiar faces, gave my registration and headed to a warm up with my friend Kenny M. We ran the course together but he decided to go a bit longer. As I headed back there were lots of things on my mind (i.e. how fast to take it out, how late I’d stay out to party afterwards, would Andrew Lilly really try and take me to task at this race). I was so deep in thought that I was nearly struck down by a car! Of course the sistah who happened to be driving looked very shocked as I darted out of the way. I’m more than certain she wanted to roll down the window and sack me out. It’s that common runner vs. automobile mentality. Since today wasn’t the day for an argument, I just moved on. Jogging back to the start, I took in all the smells wafting out of the surrounding restaurants- poboys, jambalaya, and fried fish. New Orleans certainly is a place where one can over indulge in food and drink, and that would definitely prove true before this night ended.
I got back to the area for the start of the race and it was 10 minutes to the start of race. The emcee called for runners to start gathering. Just as soon as I made my way towards the line I noticed a young lady in runderwear and a top, and boy was she wearing the outfit! Having been a part of TNA for some time I think I know each girl from behind. It isn’t necessary for her to turn around for me to identify. This one was new to me, however. As I jogged to get in front of her, I noticed it was none other than Meagan Broussard. It was no surprise for me to see Meagan in the attire as she’d mentioned she would have been wearing them for T.S. She’d missed the chance to clown around with us at Spillway weeks before. I’d like to go on record as saying she is exactly what a TNA girl should look like when suited up. Two snaps in a circle! Meagan was absolutely fabulous and fearless all at once. She was also there as last year’s winner, so I needed to beware.
As we all toed the line I scanned the crowd for running phenom, Malia Cali. Fortunately for me she didn’t grace us with her presence. I know several of the guys were just as relieved. We all know she will put them to shame on a racecourse as well. Since I didn’t see her I figured my chances for scoring a W were pretty high. How quickly I achieved this would be a different story entirely.
The horn sounded and off we went. The running conditions were almost perfect for a summer evening in NOLA, and I took full advantage of them. Clocked my first mile in 5:35. Looked back to see that Meagan was not too far behind me, but just as I knew would happen, the stress level in my legs was starting to give and fatigue was making a creep. I still had another mile to go, shucks! This was a two-mile race. As I allowed my mind to drift off and think about the way elite runners keep this pace and faster for a marathon, I realized I am right where I belong in Corporate America. There is no way in hell I’d be willing to do this for a living, even if I had the talent. It simply hurts too much!
Despite my fatigue, I soldiered on. I figured if I was feeling the pain my competition was too. I was solidly in first, Meagan was second and Kelly N. (masters runner) was third. I’d been doing well up to this point trying not to get passed by anyone until Jace G. came trotting by. “OH NO!!!” I thought. I had to be falling off more than I thought or maybe he’s kicking it up a notch. I just let him go. I didn’t feel like I was in a race with him, but I felt Meagan must’ve been gaining on me. I wouldn’t dare turn around to look back. I dug down for what I had left. There was at least 800 meters remaining. I figured I probably should have gone through at a 6:00 mile in order to pick it up at the end. I was fading fast with the dumb pace I tried to hold. I didn’t wish to think of what Andrew Lilly would have had to say about my race tactics.
While coming in to the finish many people were calling my name. Of course I smiled and waved as though I was in a parade. This may have slowed me down a tad bit, but I doubt it. I rounded the corner back to Andrew Higgins Drive and there was the finish line. It was over and the clock read 11:34. This is the quickest I’ve run all summer for two miles. Meagan was second and Kelly was third. Sean Allerton had long since finished for the men in a time of 9:52. This was the second or third time he’d broken 10:00 this summer. Good for him!
Awards were handed out and Tom Sawyer hugged each person as he awarded a trophy. A very fun night indeed! Prized handed out in the raffle-included things like: a massage from Belladonna Spa, autographed NFL Jerseys from Washington Redskins player, LaRon Landry, dinners to restaurants. Part of me wished all races could be like this. I’d bet the turnout would be stupendous.
The evening culminated at a local watering hole across the street from the race site a few folks gathered around and we watched the opening ceremony of the Olympic games. It was a loud, jubilant, happy evening and it was over almost as quick as it began, just like a two-mile race.
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