Jackson Square

Running the Big Easy

I recently had the opportunity to visit New Orleans with a group of friends from back home in Chicago. My physical therapy has been paying dividends and I’m back to putting in decent mileage and comfortable speeds without too much worry about my ankle. I have been to New Orleans before, but I had never run there. I was excited to see the riverfront and explore a little bit.

My wonderful triathlete friend Jen joined me for the first run on the morning of our second day. I love running with a companion and we enjoyed a comfortable conversational pace. It’s always a strange feeling waking up and cruising party central so early in the day. The bizarre combination of smells struck me as the ghosts of the night before. Some good, some bad, some horrible.

We started running as we passed Bourbon Street, heading for the Mississippi River. Almost immediately, I stepped into a crater on the sidewalk and twisted my ankle. I managed to stay upright and was shocked to find no residual pain or weakness. This physical therapy stuff really works! We continued all the way to the riverfront. There was a small wall lining train tracks. If you are in this area, be extremely careful. It is difficult to see the trains coming until you look around the wall.

We crossedNOLA Run to the levy and started on the path. The riverfront path is busy. Like, always busy. Between walkers, runners, cyclists, homeless wanderers, and oblivious tourists taking selfies, awareness is critical. The path is made of mostly slate tiles, so running can be a bit treacherous here as throughout the city. If you try to run on roads, you’ll find many potholes. Some of the streets alternate asphalt and old brick. The sidewalks are all tiles, many of which are broken. I found it best to take my runs slowly, enjoy the scenery, and soak in the city.

The riverfront path is quite short. I am not even sure it was a full mile. We wound up circling from the end of the path, back to the aquarium area, and back several times. The breeze off the river was wonderful and it was fun to see so much maritime activity so early in the day. At some point, a very long freight train pulled through the area and blocked our access back to the city. We simply continued to run until it was clear.

Getting back to the hotel was a bit of a chore because of the hoards of beignet-devouring tourists waiting to get to the riverfront in the other direction. We jogged through Jackson Square and snapped a couple photos before winding through a few more blocks home.

NOLA Run 2On our last day in New Orleans, I went out early in the morning for a solo run. I pretty much followed the original path to begin and started cruising down the riverfront path once again. A disheveled-looking man and woman were sitting on a bench as I passed by. The woman croaked at me, “Hey man, you can’t run away from all your problems!” I quickly responded, “How do you know? Have you ever tried?” We all laughed and I continued on my way. This was typical of New Orleans on both of my visits. Everyone I met was really friendly and outgoing.

I thought I would extend my run a little bit, but wound up getting lost somewhere near a casino. I accelerated my pace because time was getting tight and I was concerned about getting to the airport on time. With a little GPS help, I found my way back and everything worked out fine.

Though I don’t find New Orleans the best city for a run, it was relaxing enough. It was strange to run on flat land again after so much time spent in the Pacific Northwest. I am curious about outlying areas. I never did locate any off-road trails or parks to run in. I’m sure we’ll go back soon and I look forward to exploring a bit more. Any suggestions on where to run are certainly welcome.

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