Why Everyone Should Do the CCC Once [Even If You Don’t Run]
It’s Saturday morning, the day before Easter, right around 8am on Poydras St., downtown New Orleans. You’re surrounded by approximately 14,000 people, some of them local, many from other parts of the country and the world. Almost everyone is stretching, adjusting their ear buds, or taking selfies with friends and strangers. You’re at the starting line for the Crescent City Classic (CCC), the most celebrated 10K race in the New Orleans area, one of the oldest 6.2 mile races in the nation.
A horn sounds, followed by a blast of steam, signaling the race start for your corral (or division). Crowds of runners, walkers, and joggers jockey for position, dodging puddles from last evening’s storms, careful not to trip on each other. With the Superdome behind you, you pass tall, towering hotels and office buildings for several blocks before turning left onto South Peters, where you cross the Mile 1 threshold. Phew! That was fast. Now only 5.2 miles to go….
Why on Earth would so many people wake up so early on a holiday weekend to subject themselves to such… torture? For professional elite athletes, the challenge is understandable (6.2 miles is nothing compared to a marathon, after all), but why does this race appeal to thousands of average athletes and fitness novices, especially in a city that celebrates partying, taking it easy, and letting the good times roll?
Because while the Crescent City Classic is most definitely a race … it’s also a huge party. The route is about as long as the average Mardi Gras parade procession, and the festive atmosphere is very comparable to Carnival — just without beads, floats, and tractors.
Here’s why everyone needs to do the CCC at least once– even if you don’t run:
The CCC offers something for everyone
There’s truly a pace and a place for everyone at the CCC! As the CCC website states, “[the race] attracts everyone from international Elite Athletes to those who walk the entire route carrying cocktails or wearing bunny suits.”
You can register for the CCC as a serious runner in a “seeded corral” (with a verified time of approx 5-8 min. per mile), or as a runner in a group with a “non-seeded” time. You can also enter as a jogger, walker, or with a stroller or wagon; you can register solo or with a group (I ran with the local running group, Move Ya Brass). You can also register to run with a group as a “Run For It” charity participant (for a discounted rate). Charity athletes are expected to raise at least $250 for their chosen local charity. Girls on the Run, Junior League New Orleans, Animal Rescue New Orleans, and Team Gleason were just some of the local charities supported by this year’s race, which reportedly raises over one million dollars for local groups annually.
This year, I ran my first ever CCC in the Blue (F) Corral, listed as joggers (finish times of 1:05-1:14:59), but I definitely saw runners and walkers from other groups (many of them sporting bunny ears or complete rabbit costumes) as we raced (and it definitely didn’t feel like jogging to me!).
Experience a new side of NOLA
When else can you witness this much of New Orleans wide awake, energized, and (mostly) sober so early in the morning?! Taking part in the CCC offers participants a glimpse of New Orleans from a different perspective. There’s the live music pre-race party at Champion Square (starting at 7am), the race itself, which offers a unique route through our historic city, and finally Race Fest at the City Park Finish Line (starting at 8:30am). The CCC is arguably the most fun you’ll ever have in New Orleans before 1pm (when the post-race party wraps up) — allowing plenty of time to nap and recharge to enjoy the rest of your weekend.
The race route offers a unique tour of the diverse neighborhoods of our city. The CCC begins downtown steps away from the Superdome and the Crescent City’s urban hustle and bustle. After Mile 1, the route winds into the French Quarter, along Decatur, passing Jackson Square, Cafe du Monde, and the French Market. Miles 2-4 take runners ALL the way up Esplanade, through the Marigny, Treme, and Mid City neighborhoods. Miles 4-6.2 wrap around City Park, with the route going down City Park Ave. and Marconi before finally weaving into the park itself and finishing in front of the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA).
As I ran the route, I enjoyed watching the changes in architecture and personality with each passing neighborhood. I also noticed the change in smells — beignets wafted in the breeze as we passed Cafe du Monde on Decatur and in City Park, while the spring smells of crawfish and beer lingered in the air among the dreamy canopy of Live Oak branches on Esplanade. I was also struck by how unique this perspective is — when else can you run down Decatur without horse carriages, Ubers, and throngs of tourists in your way? When else can you get a sense for how long Esplanade Ave. is, and how it truly connects the historic French Quarter to City Park, the 4th largest urban park in the nation? When else can you enjoy Champion Square, the Superdome, and City Park in a festive atmosphere with thousands of other people and it’s NOT an expensive concert or Saints game? The Crescent City Classic brings a vibe uniquely its own, while still charged with that familiar Big Easy spirit.
As you run the diverse, quintessentially New Orleans route of the CCC, the supportive,
spirited energy of the local community is palpable. Truly, the community spirit here is a force that will compel you to run faster, smile more, and push harder.
Brass bands play for crowds along Decatur (across from Jackson Square) and in City Park, while and celebratory neighbors blast Bounce, Pop, and Dance music along Esplanade, the true heart of the race. All along Esplanade, family, friends, and strangers prop up tables full of free beer, jello shots, water, and orange slices for the taking. A jazz quartet plays in the neutral ground. Drago’s restaurant offered free beer at a fire truck– because, why not? The atmosphere feels a lot like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, rolled into one– only here the runners are the parade.
All along the race, but especially on Esplanade and City Park Ave., crowds hold up witty and encouraging signs: “Smile if you’re not wearing underwear,” “Why do all the cute ones run away?”; “Cemetery ahead: look alive;” “Run now, beignets later;” and “You run better than our government” are just some of the signs that made me chuckle while trying to catch my breath.
That friendly, all-encompassing Big Easy embrace that lures tourists and nurtures locals in our city definitely extends to the Crescent City Classic. At the CCC, everyone is welcome, everyone is celebrated. Throngs of crowds cheer on everyone at the Finish Line on Lelong Drive, in front of NOMA. Strangers cheer for you, play music for you, and offer you free drinks no matter how fast or slow you’re going. That hospitality is also evident at the pre-race warmup in Champion’s Square (where free coffee is given out), at the post-race Fest in City Park (where live music, free beer, jambalaya, red beans, Chee-wees, and Raising Cane’s Family Fun Zone are just some of the highlights), and at two-day Health and Wellness Expo (at the Hyatt Regency), where race bib and shirt pickup is prior to the CCC. (The free Expo is a festival in and of itself, with running merchandise, local charity table displays, fitness classes, free Michelob Ultra and Cane’s giveaways and much more!)
I’ve been running as a hobby for 3 years, and have completed twenty races in and around the area. I have never seen so many people smiling, dancing, and laughing at a race as I did at the CCC (this year was my first one ever). Whether you’re a serious competitor, a leisurely stroller, or a zealous spectator, everyone has something to celebrate at the Crescent City Classic.
Crossing the finish line, after 6.2 miles of exertion, is a triumphant, endorphin-filled high that never gets old. Whether you walked the distance, sprinted, or pushed a stroller, YOU DID IT — and you did it as part of a community dedicated to fun and fitness, one that truly encourages you to do and be “whatcha wanna.” I sure look forward to being in that number again next year, and I sure hope you join us at the Crescent City Classic.