Turn your lack of smiles into miles and run the route!
On a “normal” second to last Friday before Mardi Gras, you can feel pre-parade excitement reverberating throughout the Uptown streets. Costumed revelers with folding chairs and coolers start assembling right as school dismisses, rain or shine. Ladders line Napoleon and St. Charles for miles. Marching bands gather in parking lots, warming up before line up.
As I drove home from school on this second to last Friday, the unnatural quiet screamed in my ears. The pre-parade buzz was nowhere to be found. Everyone walking around outside was wearing masks, but none of the carnival variety.
Covid cancelled Mardi Gras parades this year, but it can’t cancel our fun. The Krewe of House Floats and improvised art popping up all over the city has proven that. And while locals are hopeful that these new traditions will continue, most of us are still really missing that one-of-a-kind parade vibe.
Well, if you can’t watch a parade, why not be one?
A “Move Ya Brass Down the Parade Route Run,” organized by the local fitness group, Move Ya Brass (MYB), took place on what many locals call “Carrollton Sunday” (Feb 7th). Even though this event has now passed, you still have a few more carnival days to grab some friends and run or walk it yourself. (Map routes are included at the end of this post.) Costumes highly recommended!
MYB’s 5 mile route follows the traditional Muses path, starting at Magazine and Jefferson and ending at the Convention Center. The 4-mile route starts at Magazine and Napoleon, following the traditional Orpheus route. The 2 mile course, beginning at Felicity and St. Charles, is an abbreviated version of the two longer routes. (Note: The 5 mile route is also part of the Crescent City Classic’s virtual Parade-athon series, which includes 5 total parade route runs that total the length of a marathon- 26.2 miles!)
On MYB Parade Run Day, about two dozen costumed runners spread out across the three routes, with staggered start times. Accessories ranged from purple, gold, and green printed leggings, tutus, and sequined jackets, to furry leg warmers, gold sneakers, and Tucks socks. My friend Beth and I started running the 4 mile route soon as the group from the 5 mile leg came our way.
The run was both exhilarating and eerie. We giddily took selfies in front of House Floats and business facades that are normally teeming with parade crowds. We cheered when trucks honked at us and streetcar tourists took photos of us. Yet Napoleon’s oaks looked so naked without toilet paper and beads. The largely empty streetcar tracks and the sidewalk side of St. Charles gave off a ghost-town vibe which encouraged me to run faster.
So why do I recommend this?
Getting your heart-rate up while costuming during this never-ending pandemic is truly therapeutic. Doing this while running on the oddly empty parade route provides a sense of closure: yes, parades are really not happening. Yes, Covid is really not over. But it also gives you a sense of perspective. No, no one is throwing foam footballs or eating fried chicken on any block — not only the one my family usually watches Orpheus from. And it’s not only me who feels the need to wear a costume and be a little crazy. Many of us feel the absence of carnival down to our very cores.
What emerges from a run down the route, is something you may have heard of, but now truly feel: resilience of New Orleans is a force to be reckoned with — and so is the stubborn-resolve of a runner hell-bent on making sure the good times roll.
To learn more about Move Ya Brass, please visit their website HERE!
Starting on Feb. 17th, MYB will start a “New Orleans New Year” fitness series, designed to coincide with the end of Carnival. Participants can sign up to do a jump rope, running, or dancing/movement challenge for 4 weeks, for free! For more information, see the link HERE.
The Crescent City Classic Series virtual “parade-athon” races include Uptown parade routes as well as those in Mid-City, French Quarter, Fat Tuesday, Metairie, and the Northshore. The 5 routes can be completed from Feb. 5-March 31 and add up to 26.2 (marathon) miles. To learn more, please visit the website HERE!