LAFAYETTE — After Lafayette’s Michael Howard ran in the Rock ‘N Roll marathon in New Orleans back in February, he came back to town with the thought.
“Why can’t there be a marathon held in Lafayette?” Howard wondered.
He did much more than ponder: he acted so aggressively that there’s already a date, a course and hundreds of people signed up to run in the Zydeco Marathon.
On March 30, 2014, the Hub City will join cities big and small around the nation, hosting its first marathon — a 26.2-mile race — and a 13.1-mile half-marathon.
Howard’s first step was to get colleagues from Green Field Energy Services — particularly marketing director Andrew Ward — to form a management team for Zydeco Marathon LLC.
“We had a lot of contacts,” Howard said. “We were very fortunate to make contact with some key people right from the start.”
The rest of the team includes race planner and web designer Colby Albarado, treasurer Chris Odinet and volunteer and charity director Christie Moore.
A website — zydecomarathon.com — already exists so people can register to run or volunteer, and learn the course layout.
First, however, Howard quickly nailed down certification with the USA Track and Field sanctioning body to make it an official race. As a result, the inaugural Zydeco Marathon will be a qualifying race for both the New York and Boston Marathons.
The next step was meeting with key city officials, particularly the Police Department; Ben Berthelot of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Bureau; and City-Parish President Joey Durel’s office.
“They were all a 100 percent blessing,” Ward said. “They were all immediately on board. We want to make Lafayette a destination where runners want to come.”
Before any publicity began, a little Facebook talk brought several hundred entrants, including runners from New York, Atlanta and several spots from Texas.
Howard has plenty of ideas about how the course layout would be designed. Working closely with the Police Department, they settled on the more traffic-efficient route. Safety and flow were paramount concerns.
The race will begin and end at Cajun Field. The layout features the Oil Center, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus and the areas around the school’s athletic complex.
Sunday, rather than Saturday, was selected. For one, there figures to be less traffic to corral on Sunday morning between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., but there are several other key reasons for the Sunday date.
Ward said efforts are already underway to make the event much more than a race for the city and for the family members and friends of the runners. The runners will be getting in town to register on Saturday and therefore will have Saturday evening to invade the city’s hotels and restaurants.
Then, upon the completion of the race, the Cajun Field parking lot will feature stages with bands and vendors selling goods to make it a festival atmosphere.
“A lot of runners make vacations out of it and we want to bring that aspect to Lafayette,” said Howard, who gave an early guess of 1,500 and 2,500 entrants in this first race.
To produce a first-class event, Zydeco Marathon officials will also need between 100 to 150 volunteers, he said.
All proceeds after expenses are paid will go to a pair of local charities: The Children’s Shelter and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“That’s something we’re very excited about,” Ward said. “Both are very much on board and very excited about it.”
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