Feb 13, 2014 22:38 Lafayette preps for March marathon race Lafayette preps for March marathon race Competition a qualifier for Boston Marathon Mike Francingues| Special to the Advocate Feb. 13, 2014 Comments L AFAYETTE — Lafayette is gearing up for its first nationally certified marathon race, offering new and experienced runners a chance to hone their skills, to qualify for the Boston Marathon and to experience Acadiana’s unique cultural experience. “Lafayette’s a very culturally centered region in our state with things like Festival International and Festival Acadiens (et Creoles). We thought that kind of festival environment along with a long-distance running event would be a fun attraction,” said Mike Howard, a co-founder of Zydeco Marathon. More than 900 people from 19 states and Canada have already signed up for the race, said co-founder Andrew Ward. Ward said he expects more than 1,200 registrants by race day. Runners can tackle the full 26.2-mile marathon or a 13.1-mile half marathon. The race has been certified by USA Track & Field, the group that establishes standards and certifications for track and field events in the U.S. Ward said the race is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon, which allows only runners who have met certain benchmarks. Mary Hays, owner of the running gear store Geaux Run in Lafayette, said being able to qualify for the Boston Marathon at the Lafayette race is a big plus and Lafayette’s flat surface should make that qualification easier. “I’m always about anything that promotes Lafayette,” Hays said. “It will bring people from out of town because it’s a Boston qualifier, which means it’s for people who want to reach their goal times to be in the Boston Marathon.” Howard and Ward said they had never organized a marathon before, but with help from experienced marathon planners from the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon, the New Orleans Rock and Roll Marathon they managed to get everything in order. “We got a lot of backing from city officials,” Howard added. “They’ve been on board since May. They really helped us get it all together and get it going.” Howard, who has run in three marathons, will have to sit this one out so he can help manage the events of the day but said he was glad to give back to his community. Ward said he, too, will be too busy on race day to participate. “No, I’m not a marathon runner,” he laughed. “I grew up in Acadiana and lived in the Lafayette area my entire life. I just thought this would be a great way to give back to the city and do something bigger than myself, something completely for charity.” Anyone interested in training with others for the marathon can meet up with the Zyde-Geaux training group at 6 a.m. Saturdays in the Comeaux Recreation Center parking lot, 411 W. Bluebird Drive. The race will be at 7 a.m. March 30. It begins on the corner of Reinhardt Drive and Cajundome Boulevard, twisting its way through town and ending back at Cajundome Boulevard. The entrance fee is $77.50 before Feb. 15, when it jumps to $95. Military personnel will only be charged $62. During and after the race, there will be a Finish Line Festival with local food vendors and live zydeco music at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Intramural Fields.