More than 1,800 expected for Sunday’s Louisiana Marathon

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Drew Haro wins the Louisiana Marathon on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, in Baton Rouge. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Drew Haro wins the Louisiana Marathon on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, in Baton Rouge.

The Louisiana Marathon’s three-day bonanza of festivals, races and running-related events will finish with the main event beginning at 7 a.m. Sunday.

Following the national anthem, runners for the third annual Louisiana Marathon and Half-Marathon will be off and running from a starting location in front of the state capitol.

All told, more than 1,800 runners will be on hand for the Boston Marathon qualifier, including participants from all 50 states and eight other countries.

“Louisiana is known for food, music, southern hospitality — we wanted a race for everybody,” course director Pat Fellows said. “We always have low temperatures in the morning, and then it warms up nice by the time we have a finish festival.”

Runners in both races will start on River Road and eventually make their way through the LSU campus and around the LSU lakes. Half-marathoners will then head back downtown while marathoners will head east on Kleinert Drive toward Tara Boulevard before circling back to complete the course.

Last year, Drew Haro won the men’s division with a winning time of 2 hours, 34 minutes and 2 seconds. Matt Manning, the 2012 winner, holds the course record with a time of 2:33:42.

Rosalie Teeuwen won the women’s division at 2:57:29 and bettered Karen Meraw’s 2012 time of 2:58:54 in the process.

Haro and Teeuwen are back to defend their titles.

Last year’s half-marathon winners set course records in both the men’s and women’s races. Michael Anderson (1:14:37) and Rachel Booth (1:17:19) each went lower than the winning times of 2012.

Beyond the individual winners, the Louisiana Marathon is about individual stories, said race director Craig Sweeney. Even runners who don’t challenge for a winning time will have their own motivation for training and completing the grueling event.

“There are probably hundreds and hundreds of stories,” Sweeney said. “You train for months and months, and it’s all for different reasons.”

One group expected to be on hand is Ainsley’s Angels, an athletic ride-along program created for people with disabilities who normally wouldn’t compete in endurance events.

Marathon Maniacs has picked the Louisiana Marathon as its reunion race. Membership is earned by running a marathon three months in a row or on consecutive weekends.

Many runners will aim for a popular running goal of competing in a marathon in all 50 states. For Kathy Kass, a writer for Marathon and Beyond, the Louisiana Marathon will be her 100th state, helping her complete two trips around the country.

“There are so many stories of people overcoming certain things, running for a loved one or a charity,” Sweeney said. “One of the neat components is someone saying I’m going to run, and I’m going to raise funds for cancer or some other charity.”

The Finish Festival will follow Sunday’s races. It features a food village and live music lasting until 4 p.m. Entry tickets can be purchased at the festival grounds.