In Ben True, last year's 10-kilometer Crescent City Classic had its first American winner in an all-comers race since 1984. Reid Buchanan was second, marking the CCC's first American one-two finish since 1980.
But when race director Eric Stewart was asked what he remembered most about the 2022 race, he said what many of the runners and spectators likely would say.
“It was the extreme heat,” Stuart said.
At the race's 8 a.m. start, it was 75 degrees with 80% humidity. It got to 84 degrees near race's end. Many more runners than in past CCCs approached the finish line rubbery-legged, and some had to be caught by race officials before they fell.
A veteran official who worked the medical tent said usually five to 10 runners usually needed medical assistance in past races. Last year, the cots were “flipped” three times, he said.
“We had 30 runners who had to be attended to at the tent, and three were brought to the hospital,” Stuart said.
When the race begins at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Caesars Superdome before meandering through the French Quarter, on to shady Esplanade Avenue and into City Park, the forecast calls for temperatures in the high 60s to 75 degrees.
But there's an 80% chance of rain, too.
Stuart says the Crescent City Classic, which returned last year after a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, will have the best of two scenarios.
“It doesn't look like there will be heavy rain until after the race,” said Stuart, who has been in touch with the National Weather Service as well as two local TV stations concerning Saturday's conditions. “And if there's some rain during it, runners sweat anyway, so the rain and the wind will cool them off. Likely, it will be overcast during the race, which will provide cloud cover.”
That should make for good race conditions, he said.
“The precaution is, if there's lightning at the starting line, we will delay the race until 30 minutes after the last local strike, until it gets far away,” he said. “And we've got plenty of room in the Superdome parking garages for people.”
But what if it rains hard during the race?
“Here's the issue,” he said. “The race can't be canceled. You have the Zurich (Classic golf tournament), the French Quarter Festival, the Jazz Fest the next four weeks. The calendar is packed. There's no way we could have an alternate date for the race. We would never get clearance for it. So the precaution is for the lightning.”
Not that CCC officials forgot about the heat. After the 2022 race, they decided to make adjustments. They have doubled the number water stations along the route, and they've arranged for misting fans near the finish line.
Runners are strongly urged to hydrate.
Last year's top American women's finisher, runner-up Sarah Pagano — who ran collegiately at Syracuse and lives in San Diego — said the humidity was a “shock.”
This year, elite runners will not participate. The Boston Marathon is Monday — and with a multitude of 10K races around the U.S. now, the quality of the CCC field would have been impacted.
Last year's race drew far fewer participants — about 11,000 — than expected. Even without the elite runners and all the competition from 10K races in other cities in the weeks near the CCC, Stuart said he expects about 14,000 on Saturday.
At first glance, it would appear that a chance of wet conditions might bring pause to one of the CCC's mainstays — runners and walkers in costumes.
“We expect the weather to have zero impact on that,” he said. "It is such a New Orleans tradition."