This past weekend I ran the Galveston Marathon. Two years ago, when it debuted, it was christened the Galveston Mardi Gras Marathon because it was scheduled for the weekend before the island's annual Mardi Gras celebration.
From a fellow attorney who is very involved in the running community, I found out that some folks in high places were quite upset about the name of the race. If you've done any running you've certainly heard of the folks who put on the Rock-n-Roll Marathons (and half-marathons) around the country. They have built a huge marketing machine and a strong brand name.
One of the marathons they took over was the New Orleans Marathon. And, as you can probably guess, they rebranded it as the New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon. And they were pissed at the folks on the island.
Now let's get a couple of things straight. There was no way anyone was going to mistake the race on the island for the race in New Orleans. For one, few people even know there's a marathon on the island. On Sunday there were well under 200 runners in the marathon. For another, the race was never marketed as the MARDI GRAS marathon. It was promoted as the Galveston Marathon. It's website is quite austere compared to the other guy's. The race is low key.
Besides, no one owns the rights to the words "Mardi Gras." But, to avoid the legal expense of fighting to keep their name, the organizers gave in to the big bad wolf and took the words Mardi Gras out of the name. Thankfully I still have my running shirt and medal from the first one and they say "Mardi Gras."
But, back to the race.
It was a little bit warmer than ideal - but at least it wasn't a near-freezing monsoon like Houston. It's also cool to run along the seawall and see the waves crashing onto the beach and to see the tourists doing their thing along the water. The course goes all the way up to East Beach and there is one stretch that makes you feel you are out in the middle of nowhere - especially on the second loop when all the halfies are done.
The organizers have made great strides in the last two years. The first year there were problems with water stations not having enough water. That wasn't a problem on Sunday. The volunteers who manned the tables did an awesome job. And, after running in the custerfluck that is the Houston Marathon, it's nice to be able to run without banging into other runners. There's also something to be said for being out there on your own with nothing but your thoughts to keep you company.
Most of the course (at least 20 miles worth) is on asphalt - and it is so much easier on the muscles and joints than concrete. You don't realize until you've run 26 miles just how much more give there is with asphalt. There is trade-off, however. In exchange for not having to deal with sore calves and knees and thighs, you have to deal with sore feet. The bottoms of my feet took a beating from the uneven surface - but I'll take that over sore calves any day.
My only complaint about the race is traffic control. Along 25th and the Seawall there is no issue. But there are plenty of intersections along the course without traffic lights or police officers and it has the potential to get a bit dicey every now and then. Now I understand the problem - there just aren't as many law enforcement officers on the island as there are in Houston. But, then, there also isn't as much traffic, either.
All in all I had a good time - and beat my Houston time by a minute to boot.