By Peter Jenkins
The Louisiana Marathon, held yearly in Baton Rouge, is heading into its 5th year in January and it has taken the city by storm. The event is held every year on Martin Luther King Day weekend, and is a two day event with five races and multiple other attractions like great food, music and people. Danny Bourgeois, one of the original co-founders of the group and the current marketing director for Louisiana Marathon, talked about how their first event in 2012 attracted around 2,400 people. This year Bourgeois expects over 10,000 people to attend the event this year.
The marathon provides a family friendly environment that includes kid’s races. Bourgeois talked about how his organization has a goal to get people of all age groups running more. He says that one goal for the group is to have Louisiana recognized as the running capital of the South. To do this, it is important to ensure that children are taught to be healthy from a young age.
According to Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Baton Rouge, one in three children in Louisiana are obese. Rampant childhood obesity is one of the challenges facing Louisiana Marathon as a group. Louisiana school systems only require one physical education class throughout High School these days, and that can make it more difficult to get children into the habit of exercising. However, Bourgeois says that this event “helps expose kids and their parents to the (running) lifestyle” which helps families become healthier.
The event is beneficial to the Baton Rouge community in many ways. The most convincing to community leaders will most likely be the economic impact of the race. To understand the economic impact of the race on the Baton Rouge community Louisiana Marathon teamed up with researchers at Kent State University. After the team at Kent State ran the numbers they found that in 2013 the race provided $3.6 million in economic impact and the 2014 race provided $5.1 million, and this number is expected to keep growing in the coming years. Bourgeois also noted that a sizable portion of this economic impact comes from the “two-thirds of the participants in the race come from outside of the Baton Rouge area.”
The event has also received assistance from larger organizations and governmental entities because of this community “it’s a really nice help and support” to receive financial assistance from Visit Baton Rouge, the Baton Rouge Mayor’s Office, and the Louisiana Office of Tourism to help with advertising and event costs. While specific numbers for how much assistance was given from each group were not given, Bourgeois did note that the financial assistance really helps them provide a better experience for people. The marathon also supports multiple local charity groups such as Mary Bird Perkins, Oschner and others. Bourgeious went on to talk about how Louisiana Marathon has gone on to raise almost $420,000 in the past four years, and all that money goes to the charity organizations involved.
However, the impact is more than just economic, it is cultural as well. Marika Cackett, from Mississippi comes to the event each year and says she truly enjoys the events.
“I think this event is hugely beneficial to (the) Baton Rouge community because as someone from the outside I’ve never really seen Baton Rouge and this marathon was like a tour of Baton Rouge and it was absolutely stunning,” she said.
For people who do not run on a regular basis and are not in a position to run a marathon there are other aspects that you can enjoy. Each year they bring in Louisiana musicians like Michael Foster Project and Lost Bayou Ramblers provide entertainment. Bourgeois described the music as “JazzFunkalicious Zydeco.” There are also over a dozen local restaurants with booths providing hundreds of servings of food and beer to everyone attending. Anyone can go to the event and buy a taste pass for $18. The taste pass includes six tastes that can be used for either food or drinks.