Marathon Reveals Katrina's Wrath



http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,,-5597054,00.html

By DEVLIN BARRETT

Associate Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Lining up for the Mardi Gras Marathon in the shadow of the
Superdome and a blasted-out office tower offers plenty of reminders of the
destruction of Hurricane Katrina.

Almost immediately after the Aug. 29 storm, my wife Miranda and I signed up for
this race, hoping by February there would be a place for us to stay, eat and
run.

About 1,000 marathoners, and 2,000 other walkers and runners, hit the road at 7
a.m. Sunday to witness the hurricane's wrath firsthand and show support to the
devastated city.

Organizer Bill Burke sold the 26.2-mile race as a way to help the city and show
it has reopened for tourism, even if that includes visiting disturbing scenes of
wrecked neighborhoods.

``People had all sorts of crazy ideas, like do they need to run with a gas mask,
do they need a tetanus shot, do they need to bring their own trailers,'' Burke
said.

Flying into New Orleans, Miranda pointed out the airplane's window at a
landscape peppered with bright blue tarps, telltale signs of ruined homes and
temporary fixes. On the ground, it was possible to briefly forget what had
happened here.

The race began downtown and in the French Quarter, which survived Katrina and
subsequent flooding reasonably well.

The first real shock came seven miles later, when the course veered briefly into
the Gentilly neighborhoods. Along street after street of abandoned homes,
watermarks reached the top of windows.

The buildings looked more than flooded, more than abandoned. They looked like
roasted shells.

The sensation turned downright creepy on Banks Street, where ancient oak trees
front house after ruined house. The water marks seemed even higher, and the
quick flashes of sun through the tree branches amplified the gloom.

``So many ruined homes, and all empty, it's so sad,'' said Margarita Scott, a
45-year-old nurse from Raleigh, N.C. ``After you see a few streets like that you
start choking up, even though you're running.''

At mile 20, I gulped some water and my cousin Kyle Galloway joined me for a
stretch. Kyle's introduction to college life started in the fall by checking
into his Tulane University dorm room at 9 a.m., and being evacuated three hours
later.

He couldn't return until January, and the experience convinced him he wants to
become an engineer specializing in flood control.

One problem - his cash-strapped college is shutting down their engineering
program. Instead, he is applying to engineering schools in Indiana, to study for
the prevention any future catastrophe in New Orleans.

``It's weird,'' he said, ``but if that's what it takes, that's what I'll do.''

Churning into the home stretch, the runners looped around the Superdome.

Brendan Menahan, a New Orleans native, crossed the finish line first in 2 hours,
36 minutes, 44 seconds. Karen Voss of Great Britain was the first women at
3:11.08.

I finished a bit later, around 3:27. I don't remember exactly. I was delirious
at that point.

Still sucking wind, I made a promise: The next time I come here, I'm not going
to run a step. Any physical punishment will come from good food, good music, and
absolutely anything to drink but Gatorade.

On the Net:

Mardi Gras Marathon: http://www.mardigrasmarathon.com



Alan

"Can't you see we're still here,
Can't you see we're still here,
Singing loud; Singing clear,
We shall not go under,
We're still here."

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