Designing a marathon route: ‘Easy, right?’
From the Mississippi River to oak-lined neighborhoods, from the LSU Lakes to a revitalized downtown, runners in the Jan. 20 Louisiana Marathon and The Half Marathon will get a glimpse of the great diversity our city.
And for that they can thank Patrick Fellows, the 41-year-old race director for the Louisiana Marathon and designer of the course, which is a Boston Marathon qualifier.
Fellows, who originated Baton Rouge’s newest race with Craig Sweeney and Danny Bourgeois in 2012, is a triathlete who routinely works out between one and three hours six or seven days a week. He is a territory manager for Mizuno Running and owner of FRESHJUNKIE restaurant. He also coaches and is involved with several running groups.
Fellows, a veteran of the 2011 Osaka Marathon and “many many half marathons,” tells us about the course and how he became interested in running.
What was your goal in designing the Louisiana Marathon course?
“Our first goal was to have a single-loop course. We wanted to feature as much of the beauty of running in Baton Rouge as we could and also feature as many neighborhoods as possible. No small task. We are proud to say we hit LSU, the (LSU) lakes, College Town, the Garden District, Seven Oaks area, Westdale and downtown. We also wanted to highlight the Capitol, Old State Capitol and have a FUN course. Easy, right? Oh, and it has to be 26.2 miles and have a 13.1-mile course (half marathon) within it and be certified to the foot for Boston Marathon Qualification.”
How long did it take?
“Hitting all the roads and mapping it out isn’t too tough in theory, but the difficulty starts when we look at how the courses will work with each other.”
What was the toughest part?
“The toughest part is the yearly re-working of the course due to construction. In September 2011, we had the whole course certified only to have to start over in November due to River Road construction. This year we had to start over two weeks ago due to construction around Tiger Stadium.”
What are you most proud of about it?
“The feedback we got from last year’s runners. They overwhelmingly LOVED the course. That’s the ultimate test.”
How do you think this course measures up to other marathon courses?
“Our course is great because it is one loop. This is preferred as most races are heavily weighted participant wise to the ‘half’ distance. When you have to run the second loop alone, it gets rough.”
How did you get involved with the Louisiana Marathon?
“Craig (Marathon Director Craig Sweeney) and I started talking about bringing a big-time race to Baton Rouge. We were already active in race directing and wanted to push the envelope on what was being offered here. Eighteen months later, the first Louisiana Marathon took place. (January 2012).”
How did you get started running?
“I grew up swimming competitively from the age of 5, but stopped around 20. After nine years of doing a lot of nothing, I began swimming to rehab a snowboarding injury in which I completely wrecked my shoulder. During that period of time I began doing spinning classes to lose extra weight that I had put on during my 12-week recovery. From there I began running at the age of 29 and over the next 12 years I have gone on to make it both my hobby and life.”
With what other running/fitness groups are you involved?
“I try to touch everything I can with regards to what’s going on in our city and state. Through various sponsorships, race directing and my own running and racing, I am involved with all of the Rocketkidz Foundation’s races (Rocketchix, Rocketkidz), Happy’s Running Club and 30 more races each year.”
Why is that so important to you?
“If I had to narrow it down to the ‘most important’ thing, I’d say it would be the ability to impact and improve peoples’ lives through endurance events.”
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Marathon?
“The new course. It’s stressful the first time, because you aren’t sure what could happen. We try and plan for everything. And, having done it once, we are excited to raise the bar again.”