Running For the Love Of It!

One Racer's Story About Making the Jazz Half Her First Half Marathon

With its flat course and beautiful scenery, the Jazz Half Marathon appeals to many runners. Amanda Evans Gros, 45, of Houma was one such racer who made the 2014 Jazz Half her first half marathon.

While her running time of 3 hours, 5 minutes and 53 seconds was not the fastest, she takes great pride in the achievement. Her medal, bib, completion certificate and the photo capturing her crossing the finish line hangs prominently in her office at Perque’s Flooring, where she works as a scheduler and social media manager.

“I’m not fast. It’s hard. It doesn’t come easy to me like it does with other people,” Gros said. “I struggle with it, but I love it.”

Running was something she could not do until a few years ago. In June 2011, Gros had gastric surgery to transform her life. She lost 202 pounds from her heaviest and has maintained a weight loss between 185 and 194 pounds. She credits running as a big help with that, both physically and mentally.

“Running is the best free therapy,” she said. “It’s calmed me down in a lot of ways when I am able to do it as much as I want to. It’s definitely therapy like no therapist could ever give you.”

Gros said she began running competitively about a year-and-a-half ago. She’s run in multiple 5Ks, 10Ks and even completed the Louisiana Bridge Run Series that took her over the Huey P. Long, Hale Boggs and the Crescent City Connection. However, her ultimate goal was to complete a half marathon.

The Jazz Half was the perfect fit for her.

“To me it was kind of quintessential New Orleans,” said Gros. “It may sound silly, but I want to get a tattoo of a running girl and I want her to have the saxophone with my time in the music notes.”

The race, she said, was well organized and had some of the most encouraging and friendliest people who kept her going whenever she felt like slowing down with their cheers of, “Go, Wonder Woman! Go!”

“The atmosphere that we experienced for the Jazz - especially that long stretch down St. Charles - was amazing,” said Gros. “From the bands on the side of the road to the people, the cops, everyone was just super supportive and friendly. I couldn’t have asked for a better first half marathon.”

Gros does have some advice for runners looking to take on the Jazz Half as their half marathon or to anyone looking to make running a big part of living a healthier lifestyle.

“Get yourself a running partner. I had the best in Alesha. We pushed each other when the other was ready to quit. While on long runs we would talk, soul search, cry and sometimes even fight. Then other times we would not talk for miles. There were times she left me because I made her mad, but we always ended up at the same place at the same time,” said Gros. “Honestly this is the best secret to running.”

Tips for Summer Training

The average high temperature for July in New Orleans is 91 degrees, but the humidity can make it feel more like it is above 100 degrees. These conditions can affect running performance and can even be dangerous for runners who do not take precautions while training during the summer.

Stay hydrated. It is the first piece of advice on most athletic training guides for a reason. When the body is not adequately hydrated, blood volume drops and your heart has to work harder to power your muscles and keep you cool. Try to drink at least eight ounces of water before your run. Plan a route with stops at water fountains or bring fluids with you during the run. Grab an electrolyte-filled sports drink post run to help replenish sodium and potassium lost from sweating.

Run when the day is coolest. Running at dawn or the late evening is another one of those tips that make it on all the advice lists because they are the coolest times in the day. As the day grows hotter, it can affect performance. It is estimated that for every 10-degree increase in air temperature, there is a three-six minute increase in average finishing time for a marathon.

Check the humidity. Avoiding the hottest part of the day is not enough while training in places like south Louisiana. Also pay attention to humidity levels because the more humid it becomes the harder it is for the body to stay cool. High humidity prevents the sweat that carries excess body heat to the surface of the skin from evaporating, which makes the run more taxing on the body. If humidity levels are below 40 percent, the run will likely be comfortable. When humidity levels range from 50-90 percent, your heart rate is likely to increase up to 10 beats per minute.

Run in cooler places. Run in the shade whenever possible and avoid direct sunlight by finding a park or trail with tree cover. Try avoiding asphalt that radiates heat back upwards. Bodies of water like rivers and lakes typically have cooler, breezier conditions that make them a good place to run. The levees along Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River are great places to run on those hot days of summer. On the hottest and most humid days, a treadmill in an air-conditioned room might be boring, but can still offer a quality workout.   

Give yourself time to adjust. The good news is that people who train in hot and muggy parts of the country naturally become used to these conditions. It typically takes 10-14 days to acclimate to the heat and humidity. However, adjust your expectations and attitude while the body acclimates. Set a time range to hit with workouts (run a mile between 5:20 and 5:50) instead of a setting a time goal to beat (run a mile under 5:20) to adjust your run based on how you feel.

Call it quits if you start feeling bad. All runners know that fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headaches, tingly skin and confusion are the early warning signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. End your run if you start feeling any of those signs. It is a myth that the new runners or the not-so-fit runners are the ones who suffer the most in hot, humid conditions. The most competitive runners are actually the individuals most prone to heat-related issues because the faster you run, the more heat your body generates. 

Information gathered for this tip sheet came from the following sources: Runner’s World, Road Runners Club of America and LiveStrong.com.

Runner’s World Names Jazz Half as One of the Year’s Best Half Marathons

Runner’s World, a US-based international running magazine with a circulation of more than 700,000 readers, named the Jazz Half Marathon and 5K among the Year’s Best Half Marathons. The beautiful route that takes runners through some of the most historic parts of the city, the ease of running a “pancake flat” course, and a great post-race party once racers cross the finish line were all the things that helped the Jazz Half make the list. CLICK HERE to read the full list.

Picture Perfect Smiles for the Race to Beat Childhood Cancer

The 7th Annual Jazz Half Marathon and 5K is set for Saturday, October 31, 2015, and race organizers are hard at work to make this year’s Jazz Half the best ever, with great music, great food and beer and – as always – a great course for our runners!

The smiling faces of our young cancer patients will once again grace the mile-markers, banners, and signs that line the course and decorate the post-race party, reminding Jazz Half runners that they are racing to beat childhood cancer.

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