The history of the Tchoupitoulas Barathon

08 Ray finishing Last Friday saw the 28th running of the Tchoupitoulas Barathon. The premise of this annual event is simple: 6 miles, 6 bars, 6 beers. Although many treat it as a race, probably most participants today treat it as a combination fun run and pub crawl. For both sets of participants, I’d like to give the story of how it started.

It started with the Tchoupitoulas Social Aid & Athletic Club. The TSA&AC was a hard-core running club, with its culture heavily soaked in beer. Its leaders were President-For-Life Kent McDonald and Big Chief Ron Brinkman. Kent was a top-flight runner. By “top flight,” I mean a 10-K time of around 28:30. Ron was a pretty good runner, as was every member of the TSA&AC. He also was, and is, one of those people who reduces the degrees of separation between everyone in New Orleans. By this, I mean that everyone in New Orleans either knows Ron or knows someone who knows Ron.

I was privileged to hook up with this club in late 1982. We’d do speed training every Tuesday afternoon in City Park, and afterwards repair to the Parkway Tavern for beer.* The speed work was pretty intense, as everyone was pulled along by Kent. The after-workout beers were consumed just as intensely.

I can’t tell you who first came up with the idea of combining beer drinking with serious running. The idea seemed to emerge from the club itself, rather than from any particular member.

The first one was held in the spring of 1983. The course was roughly the same as today’s. The biggest difference is that we started and finished at Hillary’s, across the street from what used to be T.J. Quill’s, at the corner of Hillary and Maple. Another difference between then and now: then we did not drink a beer at the start, but had to chug one at the finish line to be officially clocked in.

Another difference between then and now: Then it was neither a fun run nor a pub crawl. It was a race, and a highly competitive one at that. It took a couple of tries for most of us to get the hang of running while drinking. By the time the second Barathon was held (in the fall of 1983, a one-time Oktoberfest Barathon), the times across the board improved significantly.

As time went on, the Tchoupitoulas Social Aid & Athletic Club dwindled away. But Ron Brinkman kept the Barathon going. It grew into what it is today: a cult classic. Hundreds showed up at last Friday’s running. Among that number were (by my count) five from the first Barathon and six from the second.

Last Friday, I finished in 51:45, nowhere near my heyday but still my best finish since probably 2001—not bad for a 52-year-old. The photo at upper left is me crossing the finish line of the 1992 Barathon. As I said, it was a serious race. For a few, it still is.

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* Back then, the Parkway Tavern was located where Ralph’s on the Park is now. Same building, but back then, it was the kind of bar that was cleaned out every morning after with a hose.


Tchoupitoulas Barathon 2009

42 Old-timers Yesterday evening I competed in the 27th annual Tchoupitoulas Barathon. For those unfamiliar with this unique athletic event: it’s a footrace from bar to bar; at each bar, the contestant must down a beer. Not for the faint of heart, or of stomach. It started in 1983 as a club race for the Tchoupitoulas Social Aid & Athletic Club. I’m proud to say that I’ve made it to every Barathon since then except for one: 1990, which conflicted with my law-school baccalaureate mass.

This one was my slowest ever (1 hr. 11 min. 57 sec.*), probably due to my being older yesterday than ever before. My lack of training may have had something to do with that slow time too—my prior longest run in 2009 was been 3.2 miles. Surprisingly, I’m not nearly as sore today as I thought I’d be. During the race, I took a one-minute walk break every five miles, a marathoning technique I learned from Jeff Galloway, most useful for shortening the recovery time after a long run. Also on the plus side, the beer stayed down easier than in years past, probably due to the slower running and acquired alcohol tolerance (i.e. lots of Dewars).

Usually after each Barathon, I upload some photos and post the link on this blog. I intend to do that as soon as I resolve a little technical problem. My high-speed ISP has been disappointingly unreliable; I won’t name it’s name; let’s just say that their motto should be “Sometimes on.” Just now it’s in it’s all-too-frequent “sometimes off” mode. So I’m writing this post via a back-up dial-up account that I have. If all goes well, I should have a new DSL service up and running by Wednesday. Meanwhile, if my current on-again, off-again high-speed access decides to work, I’ll try to upload the photos before then. (With my reliable but slow dial-up, it took a few minutes to upload the one photo at upper left.)

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* My PR, as far as I know, is 35:19, posted in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Six.


Another Barathon survived

385206r103817a_019I’m happy to report that I survived last evening’s running of the 26th annual Tchoupitoulas Barathon. Six miles, six bar, six beers; time 1:02:25. Not bad, considering that my longest recent run was five days prior: five miles (with no beer stops) in just under an hour.

I didn’t take a camera along this time. But my wife, Suzanne, did. She took some snapshots, which I uploaded here.


Proof that I used to be a good runner

Yesterday I noticed that our Christmas decorations did not include a manger scene. So with nothing much else to do, Suzanne (my wife) and I dug into the backroom closets in search of Jesus Mary & Joseph. We did not find the Holy Family. But we did find an old issue of Running Times, circa 1986, with an account of that year’s Barathon. I did quite well that year, coming in second at 35:19 despite some problems with navigation.


Dr. Pat

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Patrick S. Hambrick
Patrick S. Hambrick, DDS, age 58, died Saturday, July 7, 2007. Dr. Hambrick was a resident of New Orleans for the past 30 years. He was a graduate of LSU Medical Center where he earned a DDS in May 1981. Dr. Hambrick is survived by his beloved wife Marise Hambrick, his parents, Maryan and George Hambrick, his two children, Julie H. Bates and Patrick J. Hambrick, and a granddaughter, Adeline Bates. He is also survived by his sister Susan Jones and brother Mike Hambrick. He was an avid competitive runner known to other runners as “Dr. Pat” with many trophies attesting to his prowess. Among other competitions, he ran in the Crescent City Classic 27 years, always in the top of the standings. “Doc” leaves a host of friends who will remember him for his tremendous generosity and zest for life. He was greatly loved and will be greatly missed.

Published in The Times-Picayune on 7/14/2007.


Silver Barathon

11dscn3078 I’m happy to report that I survived yet another Barathon. For those who don’t know, the Barathon is a six-mile, six-bar, six-beer race held in New Orleans on the second Friday after Jazz Fest. I was there for the first two, in the spring and fall of 1983— and for every one since, except for 1990, when it conflicted with my law-school graduation. For showing up at the second-most Barathons,1 I received the lovely trophy shown in the photo at upper left.

Along the way this year, I took some pictures. To view them, click here. (If you’re looking for me, I’m the one in the red chili pepper shorts.) To see pictures from Barathons Past, click on the year: 2006, 2005, 2004. The 2004 version is where I try to describe the Barathon.

One more thing: Last night at the Barathon, a handful of people told me that they read this blog. Shucks, I’m speechless! Anyway, as a service to those nice people (and as a convenience to myself), I’ve added a “Barathon” category to this blog, where I’ve collected all my Barathon posts.  To read scribblings about Barathons Past, look under “Categories” at left and click where it says “Barathon.” Or if you’re too lazy to do that, just click here.

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1 The only person who’s shown up at more Barathons than I have is race director Ron Brinkman.

p.s. (6/3/07): Race Director for Life Ron Brinkman says the award was for being the first Tchoupitoulan. That makes it even more special.


A New Orleans rite of spring

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Twenty-five years ago, 22 members of the Tchoupitoulas Social Aid & Athletic Club, ran the world’s first  Barathon. Six bars, six beers, six miles. Who could have predicted then that, a quarter century later, some of them would still be doing it? Or that the event would grow in size by a factor of 10?

The Silver Barathon hits the streets on Friday, May 18 (always the second Friday after Jazz Fest), at 6:05 p.m. sharp (the traditional starting time). The starting and finish lines are at Le Bon Temps Roulé. To get a sense of the event, see these photos of the 2004, 2005, and 2006 editions. For a copy of the 2007 flyer, click here.