The Gator Racing Club is building ambitious runners that run with perseverance. Thus, endurance and coveted qualifications will set eight runners upon the starting line at the Boston Marathon this year.
The eight runners who qualified and have been inducted into the competition are, Alex Hebert, Cory Bourg, Brad Cortez, Khanh Labat, Kensie Lasseigne, Brandy Bower, Nikki Naquin, and Monique Hodson. A ninth runner, Daniel Crockerham, also qualified but will not be participating this year. Most runners qualified for the Boston Marathon at the Louisiana Marathon in Baton Rouge this past March. Alex Hebert also Qualified in 2019 at the California International marathon.
Alex Hebert 28 years old 1 year qualified 2:27:26 5:23 pace qualifying time needed 3:00:00
Cory Bourg 42 years old 8 year qualified 2:51:24 6:32 pace qualifying time needed 3:10:00
Brad Cortez 45 years old 1 year qualified 2:58:27 6:48 pace qualifying time needed 3:10:00
Khanh Labat 41 years old 7 year qualified 3:10:31 7:15 pace qualifying time needed 3:40:00
Kensie Lasseigne 40 years old 3 year qualified 3:24:15 7:47 pace qualifying time needed 3:40:00
Brandy Bower 40 years old 3 year qualified 3:29:32 7:58 pace qualifying time needed 3:40:00
Nikki Naquin 43 years old 2 year qualified 3:31:02 7:59 pace qualifying time needed 3:40:00
Monique Hodson 48 years old 5 year qualified 3:37:34 8:17 pace qualifying time needed 3:50:00
“In the grand scheme of qualifying and running a very competitive time and one club that’s able to send eight runners to the Boston Marathon…that’s pretty remarkable athletes. It’s quite an accomplishment,” Jory said with joy.
Jory Billiot is the Founder of the Gator Racing Club that was established in 2018 with the assistance of co-founder, Ryan Barrow. Corey Bourg was also another knotted tie to the running club and helped pave the ground for group members. Corey started a Facebook page dedicated to local runners and it spanned into the Gator Racing Club.
The two runners, Billiot and Barrow, ‘laced up’ through the running app called Strava. With the app you can map your route, record your run, and track your training. Strava has also brought other like-minded trainees and running advocates together, solidifying the Gator Racing Club.
“You meet strangers sometimes with this app, but none the less, it does create a community. Before we knew it, we had the most competitive group of runners in the area come together,” Billiot explained.
“Initially it was just trying to create an environment to get everyone together. We were all sporadically training and having different groups in various places that were involved in running or doing group runs,” he added.
Billiot, Barrow, and Bourg wanted to streamline a group that consistently trained with various intentions. Runners not only cross the finish line with successful stride but with friends alongside.
“The focus was, we’re all at different speeds, we’re all at different abilities, but the common goal was to let’s get together and train. Let’s get together and promote a more competitive approach,” Billiot said.
Gator Racing Club meets Saturdays at the Thibodaux Wellness center at 6AM for long distance runs and Thursdays at 6:30PM at local tracks or parks to engage in running with each other. You can find their full calendar of activities that include race events and track workouts at: https://www.facebook.com/Gatorracing
“It’s good to have other competitive people on the side of you cheering you on…It’s an easy pace and we go out and do various distances and do various speeds and after we’ll go grab breakfast at Rouses down the street,” Billiot stated.
“It gives me somebody to run and chat with,” Alex Hebert, club member, added.
The Gator Racing Club is open to anyone with the mindset, “In it to win it”. It is also open to runners that enjoy the sport and want to advance their abilities. Thus, the group entails some intensive training for local members. Runners are then shoed with abilities to run multiple races and finish with advanced achievements.
“As long as you’re here to train, the times in our book are irrelevant. We have guys that run a 5K in fifteen minutes…that’s extremely fast. We also have people that do it in thirty minutes. They have just as much as a voice and input. We really cultivated a group that is extremely supportive. The commonality is, ‘This is your goal, let’s figure out how to get there’,” Billiot said.
Exemplary performances by eight runners have advanced them to the aspired Boston Marathon. The marathon is 26.2 miles long and its blueprint is more extreme than the level lands of Louisiana.
The event will not take place on its classic date of Patriots’ Day. The 125th historical race will be sprinted with determination on October 11. It will be the first and only competition to take place in the Fall and will be televised.
“I know for a fact they’re going to do wonderful. It’s a whole different territory…it’s hilly, it’s windy, the temperature, the climate, everything is really different. Historically speaking, it’s always been a challenging race for people from the South, but non-the-less, our guys have always performed extremely well. If our group doesn’t beat their personal records, they’ve come so close to it. It’s a race where they go all out, and they run as hard as they can, and they just have a blast. It’s a great experience!” Billiot stated with excitement.
“It’s one of the world’s largest races and most coveted. The full 26 miles you have people line the streets cheering you on. The last few miles are just thousands of people awaiting your arrival,” he added.
To qualify for the Boston race, runners must run with electric energy and put in hours of training. Challengers must beat a time customized to their age group.
“It’s absolutely impressive! For those that don’t know, just to make the Boston race you have to run in an extremely competitive time and that’s a number of different age groups that we have. Your average runner would not make it to Boston. That’s how I would describe it. It’s someone who has put in weeks upon weeks of training in order to qualify for this race. It’s amazing to have this kind of experience and success in our group…it really is,” Billiot stated.
Due to COVID this past year, runners had to re-register for the race. The race has also been modified to 20,000 participants instead of 30,000. Thus, fabricating a new feat that runners had to beat an under a seven-and-a-half-minute pace.
One of the qualifiers that ran with intensity was Khanh Labat. This is her 5th year running in the Boston Marathon. Labat has been a long-time competitor and developed a love for running when she resided in New York.
“I started running in high school about junior year. I guess I’ve always heard about the Boston Marathon, but was never really like, ‘Oh, let’s train for it,’ until I moved to New York out of college and New York city is such a running community. That’s really how I got started into distance running. I actually volunteered at the New York City Marathon and I was like, ‘Wow, this is what a marathon is all about. So, that’s when I started with the marathons and running distance,” Labat stated.
It was not until Labat moved back to Louisiana where she tried on the running shoes of Boston dreams. That dream is now a reality. She will be lacing up and ready to compete in the long distant run.
“It wasn’t until I came home to Louisiana and I started running with Monique Hodson and Christina Fanguy, who are a part of the Gator Racing Club as well. This is before Gator Racing actually started and they were the first two to qualify that we actually knew that qualified for Boston and this got me thinking, ‘Wow, I’m running with them and I’m running about the same pace as they are, so why not try to qualify for Boston as well,’” she said.
Labat and her fellow women colleagues are in the 40-year-old bracket. It will be Kensie Lasseigne’s and Nikki Naquin’s first year being sensibly present and dashing throughout the streets in the city of Boston.
Men and women not only join the Gator Racing Club to achieve good running stats, but strong stats in rapport and memories.
“I love these ladies and I’m so excited to be sharing this upcoming Boston Marathon with them,” Labat said.
“This is such an awesome experience. We have such a great group of ladies! I’m going with a couple that it’s their first time. It’s just going to be a great experience for them, and I can’t wait to just be there and see that actually happen after a year of let-downs,” Labat stated with cheer.
Last year’s competition was virtual also due to the pandemic. Therefore, Gator Racing Club members, Monique Hodson, Kensie Lasseigne, and Nikki Naquin competed on treadmills. Although, Brandy Bower, also a qualifier, got injured before the virtual event, she stilled cheered for her comrades. Labat’s husband also stood by the ladies’ side encouraging their persistence.
Bourg also ran in the virtual race like Labat. This year, he is ready to physically pound the ground in ‘Beantown’.
“I’m looking forward to actually getting back to Boston because last year they just did a virtual race because of COVID. Boston is like no other marathon. You’ll have people lined the whole 26.2 miles cheering you on. The whole city is just filled with runners. It’s just a great running atmosphere for that whole weekend. It’s a great race,“ Bourg said.
It will be Bourg’s 8th Boston marathon this year, so he is accustomed to the nuance yet excited for this unique run.
“I am actually really excited. It’s the 125th race and that’s historical in itself. It’s in October and we probably won’t get another one in October. What I’m actually looking forward to is the weather is a little more predictable than in the Spring. We’re looking forward to it,” he stated.
For Alex Hebert, this will be his first Boston Marathon. Initially, he did not set out to compete in the mileage run, but he wanted to experience the Autumn glow of this epic race.
“Boston wasn’t originally on my list, but this one is so different because it’s in the Fall. I don’t think you can ever say you’d run a Fall Boston again. It’s going to be a unique experience. It’s probably going to be the most unique Boston you can run,” Hebert said.
The Boston Marathon is famed for being one the world’s largest road racing events. It is the oldest yearly marathon that dates to 1897. The eight runners from the Gator Racing Club will be competing amongst notability and a prestigious pastime. That notability includes hard work and willpower.
“It’s exciting for sure! It’s a race that everyone knows about and has such a big reputation. It’s going to be fun to get to experience it with everyone…I’ve put in a lot of work,” Hebert stated.
The Gator Racing Club has produced camaraderie between runners and a lifetime of friendship. They have created an environment where runners can pace themselves but also achieve the highest of accolades, such as running in the Boston Marathon.
“If you put in the work at running, I think most people can accomplish any goals in running. It takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of effort. I’m not this elite athlete, I’m just a normal person with a 9-5 job and work 40 hours per week. It just takes a lot of time, but you can do it…anyone can do it,” Hebert said.
The club has hung a banner stating, ‘dedication’ at the community finish line. That banner is also embossed with Boston-bound possibilities that turn into romantic realities.
“We have such a great running community here and I see great things happening in the future. I’m really excited for our new runners and our youth. I hope to be able to share maybe one day the Boston Marathon with my kids when they’re old enough and qualify themselves. It’s a way for me to keep going just knowing that new runners are up and coming and just doing it for my kids,” Labat ended.