A few months ago, my friend Liz (the same girl who I ran my first race ever with) told me that she and her husband had signed up to run their first marathon in June. She followed that up with saying that she was looking to do a half marathon sometime around March/April, and would I be interested. Silly question, of course! Except that this friend lives in DC and I’m on the complete opposite side of the country. So we started looking into some options that would be convenient for both of us….and we found one! The Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Kentucky. Not only did it look like a great race, it would be a new state for me and my friend had someone we could visit and stay with. Sounded perfect! So we signed up.
I ended up getting to Lexington Friday morning and had all day to explore before Liz and her husband arrived later that evening. After stopping by the expo to pick up our packets (and the commemorative bottle of bourbon that they had offered for sale!) I drove around the countryside, stopping at a few of the bourbon distilleries since I was in the neighborhood. I didn’t bother taking the tour since I had already done that during the great RV Bourbon tour of 2009 with friends (an awesome time!) I headed back to the hotel to take a nap before Liz and Bill were to arrive. Unfortunately I got a message from them that their flight was late! Their direct flight from DC was so delayed that at the end they could have driven there faster! But they eventually made it, at some point after 10:30 I think. So we went down to the hotel bar, grabbed some food and drinks and caught up.
Fortunately the race didn’t start until 9am, so we got to sleep in a bit. The race director had warned everyone to leave a bit earlier to avoid back-ups due to the construction on the main highway leading to the race. We left about 45 minutes in advance thinking that should give us plenty of time to drive the 5 or so miles there, and stop for breakfast. The breakfast option were pretty limited. We ended up stopping at the most random grocery store ever. We were looking for something simple, like a granola bar…but none were to be found. We finally settled with a bunch of muffins and some bananas. Then we continued our way. Shortly after leaving the grocery store, we came to a standstill. Traffic was backed up so far! Fortunately we could tell that most of the people in the cars were runners, so there was the hope that the race would be delayed a little bit so that everyone could get there in time. We actually ended up getting there with a few minutes to spare – but then had to stand around for about 10 minutes while they waited for others. It was a bit chilly but at least the sun was out and it wasn’t raining.
Finally the race started! We were off. It was a gorgeous day and a gorgeous course. Within the first few miles we saw a couple dressed up, one as a horse and the other as a jockey. Very appropriate given where the race was being held (it started and ended right at Keeneland, where the horse races are held!) They were in good spirits, although you could tell they were starting to warm up a bit now that they were running and the sun was coming out.
The course was full of rolling hills, something that neither Liz nor I had realized since we didn’t really even consider looking at the elevation map (mental note – be sure to do that for all future races). The hills definitely made it challenging but we seemed to stay with a group who was perfectly fine with taking it easy (walking) up most of the hills and running the rest of the way. Everyone was in good spirits and super friendly. I was wearing my Fueled by Fine Wine race shirt and got a lot of comments on it.
There were tons of horses all along the course. Some of them seemed to be running along with us. Others seemed to be watching us wondering what the heck was going on!
At one point as we were running there was a little jack Russell just sitting in the middle of the course with the cutest look on his face. Then he bravely started running against the crowd! Kind of have to wonder where he was going and who he was looking for.
After what seemed like a million and two hills, we finally made it to the finish line. The friend, Jenny, that we would be staying with that night was at the finish line with her son. So great to have fans in the crowd! We got our medals (pretty cute!) and some goodies (chocolate milk, bananas, M&Ms) and made our way to see Jenny and head back to the crowd to see Bill cross the finish line. Poor guy this was the farthest he’d ever run in his life…..and probably the hilliest! But he did great.
We all sat down and recovered for a bit, took one look at the long beer line and decided to call it a day! Overall a great race, although a bit hilly.