After spending time in Lexington, Kentucky last fall, I knew that Run the Bluegrass was the race of choice for Kentucky. A renuunion and girls weekend was in order.
I flew into Lexington Friday afternoon and Molly picked me up from the airport which was conveniently right across the street from packet pickup at Keeneland. I was impressed with the expo for a fairly small race. Local vendors, larger vendors, free bourbon candy samples and plenty of Run the Bluegrass souvenirs. We are both suckers for good coffee mugs, so we each picked up one.
We decided to head to our hotel to relax for a bit and catch up before dinner. We stayed at the Springhill Suites not far from UK’s campus. Part for convenience downtown, partly because I had free nights to use from Marriott. It was the perfect location. Less than 1o minutes from the race, less than 10 minutes to downtown.
We went to dinner at the Village Idiot, the same place we finished out Bourbon Chase because we both loved their food so much. Back to the hotel and outfit planning for what was going to be awful running weather. We were in bed early and up around 6am to get ready for the race.
The race start wasn’t until 9am on Saturday. This is usually a great thing…and it kinda was. We got up, ate breakfast, and decided to drive to Keeneland at 7:00am in case there was traffic parking and so Molly could get her warm up miles in (she had 18 on her schedule). We had almost an hour of extra of time and hung out in the car for a bit.
As we waited, we could quickly see the weather changing. Wind was picking up, clouds rolling in. Molly ran 2 and I joined her on the last 1 to warmup. One last stop at the port-o-potties (there were plenty) and we headed to the start line.
We were both in Corral 1, but Molly headed towards the front of it and myself towards the back. The rain was starting and the wind was blowing. It was chilly! My goal was to run the race at an easy pace and have fun.
The race course started in Keeneland, and the first hill was within the first mile. A few turns later and the course hit even more rolling hills and beautiful horse farms. The race spread out quickly and I never had a problem with crowding. I did my best to slow and stay within my easy run range.
Even though the weather absolutely sucked, the views were stunning. I chatted with the runners around me and admired the properties. I told myself eventually the headwind (weather app said 18mph) would change when we turned and to try and not think about it. There were only a few turns in the first few miles, plenty of aid stations (with several fuel options), volunteers and even lots of race photographers. I was impressed.
Somewhere along the way, the rain let up a bit, and I didn’t really notice wind or rain. It wasn’t too bad. I was truly having a good time and it felt easy (even with the hills). The weather seemed to keep a lot of the horses from coming out to play though, and I only saw a few.
I took my Huma Gel around mile 6 or 7.
I started to realize the course wasn’t going to get easier. I saw a sign that described the road as the scenic bluegrass highway (scenic=hill). Every time I got to the top of a hill, I could see the top of the next one. Rolling hills doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was definitely challenging.
Around mile 10 or so, the wind and rain picked back up. We had merged with the 7 mile racers (walkers) but they were staying to the right so it wasn’t bad. I just can’t imagine walking a race in that weather. I was very ready to be done. Hills, hills, downhill, hills, wind, rain. That is all that ran through my head.
On the final stretch, Molly was waiting to run me in. I was quite shocked at my time, considering it was easy for me and she just encouraged me along the way. We both had great races (even though my face may say otherwise below).
This race was truly a turning point in my running. At the beginning, a girl at the start line told me her goal was 1:45. In my head I thought, wow, that’s really fast for such a hilly course. Maybe I shouldn’t be next to her. Even though Molly and I had talked about my new paces, it hadn’t really stuck with me what those paces meant. Somewhere along the way, a 1:45 has become my easy. VERY happy with how this race went for me (and negative splits).
My garmin measured short…not sure if other runners had the same issue or not.
It was a downpour when I finished and we were thankful that the post race party was inside where the expo was setup. There was a ton of post race food, just nothing I could eat other than a banana. Molly and I checked our times…she finished 1st in our AG (I finished 9th)!! We had to stick around for the awards.
We found the post race picture setup, snapped a few pics, and decided to run to the car for our dry clothes (THANK GOODNESS we packed dry clothes) and umbrella. We were freezing!! We changed clothes and trekked it back up to the post race to watch J.D. Shelburne and stopped at the food trucks to buy food that was “clean” that we could both eat. We grabbed noodle bowls and waited for Molly to get her award.
By the time we got back to the hotel and showered, it was almost 3pm. We had a goal to make it to 3 different breweries, grab dinner and then hit the post race party. Yes, we did it all. First stop, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Brewery/Distillery. It ended up being a tour (free with race entry), so we stayed for the beer part and snuck out when they were headed to the bourbon.Next stop, West 6th Street Brewery. GREAT local beer and they happened to be celebrating their 2nd anniversary (free pint glass). We tried two beers and were hungry again so we grabbed dinner and headed to Country Boy Brewery. Back story…we walked around for what felt like hours trying to find this place with our Nuun peeps back in the fall. This was by far our favorite stop of the night. Probably some of my favorite beer I’ve ever had.
Post race party was fun…more music by J.D. Shelburne and some dancing for me and Molly. By 10pm we were exhausted. Back to hotel to sleep!
The next morning, we grabbed brunch at Alfalfa and decided to stop back at Keeneland and look around. We drove some of the course to see a completely different view. Sunshine and horses! And, we relived the hills.
Easily one of my top 3 favorite half marathons. Yes, it was probably one of the hardest…but I swear, they thought of everything and put in lots of great detail to make it a great race.
- The company- honestly, hanging out with Molly was the best part
- The Race Director (he seriously did/does it all)
- Social Media- probably the best communication from any race I’ve done
- The Bling
- The Volunteers- especially for standing in the rain
- The race shirt- soft, women’s cut (even let me exchange my size)
- Pictures included for $10 fee upfront (why doesn’t every race do this!?!)
- Free entertainment/post race party
- Optional pre-race events/tours throughout Lexington
- Later start time
Not so much:
- Absolutely nothing to do with race, but the weather
Um, pretty amazing. It has so much detail. It was only $10 to get the medal engraved…and I feel like the race was a turning point for me so I did it.
I left with a very happy heart. My running is good, the company was great and so was the race. I had SO much fun with Molly. I love this girl and I’m so thankful for our friendship and we are already planning our next race. As far as the race goes…I would HIGHLY recommend this race as a racecation, there is plenty to do in Kentucky (especially if you like bourbon and/or beer). The event is so well done, I’m not sure I can even put it all into words.
Yes, the course is hard. The scenery and the extras make up for it. If you are racing the states, this is a MUST for your Kentucky race. If I wasn’t trying to do all 50, I would go back year after year…and can guarantee I will be back at some point in time to do it again.
Have you done Run the Bluegrass? Ever been to Lexington? What’s your hilliest half marathon? Beer, bourbon, neither, or both?