Kentucky Derby Marathon
September 10, 2017 Lindsey N. Dyn
Other Featured Blog Posts:
Kentucky Derby Marathon
Saturday, April 29, 2017
With a scheduled 7:30 AM start time, I rolled out of bed at 5 AM for my pre-race pancakes. It had been storming all night - wind gusts, thunder, lighting and pelting rain right outside our rented loft window had kept me up pretty much since 2:30 AM on. After scarfing down my carb-loaded goodness, I sauntered back to bed, trying to catch at least another hour of sleep before the start. Pre-race nerves ultimately won out, and some much needed additional sleep was not in the cards. After officially getting up and dressed, ready to head out the door, the local newstation reported that the Kentucky Derby Festival races had been postponed by a half an hour due to the previous hours’ weather. More of a heads up on the later start would have definitely been appreciated, but obviously this was beyond the race’s anticipated events.
Finally my husband, dad, and brother-in-law and I head out of our loft for the four block walk to the start line – talk about great location! We head towards the back of the race corral line-up and about half-way there a voice booms over the PA system to shelter in place for another round of storms. Even though there was only a brief bout of heavy rain and some lightning, the race officials subsequently postponed the start another 30 minutes. Off to the growing Port-a-Potty line I trotted, eager to finally start the marathon. Just after coming back, my brother-in-law informed me that another 40 minute delay had been enacted, with further instructions to shelter-in-place. At this point I was beginning to have serious doubts as to whether this marathon was actually going to happen. Finally, after almost a two hour delay, all the runners were corralled into their respective starting areas, eagerly awaiting the official start. As the National Anthem played over the intercom, the sky opened up once again. A very soggy start, but we were finally moving.
Packet Pick-up & Runner’s Expo
Packet pick-up was open Thursday evening and Friday; the location of the packet pick-up was at the Kentucky Exposition Center, a few miles outside of downtown. While the race offered free parking at the expo site, they also offered a shuttle service. We opted for the shuttle option, and while it definitely was a no-frills transport (rented school buses), the drivers were friendly and it got the job done. Going on Thursday to maximize our touristy plans on Friday, we did get stuck in a bit of evening rush hour traffic, but nothing too horrific like the D.C. traffic I’m so used to.
The runner’s expo had several vendors hauking their various running wares and services. The standard race gear and shoe booths were present, along with advertisements and discounts for upcoming local or semi-local races. There was an option for T-shirt size exchanges, but it wasn’t offered until Friday afternoon, so I hoped my race shirt ran true to size.
For the most part, the Kentucky Derby Marathon course was flat with periodic scenic spots along the way. We started the marathon in downtown in the Whiskey Row area, running down Main Street for several blocks, past the Louisville Slugger factory and store. The crowd of runners was still saturated at this point (and for much of the first half of the course) since the marathon, mini-marathon (aka half-marathon) and marathon relay runners all started at the same time along the same running route. It was extremely slow-going the first few miles – a combination of a packed course and the steady downpour of rain. Around mile 5 I got an extra burst of motivation when I saw my family cheering on the side-lines. We had planned on them trying to see me somewhere between miles 4 and 5, and again at mile 20.
Course and Race Support
Mile 8 was the entrance to Churchill Downs, the famous horse racing track. While we didn’t get to run on the actual dirt track, we did have the chance to run through the paved area in the middle of the complex.
Shortly after Churchill Downs the marathon and mini-marathon runners split, significantly thinning the running herd, and making for much easier running maneuvering. Miles 12 through 15 sent the marathon runners through Iroquois Park. Really the only portion of the course featuring appreciable elevation changes, the scenery made for a nice distraction. Since I’m beginning training for my upcoming fall Ragnar debut, I challenged myself to run all of the hills, figuring this elevation change would be chump change compared to the Ragnar. All went well with that plan, at least at this point, and we retraced our path back towards downtown. The remainder of the course tracked through a number of residential areas, as well as the University of Louisville. From mile 16 on, running became a struggle. Besides the chaffing, an unusual cramp-like pain developed in my right quad. I’ve never cramped there before, in training or races, but it was almost debilitating. I still haven’t figured out what the issue was since I was hydrating and fueling adequately. Hydration stations were plentiful and well-spaced throughout the course, with water stops approximately every 2 miles. I’m not sure if it was a combination of the heat and hills, or what, but by mile 18, I was having serious concerns about finishing. An extra hit of motivation by means of my cheering family would have been nice, and I was hoping to see them around mile 20, but finding a way through the road closures and making it back to the finish line in time prevented this. Or maybe it was actually because the boys were having a much better time drinking bourbon while waiting for me. Perhaps we will never know the true answer…
I battled through the last few miles, fueled by the support of the race volunteers and random strangers out cheering along the course. Funny race signs always have a way of making me smile just at the right time. Inevitably one runners will see at every race, and my personal favorite, “All toenails go to heaven.” Alternating between running and walking, I pushed through, and even finished the final half mile strong – because nobody wants their finisher’s picture to look like they just rode the struggle bus. Also, I had every intention of capitalizing on the free bourbon bottle engraving, so I was aiming for a decent finishing time. Early on in the race it was obvious I wasn’t going to PR, but my secondary goal then was to finish in under 5 hours. My official finishing time was 4:49:31, only 12 minutes off my PR, so given the conditions, I was pretty happy with the time.
Swag Bag and Medal
In short, the weather sucked. The heavy rain in the beginning of the race set the stage for wonderous chafing. Even though BodyGlide was judiciously applied, chafing in the normal spots, plus new ones (yeah!) became a painful reality early in the race. With temperatures in the upper 80’s, I was hoping to finish before the heat really set in. That did not happen thanks to the delayed start. Not only hot, but humid, the heat was affecting numerous runners. Thankfully around mile 21 some of the race volunteers had ice and cold neck rags for the runners. The fire department also was kind enough to open up some of the hydrants at various points in the last few miles of the race which made for a nice, albeit brief, reprieve from the heat.
Attached to each runner’s bib, in addition to the standard bag reclaim, was also a coupon to Dick’s Sporting Goods, a voucher for free engraving of your name and finishing time on a Jim Beam bottle, and a voucher for free beer samples as the Pig & Swig event. The Pig & Swig event was a free event featuring various bands in Louisville’s downtown area. Coupled with a craft beer and BBQ showing, the voucher got each runner two free 4 ounce samples of local craft beer, along with a small sample of select bourbons.
As seems to be the growing trend, the Kentucky Derby Marathon swag bag consisted of both a physical and virtual race swag bag. The physical race bag included a technical T-shirt with gender specific styles with the race shirt design featuring the course map for the marathon (or mini-marathon). A Derby Running Festival running hat, protein shots, and various coupons were also among the standard swag selection.
The virtual race bag had its fair amount of goodies as well. Discount codes for the fall Urban Bourbon Half Marathon and the Air Force Marathon were two of note. With the official Kentucky Derby just around the corner, the virtual race bag also offered a buy one, get one offer for opening night at Churchill Downs. Merchandise discounts on Injinji socks (my favorite! and you can find some here), compression socks, and shoes and other apparel were also features in the swag bag.
Post Race Celebration
The post race party at the finisher’s village was what you’d expect from a mid- to larger-sized race. The standard banana, water, and chips, along with a free beer (Michelob Ultra). Chocolate milk was also offered as a recovery option, which nutritionally would have been better than the beer, but who wants to drink milk after running almost 5 hours in the heat? A massage tent was also set up, with all the tables occupied, and while sooo tempting, I was way more interested in some celebratory pizza.
Had the weather been different, I think this course could have been a PR-maker for many runners. Basically flat, except for the run through Iroqouis Park, it could have been a fast race with equal parts scenery as nice distractions. Water and nutrition stops were ample and well-planned. The swag was pretty sweet too, with cool race shirt and finisher’s medal designs. Since the weather and delays made for a challenging race, overall I would rate the whole Kentucky Derby Marathon experience a 3.5 out of 5. I know the race director, volunteers, and associated race officials have absolutely no control over the weather conditions, so I can’t fault them for that. I do know that last year’s race also had less than ideal weather conditions (rain) so while not enough to make a trend maybe it’s just something to keep in mind if planning on running this race next year. Had the weather been different, or if we had started on time, I’d probably rate the race a 4 out of 5.