Saturday, April 27, 2013

Runners and Race Horses

The Kentucky Derby Festival half marathon is in the books!  And to make it really special, I got to run with Robin Hood!

The city of Louisville has built a multi-faceted Festival around the Kentucky Derby horse air balloon races, a night-time balloon "glow," fireworks, just to mention what was happening while I was in town.  And then, of course, the Marathon/Mini-Marathon race on Saturday.

I knew that the race was a good size but I had no idea just how big it is!  over 16,000 runners!  I was assigned to corral F, which sounded awful until I got to the start line area and realized that the corrals went up to the letter "I."  So 3 corrals behind me and 5 corrals in front of me.  Nearly 16 minutes to cross the start line.  It was cloudy and about 51 degrees at the start, with a chance of rain in the latter hours of the race.  I wore gloves but quickly shed them within the first couple of miles.

My Garmin GPS track in red.

The race route formed an "L" shape for the half marathon runners.  We ran west on Main Street for a few miles then turned south for a couple blocks then headed back east by way of a couple of zigs, to nearly downtown, before making a right turn and running south.  A nice diversion took us around the lovely Central Park in the Old Louisville section, with its big beautiful old homes and mature trees arching over the road.

But the best part - the very best part of the route - was the turnaround point at mile 8.  We ran into Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby!  They routed us under the bleachers, through a tunnel, and then out onto the infield area, the race track encircling us 360 degrees! 

My Garmin GPS track in red, showing our route into
Churchill Downs and around the interior of the horse track.

There's a paved road that parallels the racetrack and this was our route around the interior.  We could see horses warming up, taking off along the back straightaway, seemingly floating along effortlessly as their tails streamed out behind them.  With graceful ease they slowed to a canter as they neared the start of the curve, preparing to execute a balletic u-turn for a good run in the opposite direction.  It was breathtaking to watch and I was actually glad that I was walking so that I could appreciate this experience.

As we neared our exit tunnel, recorded race coverage was playing on loudspeakers along our path.  Nice touch!!  We were funneled into a long tunnel under the track and then sent out an exit gate and onto the street again.  9 miles  down, 4 to go!

Just boring and straight from here to the finish line!  I was walking, no longer running at this point, but still reeling in the other participants one by one with only the rare person passing me.  And Robin Hood?  He pretty much stayed with me the entire way, running at a very slow pace equal to my walk pace.

The finisher's medal:

And the 50 States-50 Half Marathons map updated to show Kentucky colored in.  Major update!   Kentucky connects the completed North states to the completed South states.  The gap has been bridged!

1 comment:

  1. How cool that you got to run through the Downs!! That is so great they added it to the route.

    Nice job - another one in the books.