Saturday, October 14, 2023

Urban Bourbon Half Marathon race report

Note: I'm finally writing this post in mid March, but I'm publishing this race report on the day of the actual race to keep the blog organized.

Kentucky was a "lost state" in my 50 States project -- it didn't match with anything else for a trip. Luckily, there was a race on my "wishlist": the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon in Louisville. 

Several years ago we ran the Oak Barrel Half in Lynchburg, Tennessee -- home of Jack Daniels. The race ran through the backroads of Tennessee, including one really big, "named" hill. The medal was made from an oak bourbon barrel (all these years later it STILL smells delicious!), and the shirt, hat and swag was also top notch. 

When I first heard of the Urban Bourbon half, the medals looked like a Jim Beam bottle -- which seemed like the perfect match. Of course, things change, so in 2023 the medals looked like an Evan Williams bottle -- which is fair, because there's a large Evan Williams presence in the town. 

The other nice thing about this race is that it's run in October -- just in time for some pre-Halloween fun. So we planned out a trip to Louisville for the race, followed by a short visit to the Great Smoky Mountains and... DOLLYWOOD. 

But, first, we had a race to run. 

We flew out on Thursday and picked up our packets on Friday. The pickup was at Louisville Slugger Field, home of the minor league Louisville Bats. (Cuuuuute.) Fast pickup, a nice mini expo, and bourbon tasting. 

After the race we finished our Urban Bourbon Trail and went to the visitor center to pick up our reward -- a handsome shirt and hat. And of course we snapped a pic with the Colonel, too. 

Race morning was cool and clear -- perfect running weather. We joined the large crowd at the start -- it was a little odd to be in a big crowd like that. I'm sure this was the biggest race we had run since before COVID began.

We started out by running along the main drag, then turned past the stadium and eventually did a long loop around the Cherokee neighborhood before coming back into town.

note Wil's Urban Bourbon Trail "reward" t-shirt!

It was nice to explore the neighborhoods outside of downtown -- we ran past a great area full of bars and restaurants, past the cemetery where Muhammad Ali and Harlan Sanders were buried, and through a gorgeous, windy, hilly park. 

When we had finished the loop and were running back through Butchertown, we passed a house where a bunch of guys were sitting on a "yard couch" (as our friend Kurt would say, "it's a couch we use in the backyard"). They'd been there on our way out, drinking, and they were still there, drinking, and whooping for the runners who passed. 

The wind was picking up as we headed back to downtown, and we were happy to turn away from the river and go up the last hills to the finish. Okay, we weren't happy about the hills, per se, but we were happy to be out of the wind. As per usual, we held hands and ran across the finish line. 

One of the perks of this race is a post-race Bourbon Bash in the Fourth Street Live! entertainment area. Pizza slices, burgoo (a meaty stew), and bourbon tastes were promised, along with live music. We waded in and discovered that everything had huge, slow-moving lines. After a few minutes we looked at each other and just left. Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of people having a very good time. But we were happy to just find our own post-race fun. 

One of the other perks of this race, you see, is something they call the "Urban Bourbon Walk" -- visit one or all of the four locations on race day, show your medal, and make a purchase, and get a custom pin. You know how much I love a custom pin, sooo...

We started at O'Sheas because, well, because they were already open. After a quick drink there we went to Bearno's and had a drink and a small pizza between us. Then to Troll Pub (where we'd been on our first day) and Merle's (where we'd been the previous night) and of course GOT ALL THE PINS. 

The Urban Bourbon Half Marathon is run in mid-October every year. It's a nice, mid-sized race with a well-organized packet pickup, good swag, good organization, some pleasant scenery along the route, and a good post-race party. The town really embraces the race, too, which is nice to see. 

Urban Bourbon Half Marathon


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