Race: Urban Bourbon Half Marathon
Place: Louisville, Kentucky
Date: October 16, 2021
I finally returned to an in-person half marathon – and it only seems fitting that it was a local one! Hello, Urban Bourbon Half Marathon. This year, however, the race looked a little different. Because of COVID, the course and the swag that the race offered.
Packet pickup remained the same…being held at Slugger Field. This was a good, open space that allowed people to not be crowded in on each other. That was nice. I wore a mask as it was an indoor space (despite having just been boosted earlier that week), but most people opted not to. And, for the first time in the history of EVER when attending this packet pickup…I had to stand in a line. Normally I can walk right up to a table and get my bib number, wristband, and shirt. It was fine. I actually knew a few of the ladies working the tables, so it was fun to catch up while they strapped a wristband for the after party on me and assigned a bib number.
This is where my first complaint came. I thought the second line at the merchandise tent was to pick up the race t-shirt. Except it turns out that this time, we were only getting a UBHM buff in lieu of a shirt. Shirts were there to purchase, with the option of getting a phrase screen printed onto it. But the line was long and I didn’t want to pay extra for a race shirt. I usually LOVE the shirts for this race…and I did love a few of the options hanging up, but not enough to pay extra. I know some people don’t want the shirt and medal these days…but they are both things I look forward to.
Another big change was the race course. Normally this race traverses downtown Louisville and takes you into the beautiful (and hella hilly) Cherokee Park, before returning you to downtown. This year, the course ran over the Big 4 Pedestrian Bridge and into Jeffersonville, Indiana. You ran down to the Falls of the Ohio, before turning and heading back to the bridge and coming back across into Kentucky. It was fine…but those last couple miles winding up and down the waterfront were terrible. And it was a super windy day, so being right on that water with the wind wasn’t fantastic either. But I’ll get into that a little later.
Race morning. I woke up early enough to get dressed and eat something ahead of time. Then I got on my Peloton app, and did a stretch with Becs Gentry and a 5 min pre-run warm up with Adrian Williams. Then I mixed up my Maurten 160, brushed my teeth, let my roommate pin my bib on, and we were out the door and on our way across the bridge to Louisville.
Parking was super easy, as there were many options that were near both the start and the finish. Once we were parked, we stayed in the car for a few minutes before heading out, as I had to meet both the local She Runs This Town (SRTT) and BibRave people for pre-race photos. It was so much fun standing around and meeting and talking to friends and new friends. It’s one of my favorite parts of race day. And it was then that I realized…
I really missed race days.
Once photos were taken, race start was getting close, so everyone scattered to get into the corrals. I walked the long way around (I was anticipating a 1:45 finish)…and went into the corrals from the back instead of the front. Whoops. But it was fine. People were spaced out enough that moving up in the corrals wasn’t anything like 2019…where I literally had to elbow my way up to a spot further up in the corrals. So, that was nice. The Churchill Downs bugle player played the national anthem and soon…the starting pistol was fired…and we were off.
The start of the race is pretty fast. It headed straight down East Main Street, taking you out of the downtown area toward the waterfront and to the pedestrian bridge. You are heading into Mile 2 when you make the spiral climb up the ramp on the Kentucky side of the bridge. When you reach the top, it’s a straight shot across the river. The mile marker for Mile 2 was early on the bridge. I actually uncovered my watch because I had passed it and it had been longer than I expected to hear my watch beep. But the rest of the mile markers were pretty spot on.
The Indiana part of the run was pretty straight forward, and really damn flat. YAY! In fact, a good chunk of it ran the 5K course I did awhile back (which I didn’t blog about…but here we are…). You basically turn and run parallel to the Ohio River until you turned around at the Falls of the Ohio visitor’s center. It was somewhere heading out that way that the leader of the race passed going the opposite direction. He had so much space behind him. Legit…daylight. I said something to the effect aloud to the people running near me, but they didn’t seem to care about my statement. LOL! When the loop to turn around happened, the fun really started. It was at this point that, with the sun blinding me, I got SO MANY shoutouts from my friends who were racing and heading to the turn around point. I couldn’t see any of them, but I waved and woooooo’d accordingly when someone shouted my name. It was such a highlight of this race. We looped through a different section of Jeffersonville and then headed back to the bridge. This was Mile 6. I fueled here and started up the ramp to the bridge once again.
Crossing the bridge was easy. You can’t get flatter than a pedestrian bridge. The legs recovered from the climb and settled in. I was looking forward to the descent down the winding side back into Louisville. Because if you know anything about me…it’s that I love downhills. Downhill is my favorite speed. The small crowd at the bottom of said descent was amazing. Someone shouted out my bib number and told me I looked strong. Over half the race was done. Settle in. Run strong.
From here, ran up a road that was mostly open to traffic, save for a lane made with cones for the runners to run safely in. We turned and headed back on a road we had previously run heading to the walking bridge. But this time we turned and made our way up a small hill to run past Lynn Family Stadium, home of Louisville’s two professional soccer teams, Louisville City FC, and Racing Louisville FC. I’m a season ticket holder…that’s a second home, it seems.
The next stretch of race was hopping onto the Beargrass Creek Greenway. This was a shaded section on a narrower path. It had been closed for awhile, so I hadn’t run it in YEARS. But I remember enjoying it in the summer because of all the shade on those hot morning runs. You come out of there and turn right and head down a straightaway toward Mile 10. I fueled one last time before the final 5K push to the finish.
This is where it got a little crazy. The last 3 miles were on the waterfront…but this made for some confusing turns (they were labeled with yellow arrow things on the ground, but legit, some ladies just ahead of me almost went the wrong way). And no one was at the point to really direct. But, we all got it sorted and started along the path. In these last 3.1 miles, there were a lot of 90 degree turns and even some loose gravely, bumpy path. That being said, the local SRTT (She Runs This Town) chapter had some ladies at the last water stop that created a fun scream tunnel as we all came into the last 1.5 miles. That was a much-needed and appreciated pick-me-up that late in the race. I still felt amazing…so, I plugged into the final miles and before I knew it, we were turning to run up a hill and start down the straightaway to 4th Street, where the finish line was.
The crowed at and near the finish was great…and I crossed feeling amazing still and smiling. I smiled so much, because I have missed doing endurance runs. I realized, as I saw the clock though, that I was much faster than my marathon pace, and had kept it pretty steady on the final half of the run. A nice volunteer put a medal around my neck and I went to meet Cathy, grab a Kind Bar and some water and head to the after party.
The band hadn’t started just yet, but there was pizza and beer. I can’t have either, so I gifted mine to Cathy. She gladly enjoyed both of those things. We headed back to see about getting my medal engraved and discovered that I had come in 2nd in my Age Group. I rarely place in races that are half marathon or marathon distances. So that was a nice surprise. With the medal engraved, I went to stand in line to buy a t-shirt, but then opted against it.
I was getting chilled just standing there in the wind, and we had some errands to run, so we left as the after party was starting up to hike back to the car. Honestly, the years I have done this and stuck around to enjoy more of the after party…it’s a fun time. It’s a great time to meet back up with friends post-race.
In the past, age group winners were given a custom bourbon-themed award. This year they were given a voucher to get something from the t-shirt booth. Since I didn’t stick around, I never got mine and I was going to say no one reached out to me about it. But this week, I received an email from the UBHM asking those who weren’t able to stick around for the awards to email them and they would get us in touch with someone at the company. They did that, and I am currently still waiting to hear back from Fine Design (the company that did the merchandise). So we shall see if I hear back.
So, my official results of the 2021 Urban Bourbon Half Marathon are that I finished in I finished in 1:41:09. I was definitely running it faster than my coach wanted me to, but I never felt like I was pushing it. I felt like it was comfortable and occasionally comfortably hard. Maybe I am fitter than my summer running made me believe. I was 146/1755 finishers overall. I was the 31/929 female finishers. And I was 2/251 in my age division (which went 41-50 and not the standard 5 years). Very proud of the way I ran this race and how I felt the entire time. I dialed in my nutrition and hydration and felt amazing the entire time. While I am kind of over the Kentucky/Indiana combo races, I get why I had to happen that way this year. I hope to return to a more traditional course next year. Fingers crossed.