I planned for this weekend to be a preparatory half-marathon leading up to my training for the Pittsburgh Marathon. I penciled everything in to the training calendar, secured the time off work, and planned initially to run the Just a Short Run in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.
But then I kept hearing about a different half the same weekend, the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon and 7-Miler in Lexington, Kentucky. So why did I decide to make the 6-hour trek down to the Bluegrass State?
1. Rave Reviews on Social Media
Of course, when I got the notion of Run the Bluegrass in my scheming mind, I took to Twitter to see what people were really saying about the race. All of my #runChat respondents immediately let me know what a great race it was, and how strongly they recommended it.
2. The Race Director's Presence on Social Media
When I first asked the question about whether I should run the race, I tagged the @RunTheBluegrass handle. Within 30 minutes, the race director, Eric, replied directly to me, reaching out an offer to answer any questions I had. Awesome! Some races are barely staggering into the digital age, and this one has not only a staff member, but the race director himself awaiting and answering runners' Twitter queries.
About a month later, the race directors apparently had an issue receiving the order of their Nike tech shirts, as a workers strike on the West coast has been holding up many imports from Asia. Eric was quickly on social media, and on the Run the Bluegrass Facebook page, he kept runners in the loop as to whether the tech shirts were coming, and what they needed to know/expect. Total transparency is a win in my book!
3. Unique Course and Events
I will be the first to admit that I don't know a ton about Lexington, but when I think about the city and its state, 3 things come to my mind: Horses, Bourbon, and Basketball. The Run the Bluegrass course and race weekend totally embrace the first 2 of those items. The course runs through many thoroughbred farms, and the expo (which I'm leaving to attend shortly) is held at a local racetrack. The race weekend events include many tours, which seems to be such a unique facet of this race. Not a lot of races organize tours in the days leading up to the event, but Run the Bluegrass runners can opt to tour stables, taste bourbon, meet horses, tour distilleries, and so much more.
4. Unique Swag
Since we are in Bourbon country, one unique piece of race swag is that the Woodford Reserve distillery makes a Special Edition Single Barrel Bourbon just for the race. How cool is that! I've also been told there will be bourbon balls and Kentucky Ale microbrews at the expo and post-race. That's my kind of carbo loading!
On the topic of the delayed tech shirts from before, Run the Bluegrass has channeled that spirit of uniqueness into solving the shirt problem, and will be giving runners lightweight, great-looking, American-made hoodies instead of the usual tech shirts. I can't wait to try mine on!
The race also features a Director's Challenge where runners can state their time goal prior to the race and, if they achieve it, they get to keep a barrel stave from Woodford Reserve as their trophy.
5. 50 States
One day, I'd like to become a "50 Stater" aka run a Marathon and/or Half in each of our 50 states. For someone who aspires to this goal, I have sadly few states already checked off the list. Kentucky is a state I've never raced in. In fact, I'm not sure that I've really ever visited the state, save for passing through on the way to Tennessee or points south. I tend to favor a lot of urban races (and Disney races, however you classify those). This will be not only a new state, but a new type of adventure.
Now, I'm off to the expo and know that I am going to have a great experience, but, as a parting photo, let me share a little bit of that unique, Lexington spirit. I am currently staying with Airbnb, and am sharing my yard with these guys!
This city gal is ready to embrace everything that Bluegrass country is about to offer!