The Bluegrass Half

 
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Run The Bluegrass Half Marathon

by Tiare Bailey

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March – 2012

My daughter and her husband lived in Lexington Kentucky for five years while he attended the University of Kentucky after being accepted into the PhD. Economics program. I can’t think of Kentucky without thinking, ”Go Blue”!

Lexington Kentucky is known for the University of Kentucky, Keeneland Horse Park and Keeneland Race Course, and Thoroughbred horse breeding, training, and racing.

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During my somewhat frequent visits to Lexington, I celebrated with the locals as the U of K Men’s Basketball Team won their 8th NCAA basketball championship. I also witnessed a history first when in 2010, Lexington hosted the World Equestrian Games. This was the first time they were held outside Europe.

Bourbon Whisky distilleries like Makers Mark and Buffalo Trace are situated in counties close to Lexington and encourage tours and tastings. A part of the “Kentucky” atmosphere. I had to partake, in addition to finding a race or two during my visits.

First a bit of history…..
Lexington is known as the horse capital of the world. In Kentucky, more Thoroughbred foals are born here than in any other state in the U.S. Some of the world’s greatest racers and stallions are born here. Over 450 horse farms exist. Many of these farms have been in families for generations.

The area is known for its fertile soil; blue grass is plentiful in the limestone rich soil. A scattering of horse farms with luscious green manicured fields and white rail fences are breathtaking sights as you prepare to land at the Bluegrass airport located directly across from Keeneland Horse Park.

I set my sights on, Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon March of 2012. The inaugural race was held in 2011. Runners defined it as, “Exquisitely beautiful, challenging, inspirational, and technical”. At that time, 934 total registrants from 27 states attended. Runner’s World magazine described
it as “One of America’s standout, must do halfs”.

Currently, as most races do grow except while you are in a pandemic, most states are represented, a few countries, and approximately 5000 runners register.

Packet pick up is before day of race at the expo held in the Keeneland Keene Barn and Entertainment Center. And, this expo has a bourbon lounge! The race partners with a different Kentucky bourbon distillery every year and commemorative limited edition bottles in that year’s theme are available to purchase.

Following this theme, the top 3 overall men and women receive an authentic Kentucky bourbon barrel head to display. Age group awards are handmade, solid oak miniature bourbon barrel plaques.

All finishers receive the usual shirt and equestrian themed medal.

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Each year the race organizers “pay homage” to one of their famous Thoroughbred farms and one of its legendary racers. Often the medal is a silhouette of a famous horse with the ribbon patterned after the silks of
the jockey riding the champion. The famous horse Secretariat, born and raised in Lexington, graced the front of one year’s medal.

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SECRETARIAT

The course: The start/finish lines are at Keeneland Horse Park. (Ample, free parking). The course begins on the grounds of the horse park before you head out onto Old Frankfort Pike, originally called Old Lexington, and also called Thoroughbred Alley.

This area is ranked as one of the ten best scenic drives in the USA. It’s “rich in history, heritage, rolling hills galore with few flat spots”. You will pass properties with old limestone rock walls and properties supporting billion dollar businesses that are gated. You will pass fourteen farms as you conquer one steep hill after another. There will be properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Along your 13.1 mile route, you are hopeful to dodge a severe spring storm with lightning and thunder as there is very little shelter due to the terrain following the country roads.

After a harsh winter of ice storms and snow, this springtime half marathon takes you through a colorful display of new growth. White oak and sugar maple trees, lovely locusts and dogwood trees, and flowering red bud.

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xxxxxxxxxxxxxTraveling and running really do go together!

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