Louisville – Derby City

The advantage to setting a goal to run in all 50 states is that you definitely get to travel to places that you previously never thought of visiting before.

When looking at races in Kentucky, I saw there was one that ran through Churchill Downs and knew that was definitely a bucket list race. So I signed up for the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon in 2019.

I didn’t know what to expect when booking my trip, so I booked a fairly short trip where I would fly in on Friday morning, run the race on Saturday morning and fly out Saturday night, boy do I wish I had booked a longer trip!

I arrived that Friday morning on an early flight and headed to my hotel to freshen up and then got an uber over to the most famous location in Louisville, Churchill Downs. I’m not a horse racing fan and have never even watched the Kentucky Derby but knew it was definitely the place to visit in Louisville and I’m so glad I did.

When I arrived at the Churchill Downs. I purchased a ticket to the museum and joined one of the walking tours of the racetrack. I went from someone who had never watched the Derby before someone who was very intrigued with the history of the race and started dreaming of attending one some year.

It was wonderful to get up close to the track, you could just envision the horses running by at such a fast speed. And the history learned about the race was amazing. I had no idea that only three year old Thoroughbreds were allowed in the Derby. And most jockeys are on average 5 feet tall, yet there have only been 6 female jockeys in the Kentucky Derby.

After the tour, I headed into the museum to learn more about the history of the race and check out the interesting exhibits.

There was a lot to see in the museum, from the history of the race to the winning horses and jockeys and trophies from past races. It was all very informative and interesting.

The museum also displayed items from other events that take place during the Derby Festival. The Derby Festival runs for 2 weeks before the Derby which is held the first Saturday in May each year. Some of the festival events include Thunder Over Louisville which is the largest annual fireworks display in North America, Great Balloon Race, Great Steamboat Race, The Pegasus Parade which is one of the larges parades in the United States and the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and minimarathon.

The whole city takes part in these events and many people from around the country head to Louisville to enjoy this exciting time in the city.

On the Saturday morning, the Marathon and minimarathon took place. The start line was in front of Louisville Slugger Field which is home to the Louisville Bats, AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

This was one of my favorite half marathons and is my current half marathon PR. I beat my last PR, which stood for 5 years by 3 solid minutes. The weather was perfect for a race and the crowd support was amazing!

The race went through Downtown Louisville and then through Old Louisville by the beautiful Victorian style homes and then over to the highlight of the course, Churchill Downs.

I would equate running thru Churchill Downs to running thru Times Square and dare I say, down Main Street USA in Disney World. It was so much fun and gave me so much energy which probably helped contribute to the PR.

We ran on the inside track while there were horses and jockeys getting some practice laps in on the main track. It was so exciting to watch that while running. And the signs while running into and out of the stadium had some clever sayings, such as “Run like a Thoroughbred”, “Run Now, Julep Later” and “This would be so much easier on a horse”

As I was running out of the race track I came across another runner who was doing a facebook live video of the race and I was so caught up in the moment, that even though I very much dislike video, I made sure to get right in that video saying I was from Boston. The things the excitement of a race will do.

There is so much else to see in Louisville other than Churchill Downs. The Louisville Slugger is made in Louisville and there is a museum in its honor. On the road leading up the street to the museum, there are statues of bats and plaques of some of the best hitters in the game of baseball. There is also a museum for Louisville native, Muhammad Ali. For those looking for good restaurants and nightlife, head to 4th St. Live in downtown. Even just walking downtown and taking in views of the Ohio River or ride on a riverboat down the river are fun things to do.

With so many things to see and do I will definitely head back to Louisville some day and highly recommend it to others. If you are trying to run in all 50 states, definitely add this race to your list.

Sadly, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and minimarathon did not take place this year, the Marathon has been cancelled and the minimarathon has been postponed until August 22, 2020. The Kentucky Derby has also been postponed until September 5, 2020.

I pray things improve by then so fellow half marathon runners can experience this wonderful race and city.

Regardless what happens this year, there are many more years to come to for this wonderful race and city. Who plans on heading to Louisville sometime in the future?

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