If you are looking for a race that is ALL about the bourbon you NEED to check out Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Half Marathon. Great medals, nice race shirts, and copious amounts of bourbon were the highlights from our race this past weekend. I definitely would like to go back to Louisville to spend more time as a tourist but for me this race was not one I would personally like to do again.
Let me start by giving a HUGE congratulations to my mom, Robert’s mom, and my mom’s best friend Cindi for completing their first half marathon this weekend. They worked so hard to be part of the 13.1 club and I am extremely proud of them. Maybe the fact that it was their first half marathon had me wanting so much better of a race experience for them. I am disappointed that this was the one they had to introduce them to the sport for a few reasons that I will get into later. I also want to make a note that I walked this half from start to finish with them, which is something I have never done before so that may have had some impact on my experience (although I am pretty positive after talking to Robert who ran the whole thing it did not).
Registration for this race was fairly priced. You have to be 21 on race day to run the race (which I did not really see the need for because there was not any alcohol along the race route to partake in). There are only two options for registration: the half marathon and the team challenge. The team challenge is not a relay option, it is simply a competition based on when and what place you and your teammates finish in. You could customize the name on you race bib when you registered which is always a fun little touch. This is not a stroller friendly race (although there was more than enough room on the course for them). The instagram account for the race was really active and informative, which I appreciated. Also the race was really good about sending out information via emails that were clear and not bogged down with information not pertinent to race weekend. The pre-race components of this race were very organized and motivational which made me excited.
Race Expo / Packet Pick Up
I struggle to even refer to this section as a race expo. It was pretty much race bib and shirt pick up with the option of taking two shots of bourbon and walking through a pop up Fleet Feet store. The packet pick up was held at Cardinal Stadium on the University of Louisville Campus which was very cool. There was ample free parking right there which is always nice to experience. Outside the arena was a huge blow up bottle of Jim Beam you could take a picture with before going inside to get your bib. The bibs were custom to the race and the long sleeve black technical shirts are very nice. However I was let down that there was not even a small swag bag. The race did a virtual one ahead of time, but although I have been apart of many races that do the virtual ones this was the first race that let the virtual bag replace the real completely. There were no companies there with tables and no freebies- besides the bourbon. Robert was able to order a custom glass etched finisher bottle of Jim Beam before we left as well. It would have taken five minutes total to be in and out if you did not want the whiskey tastings (which at noon I was not really craving). This has its benefits for sure, but if you are making a trip out of coming to this race and appreciate the running aspect as being a big part of your weekend then this expo would probably not have satisfied your expectations. Needless to say, I was extremely underwhelmed by the packet pick-up, especially with all the hype about the race leading up to the weekend.
We lucked out and had a very mild morning for race day. The weather leading up to Saturday morning was leaving a lot to be desired, but when we woke up it was 50 degrees and calm which really started us off on the right foot. The emails sent by UBHM prior to race day were excellent about providing information about the available parking options in Louisville for the race. It made the morning so much easier knowing exactly where we needed to go to get ourselves to the start line on time. There were TONS of parking options available, which is a huge plus in my book. We had a couple of blocks to walk in order to get to the starting line, but it was not a strenuous hike. There were lots of places to go to the bathroom before the race and race photographers there to take pictures of the group before we started. All the pictures taken were available to download for free which is another great thing that the race directors made happen for the runners. Knowing that we were walking the race we stayed towards the back of the corral. The race had a 3.5 hour time limit, which I was worried about since we were all walking. I feel like 4 hours would have allowed for more people to successfully take part in the race. The corrals were definitely NOT big enough for the amount of runners there. We were lined up by the 2:40 and 2:50 pacers standing next to the sign that said 3:30 pace. A few more blocks of corrals would have allowed for the bottleneck at the beginning of the race to be alleviated because people could have more appropriately been standing in the corrals. There was someone speaking at the beginning of the race, I could not make out who it was or what they were saying. They played “My Old Kentucky Home,” the national anthem, and then had the horn start that they have at the beginning of horse races (I like small details like this).
The race was well marked, there was never a time that I was questioning whether or not we had strayed from the correct path. The mile markers were clearly visible and were all very accurate according to my watch. The first and third sections of the race were not pretty and went through some areas that I would have been a little nervous about walking or running through had there not been the ample police presence along the course. There were cops at every intersection and every driveway. That part of the race was AWESOME to see and extremely appreciated. The aid stations had water and Powerade available. There was no food or gel that I could find and being a bonehead I forgot my nutrition and could have really used ANYTHING around mile 8 when my hands swelled to the size of a basketball. The best part of the course was running through Cherokee Park. It is an Olmsted park and absolutely gorgeous. It has some hilly sections which made me happy and just got you out of the blah of the city scape because you have trees around you. The race course had no support though and it was very strange and shocking to me the more I noticed it. There were a handful of people here and there supporting a specific person, but the city itself did not support the runners at all. I was really shocked at this- I may have seen 10 race signs total. It was just super strange. There was a few music spots along the course playing a variety of tunes, but the lack of crowd support anywhere was just really sad to me. Even the finish line had a bare nature to it that was odd to me for a race of this size.
Finish Line and Post Race
Those medals though. By far one of the coolest medals I have earned running which is saying a lot. The post race party was full of bourbon. It is called the Bourbon Bash and they did not disappoint. However I will say I have NEVER had to work so hard to find a beer after a race. The line for the beer was also like 100 people deep so that was not going to happen. There was pizza and soup available. The soup was good, the pizza was okay according to Cindi. The band that was playing was great. The whole post race party was at this area called Fourth Street Live! which was a really awesome area to eat, drink and play. We actually landed up coming back down there later to try some of those bars. Robert had to pick up his bottle, which was very cool to have as a race souvenir, but he said that process was a mess. He had to wait for a half hour for them to find the bottle because they were not in alphabetical order. However once he got it he was really happy he waited it out.
After the race on Saturday a few bars were participating in a bourbon crawl. All you had to do was order something and you received a custom pin that was in coordination with the race. We made it a point to go do a shot of Bullet at one of them because I love getting pins at races and putting them on my medal ribbon. This would have been a really cool post race activity if we would not have had Ellie with us for the weekend. The race also had some events on Friday and Sunday that were centered around drinking. Please do not think I am hating on this race for truly encompassing its name and being all about the bourbon. I think it was great that they had so many events planned for before and after the race that embraced the SPIRIT of the event… (I hope I evoked an eye roll or two with that one!). We all know I truly support racing and drinking. Heck I was the one with a beer mile as part of my wedding weekend celebrations. HOWEVER I do think that the running aspect of this half marathon was slightly overlooked by the race coordinators which seems a ridiculous thing to say.
All in all we had a great time in Louisville this weekend and a successful race. Robert and I definitely want to go back to Louisville to experience the Kentucky Derby Museum, Muhammad Ali Center, and Louisville Slugger. The food and night life seem EXCELLENT. If you want a race to go partake in that would be a fun meet up with friends to party all weekend I STRONGLY recommend this race (and UBER). However if you are someone just looking to cross Kentucky off your list of states you want to run in, I would say to try looking elsewhere for a race more focused on the running experience and less worried about the party.