A few months after tackling the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World, Chad and I headed down to Louisville, Kentucky for the Derby marathon. Since it was just a short 4 hour drive from Columbus, we decided to make it a guys weekend. With the race being on Saturday, we took off work on Friday to drive down and then planned on leaving Sunday so we didn’t have to drive home right after the race. What was supposed to be just a 4 hour drive, turned into almost 6 with the last couple hours being stuck in traffic when we were only 15 miles from hotel! This was just the beginning of the fun the next 18 hours would have in store for us.
Race: Kentucky Derby Marathon
Location: Louisville, KY
Finishing Time: 4:29:22
If you remember from the Ohio and Pennsylvania marathons, I have this wonderful luck of getting wet weather come race day. A few days before the race we had been checking out the forecast and the only day that called for rain, was during the race, 100% chance of rain that is. As we were sitting in traffic, Chad started reading an email that was sent out from the director. They had been following the weather and were so worried that they had even brought up the “what if the race is cancelled” kind of talk. When we finally arrived at the hotel we had turned on the news and the local weather and they talked about large hail, damaging winds, and possible tornados. What were we getting ourselves into?
We headed over to the expo for packet pick up, as well as, the pre-race pasta dinner. There was some pretty good pasta, side dishes, and of course derby pie! We also received a single beer ticket, because you know, beer is carbs. Apparently we looked like big beer drinkers as we both had people come up to us and just offer their beer tickets since they were going to use them and of course we couldn’t let them go to waste. After dinner we headed back to hotel to try and get some rest before the possible apocalypse happened the next day.
The morning of the race we got up, ate our pre-race items, got dressed, and make the short drive to downtown Louisville. We were able to find a parking lot that was only a few blocks from the start and about a mile from the finish line. As of this point the weather was shaping up to be a better than the “world ending” situation that we had heard about the previous day. We had decided that we were going to run with the 4:15 pace group and see how long we could hold that. My goal for this race was sub 4:30, to try and make up for my poor run in Vegas the year before. The first few miles wrapped around the west side of downtown Louisville. Not to long after we started we started to feel the sprinkle of rain. It wasn’t a lot but it was telling a tale of what was to come.
We went through University of Louisville and then make it to Churchill Downs at mile 8. This is where I said the one thing I knew I would regret later on. You can actually see me say in my GoPro video (link at bottom), but Chad and I were discussing our pace and how we felt the pacer was pushing us pretty good up until this point definitely working us faster than a 4:15 pace. Chad said that it could have been because the large incline around mile 12 that they were having us bank some time for that moment. That is when I said “but the hill isn’t that bad.” Famous last words.
This was the coolest part of the run, taking a lap on the infield of track. The place is absolutely massive compared to how it looks when watching it on TV. The actual Kentucky Derby was taking place the next weekend and we were lucky enough to see some jockeys doing some practicing with their horses doing laps. After we left Churchill Downs the half marathoners split off and things got really quiet. We headed straight down a single road heading to Iroqouis Park. This road was going to take us to the park and then double back to head back downtown to finish. One crazy thing we saw at this point was a guy that we just now referred to as the “cartwheel guy.” There was this Eastern European guy that would point out and cheer for those already on their way back and then do a cartwheel mid stride. He did this at least 5 times that we saw and I was able to capture one of them on the GoPro.
Around mile 11, as we started to approach the park, it started raining again and it seemed that with every step it started to come down just a little bit harder. In addition to the rain, we started to make the incline for the “hill” that I said wasn’t going to be that hard on us. This “hill” never seemed to end. We had a long incline entering the park and then while we circled it seemed that we kept going. We finally made it to a short downhill to a parking lot with an aid station and I thought that we had finally made it out and were going to be heading back. Until of course, the route turned right back into the park and up another decent incline. Just after mile 15, we finally made it out of the park and back on the main road.
As much as the park was horrible with pouring rain and steep inclines, the next stretch was by far the hardest part mentally. We ran for about 6 miles on the same road, with no turns, and no real scenery other than houses. Because of the wet weather there weren’t many spectators to keep our mind from listening to the pains and aches in our body. Through all of this Chad and I were keeping a pretty good pace and staying close to that 4:15 mark we started with. That was until my stomach again wanted to get the best of me.
Around mile 22, I started getting some side pains and told Chad to go ahead as I was going to try and walk it out and then catch back up with him. Looking back that was probably the worst thing I could have done in that situation. The next few miles, I would only make it about 1/2 mile before I started to feel the pain in my side. I kept trying to push as I knew I was getting close to missing my race goal and I didn’t come this far to come up short. With about a mile left I knew it was going to be close, so I gave all that I had in me to just push through the pain and to not stop until I crossed the finish. When you watch the race video, you will see the discomfort in my face on that last push. I gave my final “sprint” when I saw the finish line in sight, running hard all the way through it. I stopped my watch and took a glance, 4:29:22.
Talk about cutting it close with a goal. I was able to get a PR despite the lovely wet weather and stomach issues in the last 5k of the race. I grabbed my chocolate milk and my snacks and met up with Chad at the “PR gong.” It felt good to hit it knowing that I had emptied my tank leaving nothing left on the course. We made the mile walk (which seemed like 5 miles since we were soaked and exhausted) back to the car so we could get cleaned up and enjoy the rest of the day. We spent the afternoon/evening visiting a few local breweries and brewpubs, taking some batting cage swings at the Louisville Slugger museum, and then meeting some of Chad’s friends for a few drinks before taking a Lyft ride back to sleep.
All in all, I had a great time at this race. There wasn’t much to see on the course other than University of Louisville and Churchill Downs, but it did have the feel of a fun run back home with our running group. The course had a local feel and there was lots of support at the aid stations to keep you going to the next. Spent the weekend with Chad, ran a marathon PR, and got to try some great local beer, hard to argue that it wasn’t a successful trip!
My next race was the hardest mentally that I had ever had to push through but it was also the most beautiful scenery that I have had the pleasure of seeing while running. All aboard, we are heading to Hawaii!