After the 2006 Columbus Marathon, I was officially hooked on the 26.2 distance. I tasted the marathon kool-aid and it was oh so sweet. Once it hits your lips, it’s so good!
I immediately began contemplating my next race. My friend Liz had recently moved to Louisville, KY for graduate school, and suggested I pay a visit and run the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon with her in the spring.
Marathon #3: 2007 Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon: 4:03:07
Training went well, I was focused and I had learned so much from my previous attempts at the distance. As race day approached, Liz notified me that her training wasn’t as strong as she had hoped, and wondered if I wanted to run this race for ‘fun’. At first I was a tad disappointed, but I quickly realized that this could be good for me. Just running a race with no finish time expectations and getting to spend the whole race with a dear friend of mine would be a wonderful experience. I didn’t scale back my training, I continued to train hard, basically because I just loved the experience of working hard day in and day out.
Race morning was chilly, just how I like it. Liz’s roommate Maria was attempting her first half-marathon that day, and we ran with and paced her until it was time to split off and continue onto the marathon course.
The first half of the race was full of intense energy and lots of laughter and silliness. We high-fived every kid with their hand out, did cartwheels randomly when the urge struck us, and Maria wore a tank top emblazoned with the slogan ‘I’m just here for the Bud Light” – you would not believe how many extra cheers and high fives this chica received based on her tank top alone. I also saw the Running Elvises for the first time in my life. It was a group of middle-aged men clad in Elivis inspired attire, taking turns pushing a jogging stroller that held a boom box that played strictly Elvis tunes. I couldn’t make this stuff up.
My absolute favorite portion of the race came when we got to run a loop through Churchill Downs. Some of the horses were out practicing for the upcoming race. They were so beautiful and graceful, I seriously wanted to stop and just watch them for a while. A really awesome aspect of the race is that it officially kicks-off Derby week in Louisville, how cool!
After exiting Churchill Downs, we continued to chip away at the miles. Eventually it was time to separate from Maria, and the race turned much more somber. Apparently the half-marathon is a much bigger deal in Louisville, and the marathon had only recently been added to the festival weekend. The second half of the course was no man’s land, I honestly think there were less than 1,000 people total in the full marathon. Thank God I chose to run with Liz and not by myself!
The course was nice and challenging with plenty of hills, and we got to run through some beautiful neighborhoods and saw some jaw-dropping homes. Ever heard of Millionaire’s Row? One distinct memory from the second half of the race was a lil’ old lady standing on the balcony of her gigantic home ringing a cowbell and shouting all sorts of cheers that were completely incomprehensible. Hmmm, somebody apparently had been dipping into the Mint Juleps a few days early.
Before I knew it, we were approaching the last few miles of the race. I was feeling pretty great, and Liz wasn’t doing too bad either. With about 2 miles to go, she told me to run ahead and finish strong, and she would not be too far behind me. I double-checked to make sure she was sure about this, which she assured me she was, and then I laid the hammer down and finished nice and strong. I crossed the finish line in 4:03:07 and felt awesome. Sure my legs were sore, but I conquered the marathon distance yet again, and had an amazing time doing it. Liz crossed the finish a few minutes after me, and we immediately started the re-fueling process and allowed ourselves to sit down and rest for a bit, and reflect on our awesome accomplishment.
I didn’t get a BQ that day, but it wasn’t my objective. My goal was to go on a 26.2 mile journey with one of my favorite running partners and friends and have a damn good time doing so. I am so grateful for having chosen to run this race in this manner, as it reminded me that while personal records are great, at the end of the day I run for the sheer enjoyment it provides me. Being able to share the sport that I love so much with a wonderful friend is just as satisfying, if not more, than the elusive Boston Qualifying standard that I had yet to achieve.
But don’t get it twisted, I still had the BQ on my mind and had plans to conquer it later that fall in the windy city…