Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon

The Kentucky Derby Marathon: the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for a horse kid like me.  This marathon has always been a bucket-list race and I had the wonderful opportunity to check it off the list this year.  Traveling with a newer group of friends-half from here in Texas and half from Florida-we headed out to Louisville on Thursday afternoon, where we met up with the Florida based group.

Small Back story on meeting this group: I had an inside chuckle to myself as we were driving around on Friday because it wasn’t even a year ago when I randomly met Jason and his girlfriend, Gail, at the Rahr Oktoberfest 5k.  Over a ‘few’ drinks and a shared table on a that September afternoon, our groups soon realized we had all done many of the same races and would all be at the Ragnar Hill Country Race.  We exchanged numbers at Rahr and briefly saw each other during the Ragnar race.  During a later conversation, Jason and I got on the topic of horses and my small obsession with ponies of all kinds..and of course the Kentucky Derby.  A few weeks later, I got a message from Jason asking if I would like to join his group on their trip to do the marathon.  Ummm…yes, please!  Running friendships are so cool, and hopefully my trusting judgement doesn’t backfire on me one day.  I feel like I’m a pretty good judge of character though.

Fast forward to now.  We get to Kentucky and I meet the other 5 people who had come in from Florida.  Andy, Lynn, Kathy, Manuel, and Bego.  Little did I know, Bego is a BEAST, and Gail soon informed her it was her duty to pace me to a sub-4 hour time on Saturday morning, which she graciously agreed to do. (A million thanks will never be enough!)

We started off Friday morning with a driving tour of the route we would be running on Saturday. I have never done this before because most of the time I don’t have transportation at races, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.  As nice as it was to know where we would be going and have a true understanding of what to expect and when to expect it, I have never been more pre-tired before a race…pre-tired isn’t a word, but it’s the only way I can think to explain the feeling.   Afterwards we grabbed our bibs from the expo, which was a decent size, but a little crowded.  Then, onto the best part of Friday, we headed on our cross country adventure to find the Maker’s Mark Distillery.  Awesome Friday, paving the way to an even better Saturday.

Race day! Our plan was to go out at a 9 minute pace and stay that way until the half way point, then drop to a 8:45 and finish that way giving us a final finish of 3:55.  Bego promised she would keep me on pace, and I had no doubt she would do it.  The weather was iffy.  It rained all night, but, thankfully, there was a break in the morning for the start of the race.  Though we were in corrals, the race was a mass start.  Pacing wise, Corral C wasn’t the most accurate I have been in. If we would have actually been going at a 9 minute pace it might have been right on, but we were at more of  8:30 pace because the first few miles were slightly downhill, something we did not notice when driving the course the day before.  We kept trying to chill out, but when you run at an 8:30 pace every day…every run…that’s your go-to pace.  It’s hard to not run what your legs have been ingrained with.  We kept trying to slow down, but mile after mile passed by and we were still clipping along at a 8:45ish pace.  Holding full conversation, no stress, feeling good.  Our house we were renting was on course at mile 6.5 and 19(out and back course), so at 6.5 we had jello shots waiting for us.  That was fun.  Mile 8ish brought on Churchill Downs, which was amazing.  Running by the Barbaro Memorial, inside the track, watching the horses work out.  Everything I wanted it to be and more.  Loved it.  After Churchill Downs, we headed towards Iroquois Park, which is where the true ‘fun’ would begin.  A good 5k of solid hills, Bego lead me up each one and encouraged me onward.  When I started doubting, she would yell and I would remember the weeks I have spent running at TCU, prepping for this very instance, dig in a little harder and trudge on.  This is also the time the sky decided to unleash its rain fury.  Pouring.  Just pouring down rain.  It wasn’t terrible though, kind of refreshing.  I was wearing my Marathon Maniacs shirt which got crazy heavy after being soaked.  Everyone who knows me well knows how much I hate shirts, so, needles to say, the shirt came off very quickly once it got wet(and, no, I didn’t drop it on course..that shirt was expensive!..I carried it until Mile 19, where our house was and dropped it there).  Mile 16 hit and Bego looked at me and smiled saying, “Hi! I’m Bego! We just met and now we are going to do a 10 mile run! Let’s go!”  We both laughed and continued on.  I commend her math skills, giving me mile by mile updates on our time left and what pace we needed to keep in order to make it in on time.  Mile 21/22, I really started shutting down.  The course took a hard right turn and ran us up another big hill, just for good measures.  I said a few expletives.  Lots of encouragement from other runners.  It was very obvious that I was not doing well and Bego was pulling me through the rough last few miles.  With the last hill done and the course meeting back up with the half course, reality set in that my goal would be reached.  We hit Mile 25 with 18 minutes left.  18 minutes.  Relief flooded over me.  I finally relaxed and took in everything from the last mile.  Enjoying every second.  I even had enough at the end to give a final push at to the finish line.  So much happy.  So many smiles.  A few tears.  I can’t thank Bego enough, as well as everyone else I was there with.  All they did was shower me with kind words and amazing feelings.  What a wonderful race.  Final finish time: 3:52:05 #winnerswin

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