Road running’s newest addition to its long relay category is the Bourbon Chase in Kentucky, October 9 and 10, 2009. This overnight relay will see 150 teams of 12 runners (or six in the ultra category) race on over 200 miles of scenic back roads and byways connecting Kentucky’s bourbon distillers along its historic Bourbon Trail. This race expects to see the most people travel the Bourbon Trail in a two-day period ever.
Bourbon and Kentucky
Kentucky and bourbon go hand in hand as Kentucky provides 95 percent of the world’s bourbon. The state’s Bourbon Trail connects seven of the state’s more prominent bourbon distillers. Bourbon is a unique spirit, different from whisky in that it must have at least 50 percent corn, at least 17 percent rye, and be aged in new charred white oak barrels. Early settlers to the area included many Scotch or Irish immigrants and their descendants, and they brought with them to America their whiskey-making skills. Corn was a native crop growing abundantly in Kentucky, and there was also seemingly unlimited supply of clean, calcium-filled, iron-free water that had been distilling for millions of years in the state’s limestone beds; both of these are critical components of the whiskey-making process. Farmers new to the area soon began distilling their surplus corn using the limestone water, producing a new kind of whiskey. When farmers began shipping their bourbon down the Mississippi River to New Orleans they used new barrels made from white oak—which are native to the state—as shipping containers; these oak barrels ‘mellowed’ the whiskey, further setting this unique kind of whiskey apart from others. Later, it became customary for the distillers to use barrels that had been charred on the inside; this process provided the whiskey with a smoother taste and its distinctive amber color. During the early 1800s, corn whiskey produced in other parts of central Kentucky finally came to be known as bourbon whiskey.
The Bourbon Chase Course
This race will showcase the best of Kentucky in the autumn months. Runners will begin at the Jim Beam Distillery American Outpost & Homestead in Clermont, Kentucky, and continue on to Bardstown, the Bourbon Capital of the World. In the charming city of Bardstown, runners will run through the grounds of Heaven Hill, the largest family-owned distillery in the world, and then head to the charming town of Loretto, home to the historic and beautiful Maker’s Mark distillery. From Loretto the course runs through Lebanon, where most of the state’s bourbon barrels are made. The course then passes through and along some of the state’s Kentucky’s most historic areas, including Perryville Battlefield, the site of a Civil War battle, and Stanford, the second oldest city in Kentucky. Runners will then head north and pass through Danville, the site where the state’s first constitution was written, and Harrodsburg, which was established as Fort Harrod in 1774 and was the first permanent settlement west of the Alleghenies.
The course then takes runners back into distillery country, starting with Four Roses and Wild Turkey, both in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Runners will then cross the Tyrone Bridge, several hundred feet above the Kentucky River, in Anderson County and enter the official gateway to Horse Country. This section of the course, heading toward Woodford Reserve, will undoubtedly serve as the most stunning because of its rolling bluegrass countryside and picturesque horse farms.
Continuing north, runners will run through Frankfort—the state’s capital. Here runners will pass the abandoned castle of the Old Taylor Distillery, once a tourist destination itself for Washington and Kentucky’s elite. The course then takes runners through historic downtown Frankfort where they will run by the ‘old’ (1830) and new (1910) Capitol buildings, the Governor’s Mansion, and of course, the Buffalo Trace Distillery, one of only four distilleries permitted by the federal government to continue producing through prohibition for ‘medicinal’ purposes.
Runners will leave Frankfort heading east, and pass through Midway, home of Midway College, one of the state’s leading colleges focusing on equine professions. As runners wind their way out of Midway and down the scenic back roads of the Bluegrass Region, the course will run near Keeneland, a beautiful track and thoroughbred sales complex, which is home to several Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cups prep races, most notable of which is the Blue Grass Stakes. Runners will then head for the finish line in downtown Lexington, near the storied Rupp Arena. The celebration will include live music, food, and of course, bourbon. All runners will receive a Bourbon Chase medal and shirt.
The Finish Line
Lexington calls itself the Horse Capital of the World, and there are many good reasons why. In addition to Keeneland, Lexington is also home to the Kentucky Horse Park, the world’s only equine educational park, recreation area, and museum. The Kentucky Horse Park is also where many of the world’s greatest racing thoroughbreds come to retire. Also boosting Lexington’s claim as Horse Capital of the World is its role of host of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which will feature more than 50 breeds on 1,200 rolling Bluegrass acres.
For this inaugural Bourbon Chase, start times will be determined based on each team’s average pace. The first teams will begin on October 9 at 9:00 am and waves of teams will leave every 15 minutes. Each team member will runner three legs of the 36-leg race; the length of each leg will vary but will be no shorter than 3.8 miles and no longer than 8.2 miles. All teams will be expected to finish the course in under a pace of 11 minutes per mile. Further, all runners must be 21 to participate in this libations-themed race.