The Skinny on the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon: What You Need to Know about This Destination Race

Urban Bourbon Half Marathon starting line in Louisville, KY
Want a scenic race course and several pre- and post-race opportunities to sample bourbon? The Urban Bourbon Half Marathon in Louisville, KY is designed to be a full weekend experience, not just a race day event.

When I sat down with Michael Clemons, the Fall Runathon Race Director for the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon in Louisville, KY for a Q&A session, my goal was to get information on what the half marathon has to offer and why you might consider it for a fall destination race. The race is set for October 19, 2019 and has several unique features designed to attract a large crowd and to create a memorable experience for the runners.

Tell Us About Your Race Series…

Urban Bourbon Half Marathon Race Director Michael Clemons
Urban Bourbon Half Marathon Race Director Michael Clemons

There is a 5K, a 10K and a half marathon, which are run as a series. The 5K is a warm-up called the Puretap 5K, and it is run first. Two weeks after that is the 10K, and then four weeks after that, we hold the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon.

The shorter distance races tend to be more locals, but we do see about 50 percent of our participants coming from out of town for the half marathon. We have been growing at a significant rate. In 2016, there were about 2,800 racers, and this year we anticipate that number to climb to about 4,200.

We try to create an experience for our runners, which is what sets our event apart from other half marathons. We tend to get a lot of first-timers. In fact, nearly 10 percent of all of our participants are first-time half competitors.

What Attracts Runners to Louisville and Your Race?

People are attracted to Louisville as a destination race because it isn’t flat throughout the entire course, but it is super scenic. The course races through Whisky Row, which brings participants back to the days right before Prohibition. Whiskey Row was the area in the city where a lot of the Bourbon was made because it was along the river. There are still a lot of distilleries there.

The course then runs by Waterfront Park and then through Central Park, which is a beautiful park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Finally, the race passes by the cemetery where Colonel Sanders and Muhammad Ali are buried. So although it is a half marathon, it is almost like a running historical tour at the same time!

The second reason to choose our event is that we make the half marathon an entire weekend full of cool experiences. There is bourbon tasting at packet pickup to launch the event. On race day we have the bugler, the one who plays the bugle from Churchill Downs who does the call to post for the Kentucky Derby to get the crowd going. He summons everyone to the starting line.

Then there is an after party, post-race party on 4th Street Live, which is a covered entertainment district in the city. There is live music, 10-12 bourbon distilleries handing out samples, free pizza, and free beer. Even if you aren’t super competitive, you’re going to have a great time running our event. We make sure of that!

After the post-race party, there is a bourbon walk on Whiskey Row. You can go to at least five distilleries or bars and get a lapel at each one to add to your race medal (with purchase of food or drink).

The after party finishes at noon. We quit tastings and the music stops, but a lot of people stick around, and the local restaurants and bars are still open. Whiskey Row restaurants open around noon to 1 p.m. and stay open all day long. You can go to them at any point throughout the night. We’ve had five participating restaurants in the past, handing out lapels for the medals, and hope to add more this year.

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What is the Course Like?

The beginning and the end are flat because we start and finish in the downtown Louisville area. From Mile 5 to Mile 9, when you are going through Cherokee Park, participants have to go up some significant rolling hills. There are about five pretty significant hills during that 4-mile stretch that can be super challenging.

What is the Course Time Limit?

The time limit is 3.5 hours, which is about a 15-minute pace. We have trail vehicles right at the starting line. They follow the last person and ride at a 15-minute pace. We provide a police escort because the police want to open the streets back up once the race has ended. We do allow people to walk on the sidewalk at their own discretion. But we can’t guarantee the finish line will be set up. Although we say 11:30 is time to clean up, the time tends to go a little longer because it takes time for people to walk to the finish line.

What is the Swag Like?

Our medals are always replicas of bourbon bottles. Last year it was a barrel with a bourbon bottle, and the bottle spun around. You can engrave your medal after the race with your name and your finishing time. Two lines cost $20 and 3 lines cost $30 for the engraving.

What is the Weather Like?

The weather can be really just about anything. It is very unpredictable. We have had some race days when it is 80 degrees and then others when the temperature dips down to 30 degrees. So if you are going to run, be prepared for just about anything!

We’ve been lucky the past 3 years, race day has been about 50 degrees consistently and slightly misty, but there haven’t been any torrential downpours, thank goodness! In Louisville, we tend to have good weather in October. It may be a little rainy, but the temperatures should stay anywhere from 40-60 degrees on average.

What Else Attracts Runners?

We are a Saturday morning half marathon. A lot of people prefer that over a Sunday run because they get the running out of the way and the rest of their time visiting is all about having a good time and letting loose! Our city is a great locale for destination marathoners because pretty much everything is located downtown. You can walk from your hotel to the starting line, pick up your packet, and then head to the after-party, all in one convenient place.

Because it is a smaller race versus a big city half marathon, it is a more unique and intimate event. From the time that you register, we try to interact with each registrant and make sure that they have a great experience and are part of the action all the way to check out day. We do a lot of individualization to make sure that participants have a once in a lifetime experience. And also that they don’t feel like they are just another “bib” number.

The Urban Bourbon Half Marathon organizers go the extra mile by personalizing bibs. That way, you can put your nickname or your social media handle on it. And after you register, you get an email that comes directly from me with my contact info and hotel information. I am personally controlling all of the social media handles. When participants register, we ask them during for their social media handles. That way, we can track their training progress and comment on how they are doing. That helps to encourage them to train hard and then come to play hard with us in Louisville.

Visit Race Website   |    Register for the Race   |    Check Out the Race Hotel

What are Some Things to do Downtown?

For those who want to explore a little more of Lousiville, there is a local bat museum, the Muhammad Ali Museum, and plenty of other things to do all within walking distance!

How Easy is it to Get to Louisville From Other Parts of the Country?

Louisville is very driveable from lots of areas. Chicago is only a 5-hour drive, and we have a ton of people who are within 5 hours, like those coming from Nashville, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. Louisville is a very central location for runners in the Midwest.

Our airport is getting new direct flights almost monthly from Charlotte, Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta. And all major hubs fly in and out of the airport daily. When you arrive, it is super easy to get an Uber/Lyft or a cab from the airport. There is no need to rent a car for our event unless you want to venture out to the distilleries that are further into the countryside.

How Many Runners Participate from Out of Town?

Currently about 50 percent of those who participate come from out of town.

Where to Stay?

The Galt House Hotel is the official race hotel. It is located on historic Main Street, which is a few blocks from all the fun! Race rates begin at just $139 a night and are valid for Friday and Saturday nights. We take over the hotel, and they provide us with special room rates. Search for your room here.

Racertrips Note: Want to search for a hotel room somewhere else in the city? Search on Booking.com. Racertrips LLC is a Booking affiliate and may receive a small commission from reservations made through our site.



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