Latest reviews by Josh Ball

(2015)
"A Kentucky Fall"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management
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“Disclaimer: I received entry into The Urban Bourbon Half Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

The Urban Bourbon Half Marathon is a continuation of the Louisville Sports Commission Half Marathon that dates back to 2012. In 2014, after merging with Republic Bank Big Hit Half Marathon, the LSC Half Marathon became the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon focusing on a “fallrunathon” series that starts in September with a 5K and 10K before finishing with the 13.1 fall run. This was my second Urban Bourbon Half (2014 Review) and third LSC (2013 Review) produced half.

The weather varies greatly from year to year based on the unpredictable forecast of the Ohio Valley. This year’s weather was a near perfect 65 degrees and cloudy. It did rain a few times throughout the run, but they were usually spot showers and not heavy rain. The temperature made it nice not only during the race but also at the post-race celebration.

Registration: The registration was available online via the UBHM website through RaceSignUp.com. (The 2016 Registration is already open. Price increases on Halloween!). The price increased closer to race day and even offered in person registration at the Packet Pick-Up/Expo, but not race day. Along with the race experience, registration included a long sleeve tech shirt that was gender specific, timing chip in the bib, virtual event bag, post-race celebration, and runner tracking through the RaceJoy app. Due to the nature of the bourbon at the post-race event, only runners 21 and over are allowed to participate. Additionally, you must be present with a government issued photo ID at packet pick-up so they can verify your age and place a bracelet on your arm to identify you as an over 21 runner.

Expo: There were two expos this year, a VIP experience and a packet pick-up. The expo is a small event that allows for an almost intimate setting at Louisville Slugger Field (Directions). When you walk into the Expo, they posted all bib numbers in alphabetical order so you can see your number than proceed to a bank of people for bib pick-up. They were grouped together numerically which allowed almost no wait. Once you had your packet, you proceeded to the shirt table and a long sleeve shirt was handed to you with the preregistered size. A complimentary shirt exchange was around the corner if you had reservations about your shirt size. Also throughout the expo were maps of the course, information about the Urban Bourbon Walk (post-race experience), Urban Bourbon gear, information, massages, and Fleet Feet Sports Louisville. I cannot speak for the VIP Experience, but checkout my friends Erica and Jessica’s reviews that can.

Downtown Louisville has a vast network of parking facilities that provide ample parking near both the start and finish lines (they are located a couple blocks apart). Parking in the official hotel’s parking garage allows parking in the middle of the start and finish line area and easy access in and out.

Race Day: The race starts on Main Street in downtown Louisville, right in front of the University of Louisville Cardinal’s Men’s Basketball arena, the KFC Yum! Center. The starting area has sufficient facilities where a large number of portapots were setup under the 2nd Street Bridge and more inside the Official hotel of the Urban Bourbon Half, the Galt House. The starting line was a nice arch that had the race name and logo on it and some barricades along each side to make people get in line. There were no bands or corrals but pace groups helped identify where people should line up based on anticipated finish times.

Other race day amenities included volunteers ready to answer questions, gear check, water and Powerade stations, first aid tents provided by Norton Sports Medicine, and plenty of law enforcement and EMS standing by thanks to Louisville Metro Police and Louisville Metro EMS.

The Race: At a near perfect start time for my less than early riser body, the 8:30 AM starting gun was awesome. The overall course has remained very similar since the 2012 LSC Half, but was modified between 2013 and 2014 (2014 and 2015 were the same). Once you run through the start timing mats, you head east towards the Cherokee Park area. This area is absolutely beautiful and encompasses rolling hills (a couple are challenging) and some amazing century old architecture. From miles 3.5 to about 8 you are in Cherokee Park, make sure to take in the fall foliage and sites. Miles 10-13.1 are back in downtown Louisville and you even get to run by the famed 6 story Louisville Slugger bat at mile 12.5.

This street race is carried out on all pavement (or concrete) for the entire 13.1 miles. To help you along the way, mile markers are present with synchronized race clocks. The lack of photographers left only finish line photos, which for me is always when I look my worst. After crossing the finish line, runners were given a medal and heat sheets before proceeding to the food and drink lines. (There was a medical tent at the finish line for anyone needing care). The food and drink selection wasn’t bad; water, PowerAde, bananas, and bagels were all present (I loved the cinnamon crunch bagel from Panera they had).

After exiting the racer area, you were in the public area where non-runners could pay $20 to gain entry into the Urban Bourbon Bash. This was a post-race party on the Belvedere that included massages, pizza, drinks, and a live band who was really working the crowd. This is where the orange wrist bracelet from packet pick-up was to be used. The bracelet gave you four bourbon samples, one beer, one slice of pizza, and one cup or burgoo.


Overall: I really love this race, the Sports Commission has done a great job at incorporating running in the Louisville area. Since bourbon is the centerpiece of Kentucky, the two have helped to market to our new Bourbon Trail, a huge tourism drive at touring the major distilleries. The unique medal is shaped like a bourbon bottle and hand dipped in wax. The pricing structure is very reasonable for a half marathon and you honestly get a lot out of it for a 3,000 runner event. I plan on running this race again in 2016 and hope to see you there.

Oh yea, each runner got a free finisher’s certificate that can be downloaded from the results website.

Suggestions:
Better signage at water/PowerAde stops to help differentiate the two products.
RaceJoy app was as much as .25 miles off on the mile marker (but cool regardless)
More photographers on the course and possibly even a finish line photo for free.

Check out my fellow BibRavePros reviews:

Angie – Blog: Marathang T: @angiemaskeberka I: @amaskeberka

Erica – Blog: AnotherHalfPlease T: @AnotherHalfPls I: @anotherhalfpls

Jessica – Blog: SeeJessRun T:@SeeJessRun711 I: @seejessrun711

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(2015)
"2015 KDF mini Marathon - Wonderful event, even with the rain"
Overall
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Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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The 2015 Kentucky Derby Festival (KDF) miniMarathon was my second KDF and fifth half-marathon distance race. This race was my first as a @BibRave #bibravepro, although the entry fees were paid 100% in full by me.

On the first Saturday in May, Louisville, Kentucky hosts the Kentucky Derby. The Derby is commonly referred to as the "fastest two minutes in sports". If you love Thoroughbred racing, the Derby is something that should be on your bucket list. If you love racing and horses, the KDF mini/Marathon is definitely for you. The two to three weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby is a huge party that encompasses Louisville, the Kentucky Derby Festival. Throughout the KDF, events such as Thunder Over Louisville (North America's largest fireworks show), Great Steamboat Race, Fest-A-Ville, and of course the KDF mini/Marathon.

Overall: This is an excellent race. Although this was only my second KDF mini, it is one of my favorite. The environment is full of excitement and mixed between half and full distance runners through eight corrals based on estimated finish time. The relatively flat course carries you through Downtown Louisville to legendary Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby since 1875, and back to the finish line beside Louisville Slugger Field (home of the Triple A affiliate to the Cincinnati Reds).

T-Shirts/Swag:Swag is a definite perk to this race as a high quality Asics tech shirt is provided (separate styles for 13.1 and 26.2 runners). Additionally, runners receive a finisher's medal and virtual goodie bag with discounts to other races, gear, and products.

Aid Stations: The course is made up of eight water stations and six Powerade stops. Throughout the course volunteers seemed ample along with the supplies. I finished in 2 hours so I cannot speak for the runners/walkers who hit the three plus hour mark on either the mini or the Marathon. Cliff Bar products were distributed at mile 9, but I cannot confirm which product as I did not stop.

Scenery: The course scenery is very urban. The event starts in Downtown Louisville next to the Louisville Bats' (Cincinnati Reds Triple-A affiliate) home site at Louisville Slugger Field. As runners head west they pass the KFC Yum! Center where the University of Louisville Cardinals play their home basketball games and continue towards the Louisville Slugger Museum before heading into west Louisville. Winding through the Downtown district, runners will pass the old Union Station, US Federal Building, and countless historical sites before turning into Central Park and the St. James Square District. As runners continue south towards legendary Churchill Downs, they are exposed to century old homes that line both sides of the streets, many of which have been restored to their original luster. While moving towards Churchill Downs runners must pass the University of Louisville Campus. Once on Central Avenue runners can see Churchill Downs where they enter the main gate and proceed down the tunnels under the race track and into the infield (Tip: There are permanent restrooms available in the restroom in large quantities) and circle around as Derby horses are on the track performing workouts of their own. After exiting the Downs the marathoners and mini runners split with the mini runners taking a left and marathoners going right. Some lucky guy repeatedly announces this into a bullhorn the entire time. Now heading back Downtown runners see the true side of the University of Louisville Campus including Papa John's Cardinal Stadium (football), Patterson Stadium (baseball) Speed School of Engineering, and the main campus including Greek Row. The urban environment continues to grow as the runners take third street back to Main before turning right and heading for Preston Street and a 10th of a mile sprint to the Finish Line.

Expo: The Expo and Packet-Pickup is currently at the Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC) at 3rd and Market. The KICC is closing in 2016 for a two year complete remodel so it may not house the Expo in 2016 and 2017. Packet pickup is well marked with signs throughout the venue and large enough to accommodate the people. After entering the Expo, runners are able to search on computers their name to find bib numbers. Marathoners and mini runners are separate by bib numbers with plenty of volunteers to assist. Once a bib packet has been picked up, you can proceed to the t-shirt pickup, one table for women one for men. The mini and marathon have separate shirts that reflect their unique distances. Other Ky Derby Festival events are throughout this area as well. Once runners have picked their packet up they enter the sales area that includes a large Asics area with customized KDF apparel. After that, a large mixture of products, races, gear, and other items are in a maze that allows you to pass through in 2 minutes or 20 depending on your needs.

Elevation: This course is relatively flat (unlike the Marathon) as the steepest grades are entering and exiting tunnels and viaducts. Great course for a PR in the mini.

Parking/Access: Parking is everywhere ranging from meters to lots and garages. The average price is $5-10 to park in a lot or garage. Meters are free on Saturday's until 10AM but are heavily enforced aftet 10. There is an app that allows you to pay for parking by the hour.

Race Management: This race is one of the best managed races I have been fortunate to participate in. The experience is clear in the details leading up to race day and also as you cross the finish line. The worst part this year was the heavy crowding in the Runners Unite area, but that was due to people crowding under the overpasses to shelter from the rain, not much the managers could do to stop that.

Closing: This race has it all, mylar blankets, stylish medals, bananas, peanut butter crackers, bagels, milk (chocolate too), and Powerade. The amount of effort put into this race makes it a great race for runners. Although only my second KDF mini, it is definitely my favorite race. This year I was able to PR in this event and shaved 13 minutes off of my 2014 performance (if you can call it that). I would definitely recommend this race to anyone. Remember, the full is a Boston Qualifier.

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(2015)
"2015 Triple Crown"
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Parking/Access
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The Louisville Triple Crown of Running hosts the Anthem 5K, Rodes City Run 10K, and Papa John's 10 Miler races annually in Louisville, KY. The 10K is sponsored by Rodes who has been a huge benefactor to the running community in Louisville over the last 30 years.

The Rodes City Run 10K starts in Downtown Louisville, near the Jefferson Community College Campus and runs east towards Cherokee Park. The run is always a brisk morning run that shows off urban architecture and a beautiful park. The run is slightly challenging, but anyone can do it if they put their mind to it. There is plenty of swag in the form of shirts, but there are no medals for this race.

I love the Triple Crown series and plan to run 2016.

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(2015)
"Huge Improvement Over 2014"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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The 2015 Louisville Triple Crown of Running (LTCOR) kicked off with the Anthem 5K in an all new course that featured a flat, Downtown Louisville map. The course for 2015 returned to Downtown Louisville after a 2014 course that became a logistical nightmare for travel to and from the race. The modified courses are a direct impact from the Ohio River Bridges Project and are expected to continue for at least the 2016 race as well.

The Anthem 5K, sponsored by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and several other key supporters is the first of three races leading up to the infamous Kentucky Derby. The Triple Crown of Running alludes to the face Triple Crown horse race series that features the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes between May and June annually. The Triple Crown of Running is made of the Anthem 5K, Rodes City Run 10K, and the Papa John’s 10 Miler. The proceeds from the entire series goes to the WHAS11 Crusade for Children, a Louisville based non-profit that benefits children with needs, particularly health needs.

The race is as cheap as $25 with early registration and as much as $60 for day of registration. Approximately 7,000 people participate annually. One full day of packet pick-up is available as well as limited race day pickup. Thankfully, runners can have other people pickup their packets for them if they are unable to make it to packet pickup. Swag is well worth it! Not only do you receive a t-shirt, but also amenities along the course and sports drinks (Gatorade) and snacks (fruit and PowerBars) after the race. Part of the lure for me is the Xact Messaging System which allows for text messaging, email, and social media notifications for individual runners start and finish to the race which in part is thanks to the ChronoTrack Timing System and the disposable timing chips.

The course scenery is not bad, but completely urban. The course wraps through Louisville on East Market and finishing on Main Street. The course was very flat. Access to and from the area was more than ample and parking was overly available. I was able to park within two blocks of the starting line for $5. Race management made MAJOR improvements over last year’s logistics issues.

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(2014)
"2014 Urban Bourbon Half Marathon"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Parking/Access
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The 2014 Urban Bourbon Half Marathon hosted by the Louisville Sports Commission (LSC) was the 3rd Annual LSC Half Marathon that was rebranded to support the legendary bourbon industry in Kentucky. The Urban Bourbon was a 21 and over only event due to the free flowing bourbon in the post race zone. This was a beautiful course that was slightly different than the 2013 LSC Half as Cave Hill did not renew the permission to run through the cemetery as in 2013. The course was slightly more challenging in my opinion due to some higher elevation gains as a result of the course changes. One of the greatest perks of this race is the time of the year. The beautiful October/November morning in Kentucky usually produce the perfect running weather to compliment the scenery along the route.

The 2014 shirt was a high quality long sleeve tech shirt in black with white lettering that featured the logo of the race on the front and sponsor information on the back. The medal was well worth the 13.1 miles as it featured a bourbon bottle with the Louisville Skyline.

Throughout the course, the number of aid stations seemed sufficient with water stations every 2-3 miles throughout the course. Access to and from the course was more than available thanks to the mass parking and infrastructure in Downtown Louisville. Love this race series and plan on running the 2015.

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