What is Bourbon Chase?
It’s a relay from bourbon distillery to bourbon distillery over 200-miles of rolling green hills through horse country. Teams of 12 people (or 6 for ultra) load into vans and weave their way from distilleries including Jim Beam to Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Makers Mark before crossing the finish line in downtown Lexington, where a bourbon tasting awaits the very weary but enthusiastic runners.
This year, our team “How Big Is Your Bar-rel (Size Matters)” was an Open Mix team including paces from sub-7 minutes to 11 minutes, men and women, and multiple age groups. With a multitude of dropouts in the month leading up to Bourbon Chase, we scoured the BC forums and found additional runners who ended up being great additions to the team.
Sun rose over the Jim Beam distillery on Friday, October 16 as van 1 checked in and prepared to kick off the 20-30+ hour relay. Chilled runners carrying reflective vests and headlights made their way up to the distillery, with runner #1 (Priscila Funes) lining up to start the race - heading from Jim Beam toward Bardstown and Heaven Hill.
As runner #2, I ran legs 2, 14 and 26 totaling 21.7 miles with a moderate/difficult rating. My first run took me from rickhouses to an open highway (KY-245), handing off the race bracelet to Melanie Levin (Team Captain) 7.4 miles later. Josh Johnson’s first leg (#4), titled “Little Pottershop of Horrors!” was a hilly beast that rivaled the other legs in difficulty, combining thin roads and steep elevation.
We ran to Maker’s Mark, where the first major exchange reunited us with van 2, and Adam Rogers finished 6.2 miles handing off to Adam Killion. While van 2 continued onward, we relaxed for a moment, touring the grounds and stretching before departing for Danville, where we would again meet van 2 for the next exchange.
The city of Danville was very welcoming, as it served as the exchange for both legs 12 and 17, with restaurants and cafes staying open all night to provide runners with food, coffee and a place to regroup.
Around 8pm, with temperatures steadily dropping after sunset, Jen Klinglesmith (Van 2) handed off to Priscila (Van 1), who dashed off into the dark decorated in flashing lights toward Standford. On the edge of a dimly lit highway was the next stop, where I began a difficult run, with my visible breath reminding me of the cold and a blanket of stars decorating the route.
After hand off, Melanie embarked on a 3-mile run titled “dark and lonely,” taking her past 3 graveyards on the edge of a narrow road as she ran back toward Danville from Stanford. Landing once again in Danville for the 3rd exchange, we decided to sleep in the van before heading to Wild Turkey when the exchange opened at 4:30am.
Walking down to the Wild Turkey Visitors Center after only 2 hours of sleep, we found a bourbon barrel fire roaring as sleepy, chilled runners waited for their teammates to appear for another hand off.
Around 7am, with the sun beginning to rise and temperatures in the high-30s, Priscila departed from Wild Turkey, weaving her way toward Lawrenceburg. I started my final run through rolling hills as the first rays of sun broke through the frosty air, past Thoroughbred training grounds and toward Woodford County Park.
After the final exchange with van 2 around 1pm on October 17, we headed to downtown Lexington for a hot meal and cocktail before meeting our final runner, Jen, to cross the finish line as a team before enjoying Bourbon Tastings and securing our finisher medals.
Team How Big Is Your Bar-rel (Size Matters) finished the Bourbon Chase in 31:52:31 Team Sponsors: Big Bar and UGo Bars.
Van 1: Priscila Funes, Josh Miller, Melanie Levin, Josh Johnson, JD Dotson, Adam Rogers
Van 2: Adam Killion, Jacob Mercier, Kelley Luckett, Steven Greenleaf, Scott Whitenack, Jen Klinglesmith