This weekend we returned to the race of our half marathon PR. The weather could not have been more different than our last half two weeks ago at the Southernmost Half Marathon in Key West. SOMO start temp: 80. Big Hit start temp: 33. I must admit, I am not yet into the winter running mode, and am not in practice in properly layering. However, I luckily hit the nail on the head on this one.
We arrived early to get in a couple of miles before the race, since we were scheduled to run 15 miles this weekend for our WDW Marathon training. We were not as early as we wanted to be, so we cut it to 1.5. Even then, we were not able to get a restroom break before the start since the lines were so long by that point. We decided we would just hit some along the way. Not the best choice.
As you can see from the home plate in the race logo above, “Big Hit” is a baseball reference. The race started just outside Louisville Slugger Field, a minor league stadium. The finish was at home plate, but more on that later. This is a small to medium-sized race with about 900 runners as far as I could tell from the bib listings. As a result, the start was smooth, and not very crowded. We lined up at the 11 minute mile pace sign, and we were on our way.
The race headed out River Road for a short out and back before we headed back toward downtown Louisville. It was a beautiful morning for a run, and we started out at a comfortable pace. At about mile 1.5 we saw some porta pots off to the side of the course with no line. Score! Well, not really. They were locked! Teases!
After about a minute delay for that failed mission, we made our way down River Road, past the Belle of Louisville steamboat. We were regretting not being able to make that bathroom stop before the race. The comfortable pace was not so comfortable any more. Just past mile two, at the water stop, we spotted some porta potties with only one person in line. Great! Well, not so fast yet again. I think the two folks in the porta pots ahead of us, and the one in line, were the slowest restroom-break-takers I have ever seen. That was a VERY frustrating 4 minute stop in the middle of a run. We weren’t necessarily shooting for a PR, but we are a competitive couple, and it was still a pain in the rear. If we didn’t have pains in the bladders, we would have moved on. But we weren’t taking any chances.
After that annoyance, we continued on through downtown Louisville, past the KFC Yum! Center, and past the Louisville Slugger factory, home of the world’s largest bat.
The race then took us out of downtown, where the 1/4 marathon race turned off, and we continued toward U of L and Churchill Downs. This is a gorgeous stretch of the run, following tree-lined streets with stately old homes. There were bands spaced along the course, which was great, and there was some good crowd support at spots along the course.
Much of the way out toward Churchill Downs, we had the great 2:30 pace group leader near us. She cheered loudly for each and every runner she passed on the out and back portion of the course. It was certainly a pick-me-up, and it was great to see all the smiles she caused. We had made it a goal to catch her after our bathroom delay. We did that by mile 6, and we were out of earshot by about mile 8.5. The race turned around at mile 8 outside Churchill Downs and made its way back to Slugger Field. (We got a cheer of our own from the 2:30 pace girl!) I really like this part of the course too. It is essentially a 4 mile stretch that feels downhill back toward the river, and it follows that same tree-lined street.
We were able to see the folks still heading out on our way back, which is always interesting. We saw the last of the runners heading the other way. Right behind them were the sweepers. Not just any ordinary sweepers. The Big Hit doesn’t mess around when it comes to sweepers!
We continued back through downtown Louisville and made our way back to Slugger Field. The route takes runners in through the center field fence, around the warning track, down the third base line, and finishes at home plate, which makes for a great experience to end the race. We finished our 11th half marathon strong, with a pretty decent pace for us. It was more than twenty minutes faster than the SOMO just two weeks prior, and knowing that we blew about 4 minutes on bathroom issues, we felt pretty good about our time. What a difference 40+ degrees makes!
A lot of people make a big deal about running through Angel stadium at the Disneyland Half (me included) or Champion Stadium at Disney World, but having the opportunity to finish on home plate at Slugger Field tops both of those for me. Sure, the crowd is smaller than Angel Stadium, but the experience is certainly better than finishing in some parking lot.
I like to think the Big Hit is an undiscovered gem. It has a great course, good organization, enthusiastic volunteers, and a really cool finish. Maybe I am just biased because it home to our PR. So be it. I hope to be back again next year.