A half-marathon through the rolling Bluegrass countryside is an excellent way to showcase Lexington and people who are passionate about their health, local officials said Tuesday.
A news conference at the Keene land Library showcased the 2012 course of Run the Bluegrass as a chance to view what's "out the back door of Keeneland." The back two rows of the library were filled with runners, cyclists, yoga practitioners and all manner of people finding ways to keep fit in Lexington.
They represent only a fraction of Lexington's health-conscious residents, "in spite of what Men's Health thinks," said Eric Patrick Marr, organizer of Run the Bluegrass, prompting a round of applause from the crowd.
Last month, Men's Health magazine labeled Lexington the city "where sit happens" and ranked it the most sedentary in the nation.
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Marr, Mayor Jim Gray, Keene land executive director Nick Nicholson and Terry Johnson, executive director of the Kentucky Sports Authority, used Tuesday's news conference to promote physical health and the economic impact recreation can have on Kentucky.
Johnson, who joked that "I only run when chased," said this year's Run the Bluegrass drew about 1,000 participants from more than 20 states, and that meant hotels, restaurants and other business got a revenue bump.
That number is likely to rise to 1,500 in 2012, Marr said.
The recently charted course goes through horse farms and rural landscapes just minutes from the city, Nicholson said.
"You will feel like you are way far out in the country," he said.
The appeal of Central Kentucky's natural beauty offers a chance to create the image of Lexington as a destination for runners, Gray said.
"It is very achievable and a very big deal," he said.
Emily Sandford, aka blogger Skinny Emmie, was at Tuesday's news conference. Soon after the Men's Health designation made national news, she had posted on Twitter her skepticism about Lexington's fitness ranking.
Sandford, who used her blog, SkinnyEmmie.com, to chronicle her loss of 112 pounds, participated in Run the Bluegrass last year.
On her blog, Sandford says, "Run your own race," a quote borrowed from Penny Chenery, the American sportswoman who owned Secretariat, the 1973 winner of the Triple Crown. Chenery will be the honorary starter at the 2012 Run the Bluegrass.
Marr used the quote as well, saying it's not how fast or how far someone runs, or whether he or she runs at all. It's about finding some way to feel healthy. The 2012 race will offer a relay option, so a team of runners may complete the course.
In reaction to Men's Health, Marr offered to race an editor of Men's Health, and Gray wants to go on Comedy Central to accept the Golden Reacher-Grabber Award that Stephen Colbert bestowed on the city. Neither Marr nor Gray has heard back.
Gray said that whether it is in response to negative publicity such as the Men's Health article or helping to form a world-class running event, such challenges offer "an incredible opportunity for us to come together as a city."