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Race to follow Bourbon Trail

A new adventure relay race called The Bourbon Chase will be held for the first time in Kentucky in October 2009.

Teams consisting of 12 runners will run along the state's famed Bourbon Trail on Oct. 9-10. The race will start near Bardstown and finish in Lexington, but the route the runners will take covers nearly 200 miles.

"Certainly, running along the trail in horse country is beautiful. It's a great way to showcase our finest products," said Mary Quinn Ramer, vice president of tourism marketing for the Lexington Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The idea for the race came from Mike Kuntz, a former track and field coach at the University of Louisville and Bellarmine University.

He participated in Oregon's annual Hood to Coast Relay in 2001 with former U of L runners.

"This is the grandmother of them all," he said of the Oregon race.

"I thought we could do an event in Kentucky that could be even better," he said, adding that Kentucky has more to market, and the Bourbon Trail has more beautiful scenery than the Oregon race route.

"I felt like we could have a better runner's experience in Kentucky. ... Oregon was beautiful, but they really didn't showcase the state," he said.

Kuntz talked with people in the bourbon industry about his idea for a race in Kentucky nearly a year ago.

"It's my idea that's been slightly tweaked," he said of the Kentucky race.

Lexington has been designated as the host city for the overnight relay race.

"We want to have a huge post-race event here in Lexington," Ramer said.

She said the race could have an $800,000 to $1 million economic impact on the Lexington area. People who participate in such events often stay overnight in the cities where the races end, she said.

"Ultimately our goal is to have an event that will bring people from every corner of the United States," she said.

Next year's race will be held the same weekend that Keeneland Race Course's fall meet starts, so participants can enjoy the city after the run, then head to the track, she said.

Up to 4,000 participants and volunteers are expected the first year for The Bourbon Chase, which is designed to celebrate Kentucky's bourbon production history, according to planners of the event. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail links distilleries in the state, where visitors can see how bourbon is made.

Each runner will run three three- to eight-mile legs. Support vans will drop off and pick up runners at designated exchange points along the route.

"This is a great opportunity to introduce our signature industry to thousands of adventurous travelers," said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers' Association.

Details for the event are still being worked out, including what prizes the winners will receive.

"I think there's nothing to win on a Bourbon chase really than bourbon," Kuntz said.

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