A boom in the 1970s saw the sport of running become the new cool thing to do. Whether it was for fitness, social or recreational purposes, people everywhere were looking for races to enjoy.
Local shop owner John Sensenig was among them, and he looked for one here after he moved to Lexington to teach psychology at the University of Kentucky.
In 1977, the Lexington Parks and Recreation department introduced the Bluegrass 10,000, held every Fourth of July.
“I saw this foot race and I said, ‘A 10K downtown, that would be fun. With the Fourth of July and all of that, that would be fun to do,’” Sensenig said.
Before that, the city sparsely held foot races. Now the Bluegrass 10,000 is in its 40th year.
Sensenig, who owns and runs John’s Run/Walk Shop, has been a part of all but four Bluegrass 10,000s. He credits the race for getting him into the sport and playing a part in him opening his shop.
“I met a bunch of other runners. We started running out at Todds Road for Saturday morning runs and made a lot of friends,” Sensenig said. “I figured out right away that the running boom was just starting. And I figured out that nobody knew a thing about shoes.”
Sensenig likes to describe his store more as a “healthy lifestyle center.” He and his employees offer advice on shoes, running in general and, because most of them run in the race, tips on the Bluegrass 10,000 itself.
Sensenig has become even more involved with the event by having his shop serve as a registration site. He has also served on the event’s technical committee.
The first Bluegrass 10,000 was a bit unorganized, Sensenig said. Some streets not being shut down frustrated drivers, and a delayed start had participants running during the hottest part of the day. Still, the event remains Sensenig’s favorite.
The Bluegrass 10,000 offers much that sets it apart. Sensenig, 81, himself benefits as he gets older from the race being divided by age groups.
“I’ll tell you what they do, it’s not unique but it’s sure not common, is they have five-year age groups all the way up to 100, or something like that,” Sensenig said. “To encourage the older people to get out and just walk it. You see 90-year-old people out there walking 6 miles. It’s great.”
And the course offers a lot, too, Sensenig said. He pointed out that the route offers spots for fan support throughout, and it has water and mist stations.
“It’s a good course. You run a loop around town. There’s no bad hills there. Then you go out Vine and Richmond Road, and it’s gradually uphill.”
The uphill approach on Richmond Road is where things get interesting in the race, Sensenig said. That is where runners have to pace themselves, and the hill often causes the leaders to fall back, opening up the race even more. “Those are the fun races,” he said.
One of those leaders will likely be former Henry Clay and Berea College star Antonio Marchi, who finished third last year. Marchi won the event in 2013 and 2014.
In the crank wheelchair group, Lily, Ky., native Greg Queen will be seeking his 12th straight win.
7:25 a.m.: Crank & Wheelchair Divisions
7:30 a.m.: 10K
8:15 a.m.: Fun Run