Former Kentucky runner’s Bluegrass 10,000 mark still holds up 36 years later

See a slide show of the 2018 Bluegrass 10,000

Lexington kicked off its Fourth of July celebration with the 42nd annual Bluegrass 10,000 road race through downtown on Wednesday morning.
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Lexington kicked off its Fourth of July celebration with the 42nd annual Bluegrass 10,000 road race through downtown on Wednesday morning.

On July 4, 1983, Mark Nenow skipped a big-money race in Georgia and ran in his first and only Bluegrass 10,000 race.

Nenow’s performance in the race was outstanding: he finished with a time of 29 minutes and 14 seconds, setting an event record that still stands 36 years later.

Nenow was, at the time, one of the best 10K distance runners in the world. He held the U.S. record for the event from 1986, when he ran 27:20 in Belgium, until 2001, when it was broken by future Olympian Meb Keflezighi. According to USA Track and Field, he still holds the record for the fastest open road 10K time, at 27:48, set in 1986 in Phoenix.

Nenow said that he didn’t plan on going for the record when he ran in the Lexington race.

“I was just gonna run hard,” Nenow said. “I probably was thinking I would win it, because I was kind of in my prime at that time and was racing all over the world really. So really to run a regional road race like that, I don’t know that I was shooting for any time as much as just wanting to have fun and, you know, win my hometown race.”

Nenow, who originally hails from Minnesota but ran cross country and track at the University of Kentucky, said that he is somewhat surprised that his record still holds today.

“I mean it’s kind of a fun road race,” Nenow said. “So maybe it’s not so serious for people, some of the really fast runners, but after so many years I guess I would be surprised.”

Nenow didn’t usually get the chance to run in the Bluegrass 10,000, as he was usually further south for the Fourth of July.

“There used to be a big race in Atlanta,” Nenow said, “with a lot of prize money and a lot of world-class runners and I ran the Peachtree. It was right around the Fourth. I know that was always a draw for the kind of world-class road runners to participate in, but I remember that one summer where it kind of worked for me to run the Bluegrass 10,000. I was in town and just kind of a break for me, so it was kind of fun to run in your hometown.”

Nenow moved to Portland, Ore., in the early 1990s and remains there today. He serves as the president of Sorel, a shoe company that is owned by Columbia Sportswear. Nenow said that while he remains active, he doesn’t run anymore.

“I competed all the way through the ‘80s and sort of quit racing competitively maybe around 1989, 1990,” Nenow said. “And then I kept running for exercise, but at some point I just kind of gave it all up, maybe around 10 years ago or more. I still exercise a lot, but I just do everything else but running.”


Bluegrass 10,000

Wheelchair events: 7:25 a.m.

10K race: 7:30 a.m.

1-mile fun run: 8 a.m.