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The Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon (derbyfestivalmarathon.com) doubles down on the concept of a day at the races. This springtime event, which will be held on April 25, 2014, takes runners through a 26.2-mile tour of Louisville, including the historic district, U of L’s campus and Churchill Downs. The hilly course presents a challenge, so if you’re more a filly than a workhorse, opt for the 13.1-mile distance. The races are part of the city’s larger festival weekend, which includes an epic fireworks display, hot-air balloon event and steamboat challenge.
Co-founded by a former Olympian and his runner wife, BlueMile (bluemile.com) is the go-to spot in Kentucky to geek out on running gear. Pick up an extra massage stick at either of their two locations in Louisville, and you might be treated to a free yoga class. If it’s your first time in the city, head to Why Louisville (whylouisville.com) to get a quirky souvenir, like a thoroughbred jack-in-the-box.
The racecourse cuts through Iroquois Park, but Fredrick Law Olmstead’s stately design, featuring manicured foothills, deserves a second visit. Or get a taste of the wild without leaving the city limits at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park, where runners can choose between a grassy, wooded trail or a crushed limestone path bordered by flowering trees.
Eat freaks should make a res at 610 Magnolia (610magnolia.com). Edward Lee of “Top Chef” fame heads the kitchen, serving up quirky fare, like bison carpaccio atop horseradish purée. But for a true taste of Kentucky (without the Colonel’s influence), head to Jack Fry’s (jackfrys.com). Although prohibition has long since ended, the 1930s establishment maintains its swanky, speakeasy feel with dark wood, stiff drinks and big steaks.
Your post-marathon legs likely won’t be up for museum hopping, so why not bring the art to you? In the heart of downtown, 21C Museum Hotel (21cmuseumhotels.com) features contemporary artwork and conceptual design. (Think stained-glass ceilings and waterfall mirrors.) If you’re in the market for something a little more old world, book a room at The Brown Hotel (brownhotel.com), where the elegant English Renaissance design will transport you to a time when a big-city marathon was naught but a footrace.