Balloon Race and Mini-Marathon

This is one of my favorite days Derby Week because there’s the potential for so much excitement! Today runners of all ages and experience levels will lace up their shoes for the final leg of the “Triple Crown of Running” in Louisville – the Derby Festival Mini-Marathon. Yes, there is a full 26.2 marathon option as well, but “The Mini” as it’s affectionately known steals the show.
In early January all the running stores put out a pile of training schedules that are soon snapped up by couch potatoes, casual runners, and serious competitors alike who’ve all made a New Year’s Resolution to run (or walk) the Mini this year. Scores of volunteers hand out water at several points throughout the race, shouting encouragement to everyone who goes by. The course is lined with friends and family holding signs, playing music, and cheering. I’ve never run the Mini myself (maybe someday), but I have several friends who run it every year. Here are few of them at last year’s race:
Say hello to Nancy, Kim, Jessica, and Brooke – serious competitors all!

The Great Balloon Race takes place this morning as well (weather permitting). Some years the runners get a special treat if the hot air balloons in the Great Balloon Race float over the course. The hare balloon (last year’s winning balloon) takes off first, course determined by the whim of Mother Nature, and tries to land in an open field or other area with plenty of room for balloons to maneuver and spectators to gather. Then the other balloons take off and head towards the target, which has now been marked with a big “X”. They don’t try to land on it, though. One of the balloonists in the basket tosses a bag filled with Bluegrass seed when they near the target and judges scramble to mark and measure. The closest bag to the target wins and that team gets to be the hare balloon next year. This all sounds pretty calm until you add on the hundreds of people in cars chasing the balloons.

In 2007 the wind was blowing just right to blow the balloons into an area of town I was very familiar with, so I pulled Jack out of bed, grabbed a to-go cup of coffee, and off we went. The secret is following the hare balloon as closely as possible, using back roads so you don’t get caught in traffic. Jack was so excited he could hardly stand it when the hare balloon nearly landed on our car. Really. I was stopped at a light, cars in front of me and behind me, and the balloon passed a few feet over our car and landed on the median next to us. Then they dragged it to the field a few yards away that they’d been aiming for. I did wonder what my insurance agent would have said if I’d had to report and crumpled car roof from a hot air balloon landing.

UPDATE: The balloon race has been cancelled due to inclement weather and will NOT be rescheduled. BUMMER!

Are you running the race this year? Have you run this race or a similar one in the past? Are you an insurance agent who’s paid a hot air balloon race related claim? Chime in and share!

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3 thoughts on “Balloon Race and Mini-Marathon”

  1. I think we should find a walkathon. I have done lots of those. I'm not a runner, but I sure could chase ballons. Please keep "John" out of harms way today.

  2. I love this picture of Nancy, Kim, and Brooke. Do I know Jessica?

    And, I'm stepping up to the challenge. Heaven help us all.

  3. The darn weather messes up everything. So sad that the balloon race was canceled. My daughter loved going to that when we lived in Kentucky.

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