Bourbon Chase

Crestwood, Ky., team
readies for ‘Chase’

More than 300 teams compete
in the overnight relay

CRESTWOOD, Ky. (October 2013) – The anticipation that leads to The Bourbon Chase is what keeps Crestwood resident Patrick Welborn looking forward to the overnight team relay year after year. It’s more than just a race; it’s a team effort among 12 individuals who pull together to cross the finish line ahead of the pack


Photos provided

Keith Cummins (Above) and Patrick Welborn pose with the barrel head trophy in a past year’s event. Below, the Crestwood team finishes. They are (from left) Ashli Collins, Todd Mullins, Channing Reeder (back in jeans), Clay Jones and Wyatt Self.


“In much of racing, you may train with other people, but all races are individual type events. The Bourbon Chase truly is a team event,” said Welborn, 44. His is one of several Oldham County-based teams that compete in the event.
The Bourbon Chase is a 200-mile journey that takes runners through 12 communities along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The trail was formed in 1999 by the Kentucky Distillers Association to give visitors to the state a first-hand look at the art and science of crafting bourbon.
There are 300 teams scheduled to run in this year’s Bourbon Chase, each having one captain and 12 runners. “It starts at Jim Bean Distillery in Clermont, Ky., and runs through Maker’s Mark and Heaven Hill,” Welborn said. The relay travels from Bardstown, continuing through central Kentucky’s historic areas.
Next it winds around Lawrenceburg and Frankfort, through the rolling bluegrass countryside. The relay crosses through Midway and Lexington, with the finish line located at Triangle Park near the Alltech Brewery and Distillery.
“It’s really a unique experience,” said Welborn, who grew up in Indiana. The Bourbon Chase began in 2009. Welborn has competed every year. He was the captain of his team for the first four years.
This year’s Bourbon Chase will be held on Oct. 18-19. Starting times vary, with the first team taking off at 8 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 18.
There are 36 legs to the race, each member of the 12-person team running three legs apiece. “We also have two van drivers and 12 runners,” said Welborn, an engineer with Dow Corning Corp.
He likes the midnight run the best. “There’s certain gear that you wear.” This includes a reflective vest with flashers on the back.
Some sections are hilly, but the relay is ran on country roads and state highways, he said. Last year Welborn’s team finished the race in 24.5 hours, winning their division, Mixed Masters.
His team consists of men and women, all over age 40. They have won two of the last three years in the Mixed Masters division.
Welborn has never competed in other relays but has run in marathons and half-marathons and participated in the Triple Crown races. In regard to training he said, “I try to get some runs in with the team and as an individual.”
Mike Kuntz is the Event Director for The Bourbon Chase. After pitching his idea for the relay to bourbon distilleries in late 2007, the idea became an actual event in 2009.
The concept is “based on three things I love: fitness and running, Kentucky and bourbon,” said Kuntz. “You put them together, and you’ve got a winning combination.”
Kuntz said he borrowed the idea from another relay in which he participated. At the time, he was coaching at the University of Louisville and was asked to run a 200-mile overnight relay in Oregon. “I really enjoyed it,” he said.
At the time, The Bourbon Trail had just been born in Kentucky. Kuntz thought that he would apply the same principles to a relay set in Kentucky and provide a unique experience for every participant.
Since the relay’s inception, Kuntz said he has received a lot of support from tourism offices along the route. “The bourbon industry people have been very helpful as well.”
He said the race is geared “for the most part for the regular jogger or runner.” Last year, participants were from 44 states and four countries.
Winners in nine different divisions receive an award and a basketful of bourbon-related gifts. This might include bourbon bottles signed by Master Distillers, hats, shirts and flasks.
Welborn said organizers “do a great job running this event. They have studied other relays to see how they are laid out. Then they put a Kentucky flair on it.”
“I feel very fortunate to have come up with a neat idea,” said Kuntz. “I didn’t know it would grow to be the most popular overnight relay.” Because of the success of The Bourbon Chase, “I feel like an ambassador to the state.”

• For more information, visit: www.BourbonChase.com.

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