How Mini-Marathons Work

Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon

The Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon is also tied to a popular sporting event. The 13.1-mile (21.08-kilometer) race is held a week before the Kentucky Derby, the most famous horse race in the world and the first leg of the three-stage Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. While the horses have raced at Louisville's Churchill Downs for more than 100 years, the humans have been running since 1974. More than 11,000 runners compete in the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon the last weekend in April each year.

The miniMarathon is part of a citywide festival, the 75-year-old Kentucky Derby Festival, which features the horse race as its centerpiece. The festival boasts more than 70 events, including a festival-opening televised fireworks display, a formal dance and a balloon race. There's also a full marathon run concurrently with the mini.

Registration begins the previous July and ends on Jan. 31. The $50 fee includes a number bib, time-tracking chip, T-shirt and poster. It also provides admission to the post-race party at Kroger's Fest-A-Ville entertainment venue.

The Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon categorizes runners by gender and age division; categories range from 15 and under to 70-plus. Wheelchair racers (who start 10 minutes before the rest of the pack) and corporate or fundraising teams may also enter.

As with other mini-marathons, participants must provide proof that they can finish the race. They must show a good time in a previous race to earn a corral at the front of the pack. At 7:30 a.m., entrants begin the day at the Iroquois Manor Shopping Center and then run through Iroquois Park. They then race through the city and its outskirts, including a lap around Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Because of the course's variety, runners run on grass, dirt and pavement, which adds an extra challenge. Total time allotted for mini-marathoners is six hours.

The 2010 miniMarathon route featured an exciting change for runners: The finish line was moved to Kroger's Fest-A-Ville on the Waterfront. This provides what Mike Berry, President and CEO of the Kentucky Derby Festival, calls a "more comfortable and scenic reunite area for runners and their loved ones" [source: Route Changes]. The Fest-A-Ville features food, other concessions and a concert to help race participants and fans celebrate.

Coming up next, we'll look at a magical run in a magical place: the Walt Disney World Half Marathon.