It was just after midnight and very cold when my bleary-eyed friend asked, "Why are we doing this?"
We were at a gas station in Kentucky, somewhere between Louisville and Lexington, in the midst of a 200-mile overnight relay race through bourbon country. Our team of 12 had been running since 8:45 a.m., and we were almost halfway through the 36 legs, which range from 3.9 to 8.6 miles, and of which we each would run three.
The Kentucky Bourbon Chase is a bucket-list adventure. You run through quaint towns and rolling horse country, then hand off the relay bracelet at historic distilleries where you can enjoy a bourbon tasting between legs.
Drinking alcohol while running or in your shuttle vans is strictly prohibited, but you make up for it at welcoming parties and at a finish-line party in downtown Lexington.
First held in 2009, the race draws people with a distinct costumed-boozy-athlete sensibility, but founder and event director Mike Kuntz insists it is "not a running frat party."
The former University of Louisville track coach conceived the idea after completing the Hood to Coast overnight relay race in Oregon and thought he could do better.
It has become very popular. Kuntz accepted only 325 of the approximately 700 teams that applied for the 2013 race. For the 2014 race, scheduled for Oct. 17 and 18, he hopes to accept 400 to 450 teams. Registration for 2014 opens Jan. 2. at bourbonchase.com.
As our last runner charged to the finish line 34 hours after we started, and we fell in line behind her to cross it together, it was clear why we do this crazy race: the challenge, the bonding, to know you can.