November 25, 2010 3 Comments
I was a little nervous going into this race. Not because it was the first weekend I would spend with Steph’s parents without Steph, but because it was the first time I do two half marathons in seven days. With Wisconsin under my belt, I went into the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (more commonly known as “the Mini”) with cautious apprehension.
It was fitting that I go with the Snyders to Indy for this race. Not only did they tell me about it, but they’ve been running it for four years, with a new runner each time. But more importantly, it was Steve, Steph’s dad, who got me into running over two years ago. It was he who signed me up for the Shamrock Shuffle and when your girlfriend’s dad signs you up for something, you have to do it. Luckily, I loved it. That alone was enough of a motivator to tag along and run the famous race – it wasn’t entirely necessary to tempt me with the fact that it’s the largest half marathon in the United States or that you get to run an entire loop around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But it helps.
After a fun four-hour drive, we arrived at the Indianapolis Marriott, ready for the ceremonial meal at Buca di Beppo. The last time I had been to Buca with the Snyders, Steph’s dad made the mistake of making all orders “large” – for anyone familiar with Buca, a large order feeds 5 people. Needless to say, I took home enough baked rigatoni to fill a small bathtub. This time we brought very little back with us, though I wish I had eaten myself into a coma because the fireworks from the nearby Indians stadium went off at midnight and kept me awake.
The next morning, we woke up to see the trees on Washington Street being pushed down by strong, harsh winds. Temperatures in the low 40’s were keeping crowds indoors and corrals empty. I followed suit by staying in the hotel room until they made announcements that the corrals were soon closing. I had been assigned to Corral B (which I thought was too ambitious), and as such was tucked away by the start line. I hunched next to a stone sign for the Eiteljorg Museum and let the wind cut over my head. Once in the Corral, my leg muscles began to twitch furiously in hopes of keeping warm but to no avail. Fortunately, the race started on time, unleashing the floodgates of over 30,000 runners attempting to cover the 13.1-mile distance of the country’s largest half marathon.
The course begins on Washington, hugging the Indianapolis Zoo, where a few volunteers were dressed as meerkats. Steve later told me that an elephant had at one point made his way to the edge of his habitat to play spectator to the event. From there, it runs down Michigan Street through residential neighborhoods lined with bands. Lots … and lots of bands. Some were playing the requisite upbeat country songs with the signature twang, while others were bedecked in black, thrashing away at equally lugubrious songs. Around mile 4, I caught the tail end of “Enter Sandman”, which was appreciated. I saw tap dancers, an old guy on his front porch with a huge speaker connected to a laptop, and even a troupe of elderly women in pleaded skirts dancing YMCA right before the entrance to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Ah, the Speedway. We had to run through some unattractive neighborhoods and industrial parks to get there, but once in the racetrack, I couldn’t help but marvel at the enormity of it. I guess I was expecting it to be fun at first but then get boring. It didn’t. Not once inside the 2.5-mile loop did I want to leave the stadium. Cheerleaders in costume lined the Brickyard, neon signs waving left and right – even though there were no crowds in the stands the atmosphere was electric. It was with this energy that I decided to pick up my pace and try to kill it.
I ran my next two miles at 7:54 to round out a 10 mile PR. The last 5k of the race was a straightaway on 10th Street, followed by the final stretch on New York. The remainder of the course wasn’t as loud or entertaining as the first half, but there were still fair amounts of musical acts and boisterous water stations (of which, by the way, there were seventeen). The morning headwinds having oddly vanished and the field far from thinning, I kicked down New York, the finish line in sight. I sprinted past the bleachers of supportive spectators to finish in 1:40:32, a new personal best.
Earlier in the year, I did some Facebook investigating (read: stalking) to see if any Wildcats were in Indianapolis and if so, find out if they were running the Mini. As it turns out, my Indianapolis network has a population of one: Francesca Jarosz, and yes, she was running the Mini. From now on, I’ll assume that 1:1 statistic of every future half marathon I run (so look out, Boston). After the race, I met up with Ms. Jarosz to say hi and briefly catch up.
May was shaping up to be the most intensive month of the year. Two half marathons down in the first eight days and only three weeks to go until Boston’s Run to Remember.