The Indy Mini Marathon is reportedly one of the largest half marathons in the country and it certainly lived up to its reputation. There were well over 35,000 runners packed into starting corrals that stretched nearly a mile long. The race expo was bigger than many marathons I’ve participated in. And there were hundreds of volunteers. If you’ve never done a big marathon and want a taste of what it’s like (without all the training), the Indy Mini marathon is a great choice. But like all big races, you have to register early. This thing sells out months before race day.
The race is run on a Saturday, so my wife and I drove to Indy the day before. It was a good plan since it allowed us to spend some time at the expo, see a little bit of downtown Indianapolis, and have a steak dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. It turns out there isn’t much in downtown Indianapolis beyond the mall.
The hotel wake-up call came at 6:30 am. Of course, I had been up for nearly an hour so it was unnecessary. But you can never be sure. I dressed in my gear laid out the night before and thought, “I really need a new joggling shirt.” The red one I wore was from 2005. No amount of washing removes the sweaty odor.
The start was a 5 minute walk from my hotel; excellent planning on Shannon’s part. I made my way to the H corral around 7:10 am and parked myself on the right side.
When joggling, it’s always advisable to stay off to one side, especially in crowded races.
I spent the next 20 minutes juggling, chatting with the runners around me and dodging beach balls. A tradition at the Indy Mini marathon is for the runners to hit beach balls around the crowd.
When the race started, our corral walked forward. Unfortunately, I had no previous time so I was in a corral with 2:20 racers. This did not bode well for my race time as I’d be expending a lot of energy passing people. After 10 minutes, we squeezed our way through the narrow starting gate and were off.
First half of the half
The first mile involved lots of bobbing and weaving. I joggled over curbs, through packs of runners, and around pot holes. It wasn’t simple to stay off to one side because there were lots of walkers or slower runners. The road clock read 19:05 when I passed mile one. This is the problem with starting around runners that are significantly slower. If you care at all about your time, be sure to get as far to the front of the race at the start as you can.
Remember, it’s better to be passed than to be passing.
The next few miles remained crowded but it steadily thinned. The race route took us through the northwest side of Indianapolis. There weren’t many people out cheering which surprised me since 35,000 runners were doing the race. In the Chicago marathon, the crowds watching are huge! Later someone told me it was the poorer side of Indy and people are reluctant to go down there. Fortunately, I got lots of encouragement from the other runners who were intrigued/amused by the joggling.
My only drop happened just after the 5 mile mark. There was no good reason for the drop. I looked into the crowd for a split second and when I looked back, two bean bags were colliding just above my left hand. I caught one but the other tumbled to the ground. I quickly picked it up and wondered why I didn’t drop more often since I look away all the time. Still haven’t figured it out.
Around the Indy track
The Indy 500 track is the 6th, 7th, and 8th miles of the mini marathon. It’s great because there are crowds of spectators cheering you into the stadium. You enter by going down a steep hill and then up a steep hill. The up hill was tough! Inside the stadium you cross through a driveway, pass a group of peppy cheerleaders and onto the asphalt track. The course was packed with runners, and if observed from one of the many hot air balloons that floated over head it must’ve looked like a parade of ants each carrying cupcake sprinkles.
I hammed it up in this race. At some of the mile clocks, I would throw a bean bag up over the clock while passing. When there were little kids holding their hands out, I would do a high throw, give them a high five, and catch the falling bag before it hit the ground. I also did so much winking and cheesy smiling that my face hurt by the end of the race. It was really quite embarrassing now that I think about it.
As we left the track, some twentysomething kid passed me and I got a bit irritated. “You should be able to stay with that guy!” I thought. So, I marked him as one to follow. The plan was to stick just behind him until right at the finish, and then pass him. And it mostly worked.
I was close on his heals as we passed the water stop outside the stadium. Stayed with him as we passed the smelly oil refinery. Remained just off his shoulder passed mile 10. Then he slowed down and I took the lead. I felt great! Never had a half marathon felt so pleasant.
Perhaps starting slow and getting faster is a better way to run.
Unfortunately, he went ahead of me in the last half mile and I couldn’t catch up.
In the final mile the big crowds were back and I looked for my wife. Unfortunately, I didn’t see her. She was watching on the right side, I was joggling on the left. She was also looking for a blue shirt, I was wearing red. You wouldn’t think it would be, but finding a joggler in a see of runners is sometimes difficult.
I crossed the finish when the clock said 1:49:35. My watch read 1:38:55. But somehow my official time was 1:39:00. No matter, I was not completely dissatisfied with my time. This wasn’t my fasted half marathon but it was quicker than most others and considering the crowded start, I did pretty well.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the Indy Mini Marathon and might do it again. It’s only a 3 hour drive and the race organization is excellent. Very joggler friendly!