|I started just behind the white bucket truck.|
In preparation for the first Mini-Marathon in 1977, the race was originally slated as a bicycle race. However, organizers decided that having a bike race in the month of May would take away from the annual Little 500 held every year at the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, Indiana. (See the movie Breaking Away-- a favorite of mine) So, they decided to organize a running race instead. The first two years of the event included some legends of the sport such as Frank Shorter, who won the inaugural event in 1977 in a time of 1:03:56. Year two was supposed to pit defending champion Shorter and running legend Bill Rodgers against each other. However, Shorter suffered an injury and opted for a ride in the pace car yelling out split times to his friend Rodgers. Rodgers won the event in 1:03. In the women’s race Boston Marathon winner Miki Gorman won in 1:20:56.
In 1979, the event became part of the 500 Festival, for the famed Indianapolis 500. The event continued to grow throughout the years. In 1991, my first ever Mini-Marathon, the continued growth of the race had increased to 11,032 participants. In 1993, the decision was made to move the finish line from the famed Yard of Bricks, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to downtown Indianapolis. In 2002 a record field of 25,000 participants made the race the largest half marathon in the nation. This has continued through the present time where organizers have capped the field at 35,000 participants. According to runningusa.org, this race is the 3rd largest half marathon in the world as of 2009.
This year would be no different; the field was set at 35,000 participants, of which I was one. It’s an amazing feeling standing “at the starting line,” or somewhere behind it, with 34,999 other racers. The sheer magnitude of the event and camaraderie is amazing.
At 4:30AM my alarm clock decided it was time to get me up and ready to go for the 7:30am gun time. I had laid out my things the night before so that I wouldn’t forget anything on the morning of May 7th, 2011, race day! I got out of bed and headed for the shower to help warm my legs and wake me up. For breakfast I had a bowl of steel cut oatmeal with raisins, maple syrup, and a touch of molasses. I then followed that up on the drive with a small coffee and a banana. We arrived in downtown Indianapolis at around 6:15 or so, and parked the car. As is my “M.O.”, I do not wear my running shoes in the car, so I began my routine of dressing out of the back of the car. My checklist goes something like this, although I don’t have it written down, yet. (After the mistake I made I shall make a real checklist in the future)
The unofficial checklist for TheBrainrunner: Vaseline between the toes, running socks, shoes, shorts, warm up pants if it’s cold, tech shirt, sweat shirt if it’s cold, race number, timing chip, safety pins, watch, iPod and arm band, headphones, gels, gel clip on pocket, sunglasses, a smearing of lip balm, gloves if cold, hat if cold, bottle of water for pre-race, my bafound.org wrist band, and band aids...all of which made the trip with me for this morning's race. (I know what you’re thinking, that’s a lot of stuff. And it is but, at least I’m prepared, right?) I was in good shape for the start, I had everything I needed, or so I thought.
My goal for this race was to run sub 1:50 which is just under an 8:24/mile pace. I was in corral E so I could actually see the starting line from where I was and ended up crossing only 3 minutes or so after the gun. At 7:15ish I took on my first gel so it would have enough time to get into my system before the start of the race. The National Anthem was sung, the gun fired and the green flag waved. I was off and running the 2011 One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon.
The thing about running in such a large race is that there are so many people and so many strategies it’s sometimes hard to follow yours. As we headed west on Washington Street passing the Eiteljorg Museum, the NCAA Hall of Champions, and the Indianapolis Zoo, it became evident to me that somehow there were some mix-ups in the seeding of some runners. Either that or they somehow got in the wrong corral. This was evident because of the excessive left to right movements I had to do to avoid running over anyone. But, for the most part I found everyone to be fairly courteous, and if I accidentally bumped someone's arm I apologized to them, not wanting to be “The Rude Runner.” At the first mile I checked my split against my watch and realized I was going much faster than I thought I was, with a 7:46 split. So I backed it down a little and began counting shoes of the same brand that I have. The number got up to six or seven pairs of Newtons over the next mile as my split came in at 8:19. I was feeling good. My breathing was regulated; I didn’t feel anything other than pure joy. I decided I should just go with it and run from effort instead of trying to regulate my pace based solely on split times.
I began to look for a friend of mine who started a couple of corrals ahead of me, but who had been nursing a foot injury over the last eight weeks. I knew he was going to run the race, but that based on what he was telling me, he would be slower than he normally is. I also knew that this burned him up inside. After about a mile or so I stopped looking for him. My thinking was that with this many people the chances of me being able to pick out a single person were slim. Then I realized that I needed to use the facilities, translated, I had to pee. Somewhere between miles 4, which happened to be my fastest mile at 7:41, and five I found a pit stop row of port-o-potty's. This slowed me down just a little bit.... I clocked that fifth mile at 8:54, but was back at it.
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway|
Just a little bit after mile five you enter the town of Speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500. Looming in the distance was the famed track, and I, along with 34,999 of my closest friends of the day were going to run on the same track that other racing legends had logged so many miles on in their cars. Just past mile six, and at an 8:02 pace, I enter the back stretch of “The Brickyard.” The track got this nickname because when it was first paved with bricks, it took 3.2 million bricks to complete the project. The front and back straightaways are 5/8 of a mile long with 9 degree banking. Each of the four turns has 12 degree banking, making up the 2.5 mile track. The seating capacity of 250,000 permanent seats makes this the world’s largest sporting facility.
|Turn 4 of the Speedway|
At mile seven (8:10 pace), I passed a gentleman who had a tic mark on the back of his shirt for each of these races he’d completed, which was twenty in all. What an inspiration he was! We spoke briefly and parted ways as I pushed on, exiting turn four then heading for the remaining stretch of bricks, which marks the Speedway's finish line. By chance, I spotted my friend up ahead and caught up to him so that we could pass over the bricks together. I wished him luck, and he said he was doing okay for someone who hadn’t trained in 8 weeks. He wished me luck and said I was looking good and seemed to be on pace for a PR. Mile 8 found my pace at 8:12 and I was having a great time. I even picked up a Hawaiian lei from one of the local high school cheer groups. I ran with that for maybe the length of two football fields, then decided it had to go.
With the track behind me and an 8:03 mile 9, it was time to begin the path back toward downtown to the finish line. Shortly after mile 10, with a pace of 8:17, I began to feel a slight burning sensation around my left pectoral muscle. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks! I brought my band aids, but I didn’t put them on. I had forgotten to cover my nipples, which were now chafing. Crap! "How could I have been so dumb?", is what I thought as I pictured them sitting on the fourth floor of the parking garage, in the back of my wife’s car, in the side pocket of my duffel bag... unused. I made a quick stop at one of the medical tents to ask if they had any band aids, which they did not. I guess they were more prepared for bigger issues than my now slightly bloody left chest. On I pushed turning off of 10th street and onto White River Pkwy, completing mile 11 in 8:11.
|Heading toward the finish|
I could feel myself beginning to get a little tired, so right before the next water stop I consumed the last of my four gels just in time to wash it down with some water. Then I found myself at mile 12 with a pace of 8:10. Looking at my watch, I knew my PR was going to happen today. I tried to pick up the pace to finish strong, but I started the kick a little early, having to slow with only a half left. Then a kind lady from the crowd saw that I was struggling, and thankfully read my name on my bib, yelling it out loud enough so that I could hear. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to dig a little deeper, and I was off again to finish strong. Both sides of the finishing stretch were lined with spectators and bleachers. I kept looking right to left for my wife and my two little girls who had made signs for me. But through all the crowds and my determination, it was hard to pick out any one thing. Sadly I didn’t get to see them cheering me on. As I pushed hard toward the finish line I was trying to do the math from the gun time clock to subtract what I thought was my finishing time.
I crossed the finish line with an official time of 1:46:58, which was revised from 1:47:01. Either of them would have been a PR for me, but going under the 47 minute mark seems a little sweeter. Before I was even halfway through the finishing chute, my wife had received a text that I had finished and she was calling me (you have to love technology.) We met just after that while I was still in the chute, so that I could grab a dry shirt and get some pictures taken with our girls.
What a spectacular race! I look forward to running it again and again. Hopefully one day, I can run it with my daughters, which is a day that I can’t wait to experience.