Indianapolis Mini Marathon Redux

Well, it didn’t turn out the way I anticipated. I got my bib number, no problem. I got to the race on time, no problem. I was able to urinate in the bushes before the start, no problem. I began to run after crossing the starting line, no problem. But that’s where it all went wrong.

Over 35,000 participates were crammed into 5-6 city blocks of downtown Indianapolis. This is not even including spectators, volunteers, and support staff. Needless to say it was a zoo. Luckily, I had a friend drop me off about 5-6 blocks from my starting area so I didn’t have to deal with traffic and could walk off some nervous energy. You were put in “corrals” or staging areas depending on your estimated finishing time. These areas were labeled A-Z with the elite runners in front of “A”. I posted an expected 1:40 finishing time which put me in “H”, or in the first 1/3 of the pack. It was amazing walking from behind “Z” up to “H” and seeing so many people who would start behind me. Then to know that there were 7 “corrals” still in front of me……

The weather was 55 degrees and cloudy. Not much wind but chilly enough for a base layer and short-sleeved shirt. The lines for the port-o-potties were enormous so I did the old bike race move and dove into some bushes to relieve myself. After racing my bike for 15 years I don’t have much modesty and can easily go in sight of people. I felt relieved and hydrated.

I made it to the start line about 5 minutes after the elite runners started. At this point I started to panic. At the point when we should have been running and thinning out there were people everywhere. It was absolute chaos. You were shoulder to shoulder with runners AND walkers. It was like running through a crowded shopping mall. There was nowhere to go. I was running in the grass, on the sidewalk, and in the gutter. I was weaving in/out of runners, walkers, and spectators. It was surreal.

At mile 2 I thought to myself, “This HAS to eventually thin out, it will get better”. This was far from the truth. The thing that struck me as odd was that I was actually passing people walking and probably running at a 10:00 pace. You were suppose to accurately guess your finishing time so that faster runners would be in the front and slower runners at the back. According to the staging I was in the 1:40 half or 3:30 full marathon section. How could this be as I was passing all these people?

At mile 3 mile I was beginning to feel the effects of all my weaving, crossing, slowing down, speeding up, jumping curves, and running in the grass. I was getting tired. I hit the 5K mark in about 21:30 (06:55 pace).

It rained over night so the roads were kind of wet, but drying. I hadn’t noticed before but now I realized I was sweating a lot. I guess it was pretty humid. Normally for a 13.1 mile race I would not take in that much fluids while running. Instead I would rely on pre-race hydration and keeping momentum. However, I began to drink more than I typically would in order to stave off dehydration. But, as all you rabbits know, once you start to feel the need it is already too late. My legs were hurting, my breathing rate was starting to rise, and I was getting dehydrated. I decided to slow down a little bit for a big finish.

At mile 6 we entered the Indianapolis 500 track. This was bitter sweet for me. It was cool to run on the track but during the race it is kind of a let down. Up to that point it was wall to wall spectators. People cheering, bands playing, and horns honking. When you enter the track all that stops because no one is allowed on the track. So you run for 2.5 miles in a big oval with empty stands. They were playing music on the sound system and had a couple of high school cheerleading squads along the course and 2 fluid stations but other than that it was the complete opposite of outside the stadium. Fortunately we didn’t have to run on any of the banking. On a side note, as I was half way around the track I got to see the 2 winners cross the line on big screen monitors. So I was at like mile 7 when they were finishing.

While on the tack we passed by the mile 8 marker. I was 1:01 (07:38 pace) into the race. This gave me some sense of relief as my pre-race agenda was to do 8 miles in 1:00 (07:30 pace). I was feeling like dirt but still on pace, sort of.

Exiting the track the mayhem began again. Crowds were cheering and music was playing. The sun actually came out once I left the track in a kind of baptismal moment. However, this is where I hit the wall. I began to get slower and slower until I had to walk for the first time. This is when I conceded an anticipated PR to just finishing this god damn thing. Normally walking would not cross my mind in a 13.1 mile event. Dan and I walked maybe 2 or 3 times for no longer than 15 seconds each for the St. Louis Marathon. And as all you rabbits know, once you stop the first time you are more likely to do it again.

Between miles 10 and the finish I must have walked 4 or 5 more times. I was kind of weary and don’t remember a whole lot about the final 1/3 of the race. I do remember making the final left hand turn over a bridge and knowing there was only 1 mile to go. The finishing straight is on a pretty flat, straight road to the finish. I looked up and could see probably 1,000 or so runners spread out over the 4-lane road for as far as I could see. This really put it into perspective for me. I was just trying to finish and so were about 40,000 or more people on this day.

I did gain some momentum on the final kick as I was passing people right and left. Unlike other races where the racers are kind of funneled into a shoot or 1 lane of the road, we had all 4 lanes to finish. People were anonymously finishing in droves across all 4-lanes. I think I heard about 5 beeps as I crossed indicating that probably 5 other people finished within a couple seconds of me. There were stands filled on both sides of the street for the last 100 yards or so with people cheering and music blasting but nothing personal about finishing. It’s hard to make it personal when 3 people are finishing every second, I guess. The shitty part was that not 10 feet after crossing the finishing line everyone had to come to a dead, standstill stop because there were so many people in front of you. I nearly passed out.

I finished with a time of 1:46 and change. I think I averaged 08:10 pace. Not my best day.  Dan graciously pointed out that this pace was even worse than my full marathon pace.  Thanks Dan.

In the recovery area I was exhausted, depressed, dehydrated, and delirious. Because of my disorientation I had a hard time figuring out where I was supposed to go to meet my ride. It was a long 10 block walk back to the meeting point. I was only 10 minutes late thankfully. Exhausted I was happy to get into the car and go home.

Retrospectively I can think of a couple reasons for my bad day. 1) I was really nervous going into the race. I learned early on in my cycling career that the less nervous I am the better the racing outcome. I have never been nervous before a running race even for both marathons. I think being relaxed is a big key for my success. 2) I was too confident in setting a PR. I had a good marathon result and set a PR for a 10K the week before so I was excited about Indy……maybe too excited. 3) I should have lied, like everyone else, to get a closer starting position. This would have put me in with faster runners which would have eliminated the need to bop and weave the entire race. 4) I should have never thought about doing so well in a race this size. There are just too many participants to get into a good tempo. You need more space and room to run. I was literally shoulder-to-shoulder with people the entire run. It never thinned out. Even during the finishing straight I was weaving in/out of traffic. Imagine the start of a moderately sized race where you have to walk fast, jog, then start running while making sure you don’t trip on the person in front of you. Then imagine running like that for 13 miles. IT WAS CRAZY!

The amazing part was that for as many participants as there were the race was extremely well organized. I guess after 32 years you get really good at. From the online registration, to the bib pick-up, to the start line activities, the actual race organization, and the finishing area it was very professional. Not easy to do for probably 100,000 people. Apparently, the whole community helps out. The part I liked the most was that there was a band playing probably every 1/8 mile or so. Once you got out of ear shot of one band you could hear another one playing up ahead. Even in the track. It was very motivating. Thanks for hosting such a great event.

If you haven’t read about the race, do it now. The men’s race ended in a tie. That’s right a tie. Can you believe that? It was amazing seeing it on the big screen while I ran around the track. Pretty exciting.

This event is good if you want to go out and run 13.1 miles. It’s a great starter half marathon because of the motivation and energy brought on by the crowd and participants. If you want to run with a friend and enjoy the run it is a great event. However, for me, if I want to race or post a good time this is not the race for me. Will I do it again……probably.