Indy Mini-Marathon 2017

This race report documents my ninth consecutive running of the Indy 500 Festival Mini-Marathon.

This year’s event had the lowest number of participants of any year since I became a runner, with only nineteen thousand entrants reaching the finish line. No doubt part of the reason for the poor attendance was the weather forecast of cold, rain, and wind, which caused many entrants to not show up at the start line. For me, though, the weather didn’t matter, because I invested too much time and effort. No excuses. This is Indiana. The weather wasn’t perfect when I was training, and I don’t require it to be perfect when I race.

I woke up at 5:15 am before the alarm activated, got dressed and ate a breakfast of bread, jam, and coffee by 6:15 am, arrived in downtown Indianapolis at 6:45 am, and got to the starting area along the corrals at 7:15 am. I stepped into the PNC building for a few minutes to stay warm and dry, then entered my assigned corral. The temperature was 43 F with light rain and light breeze. I wore a long sleeve technical running shirt under a short sleeve shirt under a lined jacket, with running shorts, running shoes, and a cap. I may have been overdressed, but I was remembering the previous cold mini-marathon a few years ago when I was underdressed and miserable, and feared making the same mistake again. I wore my indispensable running watch and pinned the bib and timing device onto the right leg of my shorts to offer flexibility in layering and un-layering during the race.

The race organizers did something different with the starting corrals this year, though I haven’t exactly figured out the something. I was assigned to corral “N” in the middle of the third wave, even though I copied and pasted the same information into the registration form as in previous years when I was assigned to corral “E” in the back of the first wave. Throughout the race this year I was packed into a crowd of runners, elbow to elbow and toe to heel, but it was okay, because most everyone around me was running at the same pace as me. Kudos to the organizers for getting starting assignments right.

The third wave was scheduled to start at 7:50 am, and it took my corral an additional three minutes to reach the start line. Once we were finally running, I was mildly concerned about my shoes maintaining grip on the wet asphalt, but I never slipped. The trip from downtown Indianapolis to the town of Speedway was uneventful. My split times were 10:29 minutes for mile 1, 10:18 minutes for mile 2, 10:18 minutes for mile 3, and 10:11 minutes for mile 4, with an official 5K course pace of 10:33 minutes per mile. As in previous races, my running watch was showing an extra 0.01 miles per actual course mile, which would equate to a shortage of six seconds per mile on my watch. I skipped all three beverage stations. I was maintaining what I planned to be a conservative pace in the beginning of the race that would set me up to achieve my elapsed time goals, however the pace felt more aggressive than I expected, and I realized I needed to temper my goals for this day.

The rain slowed and then stopped, though the humidity was high and road surfaces remained wet. Running through downtown Speedway and into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is always fun. My split times were 9:59 minutes for mile 5, 10:26 minutes for mile 6, and 9:47 minutes for mile 7, with an official next 5K course pace of 10:10 minutes per mile. As I write this race report, I don’t remember why mile 6 was slower. I skipped the water stations but patronized the Gatorade station, a practice that would continue for the remainder of the race. Although I was running hard, I felt good and hoped to be saving enough energy to be able to speed up at the end of the race

Unexpectedly, the clouds thinned and rays of sunlight occasionally penetrated, raising the actual temperature toward 50 F and the apparent temperature even warmer. Once I crossed the yard of bricks in the speedway, I paused briefly to remove my jacket and tie the sleeves around my waist. When I noticed that the excess jacket sleeves were dangling over the bib and timing device pinned to my running shorts, I adjusted the knot and rotated the jacket to try to expose the bib, and tried minimize the distraction as I continued to run. My split times were 9:54 minutes for mile 8, 9:50 minutes for mile 9, 9:47 minutes for mile 10, and 10:01 for mile 11, with an official next 5K course pace of 9:57 minutes per mile. I planned to be running at a pace around ten minutes per mile during most of the course, and I was pleased to have been able to accomplish this.

At this point in the race, I felt hot and tired and my performance was falling apart. My mind was saying it’s time to bring the pace down to about 9:40 minutes per mile and get to the finish line as quickly as possible. My body was saying it gave everything its got and it’s time to take a break. My mind said get moving now because there’s just two miles to go. My body said that’s not happening on this day. I paused briefly to remove my short sleeve shirt and carry it in my hands for the final two miles, hoping that a cooling down would help. My split times were 10:40 minutes for mile 12, 11:06 minutes for mile 13, and 2:54 minutes for the remainder of the course plus accumulated watch error, with an official next remaining course pace of 10:30 minutes per mile. I fizzled at the end, though my post race analysis shows the pace was faster than I felt I was running at the time. I was happy to be able to finally amble through the finisher’s chute and collected my medal and refreshments. I visited some of the people gathering in running club village, got my official race results, and then went to the reunion area to meet up with a fellow runner.

My official elapsed time was 2:15:25 hours:minutes:seconds for an official average pace of 10:19 minutes:seconds per mile. At the conclusion of the event, I was mildly disappointed in the results, but upon considering for a day, I consider these results to be realistically good for me.

I’ve participated in enough Indy Mini-Marathons for the experience to be familiar, but it never gets old or boring. At several instances during this event, I reflected that there was no place I’d rather be and nothing I’d rather do, than be in that place at that time. On the following day, I registered for next year’s Indy Mini-Marathon.



Indy Mini-Marathon 2016

The Indy Mini, as the Indy 500 Festival Mini-Marathon is now generally known, is a massive community phenomenon..  Approximately twenty-five thousand runners and walkers from all over the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana were joined by visitors from around the world this past weekend in one of the most popular half marathons in the country.  The event on 07-May-2016 was my eighth consecutive, so running the Indy Mini has become a tradition for me.

I awoke on race morning at 5:15 am, got dressed and ate breakfast by 6:00 am, arrived in downtown Indianapolis with a fellow runner at 6:30 am, and got to my corral not too long after 7:00 am. The temperature was 61 F and the humidity was medium, with the sun rising into a partly cloudy sky.  In addition to my warm weather outfit including short sleeve running shirt, running shorts, running cap, and running shoes, I wore a second tee shirt for warmth, which I discarded into the traditional pile of donated clothes at the starting line during the countdown.  On my wrist was the running watch that I bought before last year’s Monumental Marathon.  I pinned the bib and timing device onto the right leg of my shorts instead of the front of my shirt like I did in every race before, and really liked the new arrangement.

I lined up on Washington St just west of West St in my assigned corral E, which was the last corral for the first wave of runners, and worked my way through the crowd to get to the center back of the corral.  When the race officially started at 7:33 am and the crowd of runners slowly moved forward toward the starting line, there were only one or two dozen runners scattered behind me and the second wave of runners wasn’t scheduled to launch until twelve minutes later, so there would be plenty of open space behind me for the first few miles until the waves of runners gradually spread and merged.  I was surprised that the clock showed 2:17 minutes into the race when I crossed the starting line, because that meant all the runners in the entire first wave were going to get ourselves onto the course in an amazingly short time.

One of my concerns for this race was the risk of a recurrence of a right hamstring injury, so I planned to start out slowly and not push hard until I put a few miles behind me.  My split times were 10:21 minutes in mile 1, 10:22 minutes mile 2, and 10:25 minutes mile 3.  My pace was a bit faster than planned, but I was feeling good and didn’t detect any adverse consequences.  Officially, I reached the 5K line at a split pace of 10:28 minutes per mile.  The course went across the White River, around the Indianapolis Zoo, and along Michigan St through the residential neighborhoods of the Haughville district.  I noticed that the distances reported by my running watch weren’t agreeing perfectly with the course markers, with my watch reporting an extra 0.01 miles per mile compared to the markers.  I was feeling warm already, and decided to drink beverage at every pit stop to stay hydrated.

I felt some distress in both my stomach and intestines and was becoming uncomfortably warm.  By any objective measure, the temperatures in the 60’s F were fine for running, but my long runs each Saturday morning during training were almost always in below freezing temperatures and I wasn’t accustomed to this weather.  Nevertheless, I decided to slightly increase my speed.  After all, this was a race and the clock was ticking, figuratively.  My split times were 10:01 minutes in mile 4, 10:00 minutes in mile 5, and 10:06 minutes in mile 6.  The pace was faster than in any of my training long runs, and I was pleasantly surprised at my performance so far.  The course went into and through the town of Speedway, with its resurgent little downtown along both sides of Main St.

I followed the course into the main entrance of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by descending to a tunnel below the south grandstands and track.  Upon ascending again from the tunnel into the speedway infield, one of my fellow runners shouted that “somebody just won in one oh two”.  I understood when I looked up at a giant video screen facing the currently empty bleachers and saw the live television broadcast of the Indy Mini.  I observed that a runner crossed the finish line with a race clock showing one hour and two minutes, and the runner was approaching a microphone to be interviewed.  One of the annoyances of my past Indy Mini experiences was glancing up at those video screens while I was somewhere in the speedway and seeing other runners finish their race, knowing I was only at the midpoint of my race and already getting tired.  This year, I hadn’t even stepped onto the actual track before seeing somebody finish.

While I was running along the back straightway of the track, a cloud passed over the sun and cast a shadow that lowered the apparent temperature a few degrees, and I felt a cooling breeze blowing from the west that hadn’t existed before.  I looked up and saw the sky becoming overcast, and my worries of overheating were relieved.  My split times were 10:09 minutes in mile 7, 10:13 minutes in mile 8, and 9:56 minutes in mile 9.  Officially, I reached the yard of bricks at a split pace of 10:10 minutes per mile.  The course made one lap around the track and went out an access road to return to 16th Street.  When I got to the exact midpoint of the race and realized I was still running strong and feeling good, I gained some confidence that my performance could exceed my expectations.

I had no reason to hold back anymore.  There was no pain in my right hamstring, my digestive system was holding steady, and the weather was tolerable.  My race was going really well, so I decided to let loose and run as fast as I could, and hope I could maintain some serious speed to the end.  My legs were pumping and my lungs were puffing.  My split times were 9:37 minutes in mile 10, 10:02 minutes in mile 11, and 10:14 minutes mile 12.  That speed in mile 10 was awesome, but I couldn’t sustain it.  Officially, I reached the 11 mile line at a split pace of 10:05 minutes per mile.  The course returned to downtown Indianapolis and reached the state university.  In this section of the race, I realized that there was nothing I would rather be doing at this particular moment than running down the middle of 10th Street in Indianapolis with a crowd of like-minded runners.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.

I was tiring at the end, but refused to slow down.  I had established a pace in this race that was faster than any of my training runs and frankly was faster than I thought I would achieve in the race.  I would have been happy with an elapsed time of 2:15 hours:minutes this year, but I knew I had a chance to finish even faster.  My split time was 10:11 minutes in mile 13, though my running watch had been accumulating extra reported distance throughout the race, and at this point was in error by 0.16 miles relative to the course markers and gave a remaining split time of 2:33 minutes to the end.  Officially, I reached the finish line at a split pace of 10:16 minutes per mile.  My watch measured an average cadence of 152 steps per minute and an average stride length of 1.04 meters.  I strolled through the finisher’s chute and collected my medal and a variety of food and beverage items.  Later, I walked over to the results tent to get my official results and reconnected in the reunion area with my fellow runner.

My official elapsed time was 2:14:18 hours:minutes:seconds.  I had been thinking before the race about my finish times in the previous seven Indy Mini events, and noticed the clear trend of slowing by a minute per year, from two hours seven minutes in my first race in 2009 to two hours thirteen minutes in the last race in 2015.  The new elapsed time of two hours fourteen minutes falls right in line with the trend.  My body is getting older and wearing out, and I can be content with losing only a minute per year. That is a small amount.

And guess what?  When I got home, I turned on the computer and registered for next year’s Indy Mini.