Sunday, May 06, 2007

Race Report: OneAmerica Mini Marathon

ORN: 13.1 miles, 2:10:23, 9:56/mile pace

The Summary: The race went as I thought it would go; a decent training run and a relaxing outing, if running with 35,000 others can be relaxing. Felt good throughout, ran it about like I would run a training run. The people-watching and taking lots of photos made it a treat. It also finished off my first
Goal for 2007.

The Details

This is my third straight time at this race, so I have the routine down. Up at 4:30am, picked up friends Jess and Chris and off we went. We found our parking place, got pinned and taped and walked the finish area to sort out a place to meet.

The start set the tone for the day. Like most big races, the Mini uses corral assignments, lettered A-Z, from front to back. Getting ahead of corral H depends on proving a previous race pace. Two years ago, with no proof, I was in N. It took about 4 miles that year to find a groove, having to work though a lot of slower runners. Last year, I qualified to E and it was wonderful. I was with the right group and found the groove inside a half mile. This year, amazingly, I qualified to corral D.

But I didn’t start in corral D.

My buddy Jess was running his first half-marathon. Friendships mean more than times in a training run, so I started with him in corral T. It was rather impressive, as Chris, Jess and I walked to the front of the queues, then worked our way back to our corrals. We dropped Chris off at G, then walked and walked and walked to T, a full six city blocks from the start line. We warmed up with a half mile or so, got into the corral, stretched and waited.

It was a cloudy, humid day, with temps in the low 60s at 7:30am, moving up during the race. The race started on time and 23 minutes later, Jess and I eased over the start line. From so far back in the pack, the nature of the day quickly became evident. The crowd was simply incredible. Jess and I tried to find a pace but couldn’t do it. We weaved, we bobbed, we looked for holes. We ran around walkers, past joggers, in-between people who started out too quickly and were fading. It simply was impossible in such a crowd to find a way to run in a straight line at a consistent pace for more than 30 seconds at a time. At a number of times, we had to nearly stop, as slow traffic spread curb to curb. And it pretty much continued that way for the whole race.
Rob wondered how it compared with the crowd at the Portland Marathon; the answer—no comparison. In Portland, I was running clear by mile 1.5. Never did get clear in Indy. So, I won’t bore you with times. My splits were pretty consistent, right under 10/mile all the way. I’ll just put up some photos and interesting observations on my run, as David suggested.

At Mile 1.5, I saw one of the funniest sights I’ve ever seen in a race. These gals were obviously motivated; it was 8am on a Saturday morning and these girls got into prom dresses and traveled from somewhere to simply look for a date. Not your typical teenager! Only after I looked at the photo later did I see the Mom taking a picture of me taking a picture…ah, to be a parent.

Around mile 3, I came up on a guy who had a
Blue Star Flag pinned to the back of his shirt. I knew this meant he had a child in a battle zone. I ran with him for a while and we learned we both have sons in Baghdad right now; his with the 10th Mountain Division, mine with the 2nd Infantry Division. There is an immediate bond of empathy and support among parents of soldiers. It is hard to describe but intensely real. We both had tears in our eyes to think of our sons and share the moment. The handshake was firm, as was our support for these two soldiers and the rest of their units. Parenting never stops.

There were lots of bands along the route. Some were good, some were awful, some just odd. One of the best was this percussion band from a local high school…these kids were good. And how cool, acoustically, to have a strong, complex beat as we ran past at mile 4.5. I stopped to take the photo and talked to one of the parents who hauled them down for the race; she was terrific and so proud of these kids. Again, the impact of a parent.

We got to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just before mile 6. I made a “pit stop” just outside the track, thinking that was rather appropriate. Note to
Michelle; your race gloves would have been safe in this porta-pottie.

The trip around the IMS track was uneventful and, more importantly, less painful than in previous years. They’ve installed a warm up lane inside the main track through all four turns of the track and let us run there. This lane had no banking to it and it was great to run on a flat surface. On the front stretch we were back on the main track and I took the chance to “kiss the bricks,” as is a tradition here.

Coming out of the track, we headed back downtown. Before the race, I had seen a number of people carrying signs saying “Go Belzer.” While standing in the corral, I wondered aloud just who this Mr. or Ms. Belzer was and why so popular. A fellow runner informed me it was
Belzer Middle School. A teacher there formed a spring-semester club several years ago to teach fitness and health, with the climax being the kids running the Mini in May. He focused particularly on kids who normally not involved in sports at the school. This year, over 100 kids ran. They all had matching red T shirts. So, it was fun throughout the race to see some kid with a Beltzer shirt and encourage them. How cool is that?

At mile 9.5, I saw a bizarre sight. A lady who was about 7-months pregnant was cheering on her hubby. To do so, she rolled up her shirt, displaying her very bulging midsection on which she had drawn a face, hands and feet with a “Go Daddy” theme. I am not making this up. I was so stunned by the sight, I forgot I had my camera. My wife allowed that this was probably just as well to not pass along such a visual record.

Breaking from the back of the back, I continued to pass people constantly as we made the long way down 10th street towards mile 11. I was struck by how many people in the back of the pack were struggling; lots of panting, gasping, cramping. Folks off to the side stretching and agonizing. I saw three people get onto emergency medical carts and head for more care. For me, I felt fine and was simply enjoying a run in traffic.

We made the last turn and ran the final mile. The crowds were great and still cheering, 2.5 hours after the gun sounded. I crossed the finish line and asked the medal giver-outers to snap my photo and they got into it, as you can see. I found Jess, in the crowd; he had left me at mile 3 and finished his first half-marathon in 2:05, feeling great. I was happy for him.

A huge race, a nice training run. I will say that I did pretty much decide I’ll skip every running the Chicago or New York Marathons. The crowd was so big that it was tolerable for a half but I wouldn’t want to do 26.2 so surrounded. I enjoy the solitude too much.

Persevere…like even reading this long tome…thanks for sticking with me!!



WADDLER26.2 said...

great race report. I do appreciate all the details. You can feel the excitment.

Darrell said...

You gotta love the course entertainment and volunteers!

Did you try to do the run/walk method here, you don't mention it. I know where we wondering how it would go in a race situation. The crowds may have made it somewhat problematic.

I wouldn't give up on NYC marathon just yet. In my book it is a must do. One nice thing about NYC is there are three starting lines that don't merge completely together for several miles. It is somewhat difficult to get into a groove but the fan support in NYC in not to be missed. Besides that you can't miss the opportunity to pay more in hotel bills for 3 nights than your current montly mortgage; whre else can you do that?

One goal down, now on to the next one.

Sarah said...

That sounds (and looks) like quite a race! And I would've loved to see that pregnant tummy. ; ) : ) That's a classic.

I agree with Darrell that I wouldn't give up on NYC, if you are so inclined. I am not a fan of big races, but that is an event not to be missed! It was pretty easy sailing after about 2 miles. The way the city gets behind that race is simply incredible.

Anonymous said...


I really enjoyed the photos of the crowd. It gives your perspective of the race --- and show part of the fun of watching (participating?) in a run.


Wes said...

This is one of the exact reasons why I do this. Not only do I get to get out, kick my own arse, lose weight, and feel great. I get to insert myself into a well written race report like this one and practically feel it.. Nice job, Joe! One of these races, I'm going to have to focus less on not dying and enjoy what is going on around me :-)

George said...

Joe, thanks for the great report!

Once again, I can not understand how I missed seeing down there! I started in E this year, much easier than last year in S. I know what you mean!

Great Pictures also, I loved them!!

Good Job and Good Luck on your Marathon!

Running Chick said...

great report joe! there's something refreshing about the way you ran this race, and wrote the report...enjoying the race, the running and friendships simply for what they were. and it was perfect.

teacherwoman said...

Sounds like a great race! The photo of the prom girls made me chuckle!

Nice job, Joe!

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Way to go! My favorite entertainment at Portland was the drumline along that first mile. I wished they would have moved to mile 24 or 25! I'll have to carry a comera sometime too. Congrats on running pain free.

Backofpack said...

There's nothing quite like the stuff that you see in a race. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Oh, I should have mentioned - my gloves were clutched in my hand during the one portapotty experience I had in Vancouver - though they would have been safe on the floor there too!

David said...

Wrenching feeling it is, when you run into a fellow parent of a soldier overseas. I like the idea of wearing the blue star.
I am glad you had an entertaining time on the course. The pics and stories are worth it.
I am starting to think the same way about these huge races. If the roads are not wide enough it is hard to get a pace down. Over 26.2 though, they do string out plenty far. In Atlanta the winner crossed the finish as I crossed the half mat and I was a mid-packer.

robtherunner said...

Great report and pictures, Joe! I enjoyed the prom girl picture as well.