Do you know who runs 13.1 miles for recreational purposes?
Crazy people. That's who.
People who dress like cartoon characters.
People who wear shoes that look like feet.
People who have feet that they're embarrassed to show in public
People who wear chicken hats with little dangly leg/earpieces.
People who have less-than-believable percentages of body fat.
People who eat salads for three meals a day.
People who are trying desperately to hold on to some shred of their youth... who are simply trying to prove that that can still do it.
Okay...maybe that last one is just me.
But this year? I came at the Mini from a different angle than normal.
I had something to prove.
I've been running this race on and off for 16 years now
On being most years and off being College graduation and several pregnancies in the late spring/early summer months.
And, for the past few years, the Mini Marathon has been this lovely little catalyst, bringing my entire far-flung family back into Indy for a weekend.
And, for the past few years I've finished dead last in our little clan.
It wasn't just for fun this year.
I was determined not to be last this year.
I actually trained this year.
As much as running for half an hour three times a week on your lunch break and long runs every other weekend can count as serious training.
Which is to say hardly at all really.
I had the best of intentions though.
Hey...look at that! They're repaving the road to...oh. right.
And you know what?
Despite those best intentions, I STILL came in last.
I was defeated in time by all three younger siblings and two siblings-in-law (one of which has multiple ACTUAL MARATHONS under her belt. *sigh* Kelly, I want to be you when I grow up). I was beat by both parents, who have taken to running 14+ miles on Sundays before lunch. I was even beat by my youngest brother. Who DIDN'T FREAKING TRAIN. AT. ALL! I would shake my head in disbelief if it still weren't sore from Saturday. Along with my quads. And my calves. And the oddest little muscle that connects the top of my thigh to my hips. I like to call it my picker-upper muscle. Who knew there was even a muscle there? Not me. Not actively anyway.
But I still ran it.
Knowing I was probably going to come in last...I still ran it.
And it was amazing.
And so, Because it has become tradition, here is my 2011, One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon Recap:
It was, for once, not freezing cold at 7am as we're assembling ourselves into the corrals. This is the first year in as many as I can remember that I didn't run into someone I knew en route to the start line. Vinny & I keep a running patter worthy of recording and playing back I'm certain. It ran something along the lines of "....fondant icing...tattoos...dating...socks...beach balls...sleep...or lack thereof...beer...work...tattoos again...angry birds cakes...my lack of cable and/or general knowledge of any of the current food network shows...cookies...shiny things...etc."
Notice a particular lack of any discussion of running and or training there? Yeah. We're not fond apparently. We're hard core like that. We don't need no stinking training. Well, HE didn't apparently. He scooted across the Finish Line a good 25 minutes ahead of me. *sigh*
There are men with chickens on their head.
Not live chickens. Stuffed chickens. Seriously. Chicken Hats. They are the chicken men.
Chugging right along and Vinny points out a walrus. I turn to scold him then realize he's right. It's a walrus. We're just outside the zoo and there are people dressed as merecats and walrus...walruses? walrusi? hmm... We weave in tandem in and out of the crowd, making a game of it... "Going left!" "Going right" "Shooting the gap". The mile flies by in a blur of slow ponytails and race-walkers.
Michigan & Belmont and I slow for a sip of water. I'm stiff and haven't quite found my stride yet. Vinny lopes calmly along beside me and points out the grouping of firefighters in full regalia & oxy.tanks. I wonder aloud if they can do the whole race on a single tank or if they have a relay set up at different miles to trade off tanks... Oh look! There's the chicken brothers.
Where'd that last mile go?! Three already? Alllllll right. I am made of win, apparently. We're at Michigan & Tibbs and I recognize right where we are. I've driven by here a million times. About now I'm finally starting to warm up and wonder if significant training might have been a good idea, hm? Clipping right along at 10 minute miles on the dot. We're killing it. Absolutely killing it. Also my calves are starting to cramp. And I have to pee. But I'm hoping that will pass.
Wherein I lose Vinny & find my stride. Finally.
It took four miles! Four freaking miles! It's never taken me this long to find my race pace! I'm getting old. And slow. What will by my race pace for the next 11 miles is closer to 12 minutes than 10. Grrrr. In this mile we'll zigzag around from Holt to 10th and get to see a bit of Speedway. I swing my arms loosely and high five a bunch of little ones lining the road. That's still one of my favorite parts of this race...the crowd. Bands were awful this year. Except the cloggers and line dancers. Boyscout Band at mile one wasn't bad, and there was a great Rat-Pack style lounge duo at Mile 9...but I get ahead of myself. Four down, Eleven to go. oh god.
Main Street in to the Speedway and onto the Track we go!
As a whole, we send up a hoot and a holler as we lean back and run on just the balls of our feet on down the ramp into the Speedway. What a great echo. Breathe deep. Square your shoulders. It's easy to hunch over when running down hill I've learned, but if you just relax and lean back a little it takes so much less energy. There's probably a life metaphor in there somewhere, but after five miles I'm not pressing it too hard. I'm anticipating Gatorade. Uphill, on the other hand. Uphill I hate. And love. It's a challenge, and I fell into stride with two hard-core runner gals in neon yellow, skin dark and spotted from being outdoors swimming & running I'd guess by the long, lean look of them. They're sort of hum-singing a cadence up the hill and around the bend, and I notice several people around us fall into step. Running is one of those solitary sports that you can do in a pack. Does that make any sense? Good. Stay with me here.
The Cheerleaders. I forgot about The Cheerleaders. [shudder]. I've already been cutting deals with myself for the last half mile. "Just run through the straight shoot and you can walk the turn", "Just run through this turn and you can walk through the next water stop". But I've kept going. Mostly just to get past the damn cheerleaders. They are relentless. You'd think three+ hours of screaming and cheering would render them deaf and dumb. They must have trained. There are nurse cheerleaders and pirate cheerleaders and cheerleaders under the sea. I run to get past them. I rachet up the speed just to get away from them. They grate on my nerves and I lengthen my stride.
I have never, in all my years running this race, stopped to kiss the bricks on the track. I contemplate it gently. step...step..step...step...Maybe I could do it quickly?...breathe in...step...step...step...step...I could get run over!...breathe out...step...step....step...step... And by the time I've resolved myself to slow and drop to my knees to kiss the bricks for the camera? The moment has passed. Next year, perhaps. And then, the rain starts. It's welcome at this point in the race, and I tip my face back and enjoy it. Runners nearby are annoyed at it and I wonder why. Is there anything better at this point than a cooldown? No. No there's not. Bring on the rain.
I have never felt this good this late in the race. Not in years. I'm still right on track at 12 minute miles (which is NOT stellar by any means, but I have not slowed, and this cheers me on). I turn and scan the faces of the people still just pouring onto the track. Nearly 2 miles behind me. And I smile. I smile and smile and consider sweetly all those people I am BEATING. I am still mid-pack of runners. There are no walkers here. And we're off the track and nearing the next pitstop of water/Gatorade.
I forgot my jelly beans this year. Did I tell you that? I separated out 12 cherry jelly belly's in evenly space lines of four, for Miles seven through 13, and I forgot them on the kitchen counter Friday night. Mom & Pops offered up Gummi Lifesavers, at which I first scoffed and shuddered. I don't DO gummi candies. Ever. These babies however, turned out to be a godsend. Who knew? I just sucked on one each mile starting at mile nine. Little burst of sugar, little spikes of confidence, no fumbling with dropped jelly beans. Running snack perfection acheived~ It is about this time that the rain lets up and the sun comes out. I could not have requested better weather. There's a slight breeze and the rain has cooled the morning off. It's gorgeous. I have candy. I only have four miles left to go. I could conquer the world right now. Before breakfast.
It sneaked up on me. Which sounds ridiculous, I understand. But it did. And It's awesome. Somewhere along the line we passed the Hi Neighbor Tavern, and, MUCH to my delight there were giant hulking, leather-clad men with bandannas wrapped around their heads, pouring beer out of grimy plastic pitchers into tiny dixie cups. I might have squeed and told them it was good to see them out again this year, and that I'd missed them last year! They might have rumbled out a gruff chuckle and nodded, letting me know it was light beer they were serving up. Ew. Light beer. What a riot. A beer sounded perfect right about then. And then were were at the ten mile marker and I don't especially remember much else.
Mile Eleven, on the other hand, sucked balls. What a long, excrutiating mile. I walked a good portion of this mile. No shame. My body was just tired and didn't want to go any further. Period. Crowd size was low here, there were few bands lining the streets. It was a long depressing mile and I realized I still had to pee. After last year's battle with an unstable port-o-let I wasn't about to stop though. There were a number of railroad tracks to hop a skip across during Mile eleven, but mostly I was getting hungry and ready to be done with this race.
And finally, Finally! The end looms near. Crossing the river on the New York Street Bridge I see runners coming back toward us wearing their medals, Cruising along, plastic Kroger bag in one hand, half-eaten banana in the other. You are not encouraging me, mister I've-been-done-with-the-race-for-an-hour-now. You are not charming when you wink and cheer for the two highschool girls in front of me in short-shorts. You are not...oh! look! The Chicken Hat Guys! Right on. Attempting to finish the race with these guys just for the photo op now...Here we go. Let's wrap this thing up.
WHERE. IS. THE. FINISH. LINE?!
I hate that last 3/4 of a mile. You're so close to being done and all you want to do is stop and walk, but pride and the pair of Chicken hats hovering on your peripheral just won't let you. 1/2 mile to go... I am literally going to inhale that banana once I get across the finish line. 1/4 mile to go...I am NOT going to let Chicken Little One and Two beat me... I lengthen my stride and hope I don't trip, because wouldn't THAT be just like me to go face first over the finish line... 0.1 miles to go... got them! At the last minute I pulled a few strides ahead. Chicken Brothers went down at the last minute. I realize belatedly that I miss the steady whining hum of everyone's timing chips beeping in the finish chutes. I walk. I stretch. I hop from one side of the finish chute to the other, grabbing double on granola bars and the manna-from-heaven that is the St. Francis Chocolate Chip Cookie. This is something the newbies have yet to master, sneaking double snacks. I've honed it to a fine art. I feast every year after the mini. You have to be quick, and not make eye contact particularly. They have fruit cups this year instead of chips. Fruit cups and no plastic silverware. Genius. Whose horrid idea was that? I want chocolate chips and salty snacks after 13.1 thankyouverymuch.
All in all, 13.1 miles and 2.5 hours after I started? I feel amazing. Other than a slight twinge in my calves and my picker-uppers I'm even-keel. I'm kosher. I'm copacetic. I'm obviously delerious and need to go home if I'm still smiling at this point. I'm hungry, which is easily remedied, and in need of a good stretch, also easily taken care of. But I am done. I am confident. I am high on the fact that I just killed my time from last year by a good chunk.
Everywhere you turn there's a sea of smiling, people stretching and walking and exchanging horror stories about bloody toes and sore knees. It's easy now to stop, take a deep breath and realize you've accomplished something.
The annual group shot
And the Tough Guy pose. Always my favorite.