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The OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (henceforth referred to as the Indy Mini) may have been race #4 for me in 2019, but I witnessed quite quickly why this race earned its spot as half-marathon #1 on The BibRave 100! Note: I signed up for, and completed, the Mega Mini Challenge - running a 5k immediately followed by the half marathon. This review will focus predominantly on the half.
COMMUNICATION (leading up to the race): Can't say enough good things about the communication leading up to the race. Plenty of reminders about where to go, what to do, how to this, how to that, etc. The social media team was also spot on - not simply just engaging with comments, but doing so in a VERY timely fashion. I'm going to toss the Indy Mini Marathon Mobile App into this category as well because it was helpful in gaining useful race weekend info. I will say that I thought the app was a little buggy compared to some other race-specific apps, but not enough to make me knock the organizers for it. Overall, communication - very well done.
WEATHER: You can't control the weather. It was pretty nice the night before the race and, as local meteorologists predicted, it was cold(ish) and rainy on race morning. It was still fairly dry with maybe a stray sprinkle here and there during the 5k and through the first few miles of the half, but after that it was rain. ALL THE RAIN. Personally, I was happier than a duck in a pond, but it definitely made for some slick, splashy conditions.
EXPO: The Indy Mini expo took place at the Indiana Convention Center. This place as a whole is freakin' huge. I was surprised when I got to the expo, which only utilized three of the exhibit halls, and found the vendors so tightly packed together. It seemed as though they could have spread out vendors a little bit more to give attendees more room to move. I was there around 5 - 5:30pm on Friday (night before the race) and it just seemed way more crowded at this expo than at other expos I've visited. Despite that, there were quite a few awesome vendors and things to see. Another plus (for me)? I got out of the expo having spent zero dollars!
PARKING: Easy. I parked in a garage next to my hotel. While I did have in/out privileges - which cost a tad more than I would have liked to have spent, mind you - I did not have to move my car until I left to come home. My parking solution - and the hotel - was just slightly more than a mile from the start/finish, meaning that I could just walk and not deal with traffic.
COURSE: The Indy Mini course is (mostly) flat. There are a few rolling-type hills and a few bridges, but truthfully this course is flat. The most significant down/uphill is going into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After that, runners are rewarded with a 2.5 mile loop on one of the greatest race courses in the world. From a crowd support perspective, I feel like there were points when the crowds fell off, but not enough to make it seem as if there was no one at all. I was pleasantly surprised to see such a large crowd turnout in the community of Speedway, Indiana (where the speedway is - get it?). I genuinely did not know there was more there than just offices and industrial properties! Similarly, the scenery on this course isn't exactly picturesque - but what is when it's raining?! - but obviously the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the focal point of the course. Even when it's pouring, that speedway will ALWAYS look good.
MEDAL: The medal is double-sided with the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway "wing & wheel" logo on the front along with imagery from the Indy 500. The back of the medal displays the map of the course. It's a hefty medal, and one I'm very happy to have earned!
MY RACE: As I mentioned at the top, I participated in the Mega Mini Challenge - running the Delta Dental 5k and then running the OneAmerica Mini Marathon (half). My PLAN was to somewhat sandbag the 5k and go for a really amazing time in the half. That plan went out the window quite quickly as I decided very early to push fairly hard in the 5k - finishing in the top 50, just about 1:30 slower than my current 5k PR.
After crossing the finish, challenge participants were to stay to the left and follow signage to return to the start area. It seemed as if the volunteers knew this, but made it a point to give different directions once in the finish area. To stay on point, I had to turn my music back up, put my head down, and do what the race instructions told me. I got back to the start line pretty quick, found Bill (a fellow BibRave Pro!), and we lined up for race #2 of the day.
I knew before I crossed the start line for the half that it was not going to be a PR. Not after the performance I just threw down in the 5k! I was fine with that. If I could come within 10-15 minutes, I'd still be happy. Honestly though, I wasn't really focused on that. I was focused on what everyone else was focused on - getting out to the speedway and taking a lap on that iconic track! Although I was posting a pretty good pace through the first half, I slowed up once I got to turn 4 at the track and turned into a tourist for a little bit. Took photos down the front straightaway. Took some of where my father and I used to sit when we came to the Indy 500 from 1994 through 2002. Took a selfie of me kissing the bricks - hey, why not?! The second half of my half marathon was definitely slower and I could tell that the 5k was catching up to me. My legs weren't having this run as much any longer. There was definitely some run/walk happening in those last 4-5 miles, but thankfully more running than walking!
Fast forward to the finish line, I was able to come in around 1:49 for the half marathon - only 8 minutes off of my personal record. Not too shabby at all.
This race is well worth the trip simply based on the history, the tradition, and a very unique 2.5 mile section. Beyond that, this event is incredibly well organized, there is pretty decent crowd support, and it is very evident that the City of Indianapolis (and even the State of Indiana) truly get behind this race.
If you're looking for a half marathon to run in 2020, start your engines, get to Indianapolis, and chase down that checkered flag at the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon!