Before I get into everything that happened during this year’s OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon, I am going to cut right to what a lot of people want to know.
There ended up being four.
Which one did Ryan make?
He made two.
He didn’t make the “everything went perfect number.” That was 1:45:00.
Ryan didn’t beat our running pal Colleen’s time from last year’s Mini, which was the goal time he set for himself. Colleen ran the Mini course in 1:47:36 last year. Despite only beginning training for the Mini in February and his mileage cap, Ryan thought he could get 1:47:30 or better.
The third number was simply to beat last year’s time from his debut in the Mini.
Vision the longtime public-address announcer of the Indianapolis 500 Tom Carnegie saying – “HHHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE got it!”
Ryan and I tied Saturday with a time of 1:48:12. It bested his effort from last year by 39 seconds.
The time was a new PR for any half marathon Ryan had run. More importantly, it completed Ryan’s successful return from the toe surgery to remove the subungual osteochondroma back in November.
Friday afternoon while we were at the expo, the PR Bell was set up in the exhibition hall of the Indiana Convention Center. I asked Ryan if he wanted his picture taken with it. Confidently, he replied, “No! That’s for tomorrow!”
There was still a fourth number he obtained.
For the first time on a day before the big race, we didn’t have to be at zillion places at once. Ryan and I usually run a light 5k regardless the day before a race. Thursday was a complete rest day for us. While at work and daydreaming about Saturday’s race, I contemplated not running at all on Friday. Maybe two complete off days would benefit us more than running some easy mileage. I talked to my advisors, and the consensus was it would be good for muscle consistency to get out for a run even if it was a mile and half.
As previously stated in the pre-Mini blog post, it had rained for most of the week here in the Indianapolis area. Since I had worked out in it with my job at “The World on Time,” I decided if we ran Friday we were going to the Mount Pleasant Church gym.
Thus, I could figure out how many laps it takes to make a mile. When we began the odometer on my Garmin said .24. By the time, we had run eight laps, the watch read 1.91. It takes just over four laps to equal mile from the outside two lanes of the track.
There was one little hiccup to the day after all. Although Wendy had canceled Ryan’s speech therapy session, she didn’t cancel Micah’s. Andrew and Luke had a TrailLife camp outing to go to at Red River Gorge. They were to meet their ride at 1 p.m.
Easy fix though – Wendy took Andrew and Luke to meet their TrailLife group and we took Micah to speech. We were to meet friends at the expo around 2 p.m. We asked Micah if he wanted to go back to the house and we’d wait for Wendy to come back or go with us to the expo. He chose the latter.
We got to the expo and first we found the booth to pick up a friend’s packet, who was not able to run the Mini. Then I had Ryan look for the booth that have our packets. The volunteers handed us our packets and we went across the aisle to a table to make sure everything was in them. We also double checked to make sure the bib numbers corresponded with the numbers on the chips because of the mix up at the 10-mile race finale of the Miler Series.
Kati O’Brien again left Ryan a note of encouragement. Ryan read the card and then put it back on the paper clip connected to his bib and rubbed his hands together showing his excitement.
As we continued to go into the main area of the expo, there were people passing out WTHR stickers that had the station’s logo with a .1 next to it. A clever way to incorporate the station’s number with the race. I told Micah to get a couple and put them in our bag. Little did I know that he thought a couple meant 50.
While I continued to receive messages from the friends from Coach Jenny’s group we were supposed to meet, my main objective at the expo was to get Ryan a pair of black compression socks to match mine for our race-day uniform.
Fortunately, our good friends at Runner’s Forum had their mini store up and running. I got Ryan’s calf measured and we fitted him with a pair of socks. I tried the trick to get compression socks on from when the CEP rep was at one of the group runs at the store and the instructional video, but it wouldn’t work. After about five minutes I got the socks on. Ryan said they felt comfortable. I looked at him and said, “You can either wear them to bed tonight or we will need to get up a few minutes earlier than planned to put them on in the morning.”
We went around and took the necessary photo opportunities. Our friends were still en route. Meb Keflezighi was to begin taking pictures and signing autographs at 3 p.m. The line didn’t appear to be long. I took Ryan and Micah over and we got in line. That’s when we met Mikeal Gordon and his fiancé MiChelle Lochard, who we normally see at the Miler Series races.
We talked to them and others while we stood in line. A couple of times the staff from the 500 Festival came up to the line to remind us that it was Meb’s birthday’s and that we should sing “Happy Birthday” to him as he arrived at the table.
Around 3:20 or so it was our turn to meet Meb again. Ryan jumped up in the air and then rubbed his hands together as we walked up. We introduced ourselves and got our picture taken with Meb. Then we had him sign our copy of the book “Meb for Mortals.”
While we also stood in line for Meb, most of our group arrived and was in line as well. I told them we were going to walk around the expo and wait for them to go through to see Meb.
Once they had gone through, we met up and took a group picture in front of the banner that said, “Greatest Spectacle in Running.” I thought that was appropriate because everyone in that group is great. It’s a lot fun following them with their running adventures as they also follow us.
Finally, it was time to go home. Ryan said he wanted his pre-race meal to be what it was last year. Thus, like we did last year, we had pizza the night before the Mini.
We ended up not watching McFarland, USA as planned. Instead Wendy, Micah and Ryan played a vicious game of MarioKart until bed time.
Since I began work toward my MBA in March, I woke up earlier than I used to in the mornings. I wake up around 5 a.m. and study until it’s time to get Ryan up for our morning run.
Thankfully, my new internal clock woke up at 5 a.m. because the alarm clock didn’t. I got ready and then went across the hall and woke Ryan up. After he was dressed, we worked on getting the compression socks on his gangly legs. It took about 10 minutes, but we finally had the wrinkles out of them and both pairs pulled up to his knees.
As we approached OmniSource on West Street, I could see the railroad track lights and the train. It was stopped. It didn’t look like it was moving. I quickly turn us around and went east on Raymond Street. Then we went up Meridian Street to McCarty Street where we were to park.
Once we parked, we got out and began stretching for an easy run to the starting line. As we stretched, three ladies in a car parked next to us got out and asked us if we were cold. We were, but I knew we were dressed appropriately for what Ryan had set out to do in the race.
Before we left, I messaged Lucie Mays-Sulewski to make sure we still planned to meet at the deer statue in front of the Eiteljorg Museum. She confirmed that we were. I told her my phone was too big to put in my shorts pocket and this would be my last messaged until we saw her. As a runner, I HATE the iPhone 7!
We ran to the starting corrals and arrived right at 6:45 a.m. to meet Mays-Sulewski and her training partner Kyle Wallace. We talked briefly about the race and both of our expectations for the morning. Earlier on Friday, I had texted her to see what she thought about the outfit I was putting together for Ryan and me to wear. She replied with a thumb and said, “sounds exactly like what I have planned.”
We talked for a little longer and then Kyle and she went on to warm up and prepare to start with the elites. Ryan and I ran up to the Eiteljorg Museum entrance and ended up going instead the staircase to parking garage. We stayed there until 7:20 a.m. when I decided it was time to again get acclimated to the conditions. It had also started sprinkling outside and a smile again appeared on Ryan’s face for the anticipation of running in the rain.
We made it to our corral. We were jogging in place when I spotted Naomi Pescovitz and a camera man from WTHR – the television station that aired the race – walked inside our corral. A moment later, Pescovitz asked our names and said she’d like to interview us prior to the start of the race. As we waited, Ryan and I continued to jog in place and Pescovitz also did her own swaying while trying to stay warm despite the chilly weather.
She asked us why we like to run the Mini. This year I remember to tell a part of Ryan’s story and how running has helped him communicate with the world and his ability to use it to focus on his school work as well.
THE GREEN FLAG WAVES
A few moments after the interview with Pescovitz, the announcer read some guidelines and then the US Army troops stationed in Kosovo, who also participated in a virtual Mini with us this year gave us the countdown and then the starting command to begin the race.
Unlike last year when I looked up to the bucket lift and waved at Meb and almost tripped three people, I looked straight ahead. We crossed the timing mats and I started my watch.
We were off and running.
Mile 1-5: I wanted us to start out slower than we did last year. I set the virtual pacer on my watch to 8:15. I knew if we were going to have an outside chance at the perfect number we had to stay around an 8:00-8:15 pace. For Ryan’s goal time, we could stay around 8:15-8:20 if we “raced” the final 5k. To only get the new PR for the course, could dip down to 8:30, but only for the beginning of the race. I got us out to an eight-minute pace. I fought to get slower, but legs and the people around me weren’t letting me. We stayed with the CLIF sponsored pacer for the first five miles. By the time, we got to Main Street in Speedway though, I could tell that we again got out too fast. The perfect time was probably going to be out of reach. Colleen’s time and a new PR well in reach as we turned on 16th Street and headed to the “world’s greatest race course” – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Mile 6: We turned off 16th Street and into the tunnel, which of course literally goes under the famed 2 1/2-mile oval and into the infield of IMS. Just like last year, I looked to my left and there was Ryan a grin on his face as he yelled “whoa!” as we went down the hill. The Indiana University cheerleaders were positioned in the median as well as at the top of the hill. Again, this year I yelled out to them – “I-N-D-I-A-N-A!”
I still think it would be cool if the 500 Festival and the Speedway could have Carnegie’s thunderous voice welcoming runners to the track with a variation of his famous “He’s on it!” call with “You’re on it!” over the public-address system on continuous repeat. Surely that can somehow be put together.
Mile 7: We started to leave the infield and head to the back straightaway of the track, when we could see the banner that said, “Meb’s Motivational Mile.” Ryan went full sprint at Meb. I thought Ryan might end up tackling Meb. We each high-fived Meb and made our way to the track.
Mile 8: As we turned on to the main straightaway of the track, I saw the Sunoco sign and remembered last year. This was the point in the race when we had to find a restroom for Ryan. I looked at him. He assured me he was fine. We came up on the yard of bricks (start/finish line of the oval) there was WTHR’s Dave Calabro and 1972 Olympic-gold-medal winner Frank Shorter. Ryan and I both angled over and gave Shorter a high five. He later commented on the telecast he was getting so many “fives” that his hand began to hurt. I wonder if he realized we were wearing his company’s clothes or not.
Mile 9: This stretch began in the south chute of the track and then headed out just after the Fuzzy’s Vodka VIP Suites in turn two. As we began to leave the grounds of the track the 500 Festival Princesses were at their usual “Pit Stop” location outside Fuzzy’s suites. We also saw O’Brien. I got her attention and she waved. As we passed, I could hear her yelling encouragement to Ryan to keep up the hard work and finish strong.
Mile 10-12 (Race time): All along our goal for this race was to run at a consistent pace for the first 10 miles and then “race” the final 5k. By the time we left the track, I knew the perfect number was out of reach unless we ran the final three miles like an elite runner. I knew neither one of us had the ability to run under six minutes for the rest of the race. While we ran on the curviest part of the course on Olin Avenue, I figured in my head if we got to the 10-mile mark around 1:22:00, we’d be in decent shape for Ryan’s time goal of 1:47:30. We were at 1:21:58! We were right where we needed to be for his goal. As we crossed the 10-mile mark I told Ryan it was time to race the rest of it out. We picked up the pace and had an 8:09 11th mile. We made the turn off 10th Street to White River Parkway Drive and I lost Ryan. I saw our friend J Sulek to my right and then I looked behind me to the left. That’s when I saw Ryan. Somehow when we made the turn, Ryan got boxed in by some other runners. He couldn’t find a way around them to catch up to me. I slowed down a few times to try and help him get through. Mile 12 along with mile seven were our slowest miles at 8:27.
Victory Mile: The slow down on Mile 12 cost us a shot at Ryan beating Colleen’s time from last year, but beating his time was still there for the taking. As we ran down New York Street passed the IUPUI softball fields and Carroll Stadium, I became a cheerleader. I kept pushing Ryan to catch me. That got other runners around us to start cheering Ryan to beat me. Chris Dale, who had passed us around the third mile of the race, was right when he said we would eventually catch him at the end. “Told you, I’d run out of steam and you’d see me again. Now come on Ryan! Beat your Dad!” We passed Dale and Ryan did eventually catch me at the finish line.
Another nice addition that would make a great 500 Mini experience even better is if the 500 Festival or WTHR could find a sponsor for a “Finish-Line Cam” that could be streamed on both indymini.com and wthr.com. I thought of this recently as both the New York City Half Marathon and Boston Marathon have such a camera at the finish line. It’s always fun to track our friends on the apps and then know when to go to the website to watch them finish at either one the previously named races.
THE ROAR IS OVER
Immediately after we crossed the finish line, Jeff Yoder, the digital media coordinator for the 500 Festival, grabbed one of his photographers and asked us to stand next to each other for a picture. We thanked Yoder and he thanked us for running the race for the second straight year.
We then continued to walk toward the medal station and receive our medals followed by getting bags to collect our snacks. We got our finish picture taken and then went into the after party in Military Park. We went straight to the results tent.
It was official – Ryan had his new OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon PR with a time of 1:48:12.
We quickly turned around and got in line for the PR bell. The volunteer punched in Ryan’s time and he rang the bell.
Like the winner of the Indianapolis 500 will later this month when they win the race, we went to the American Dairy Association tent and grabbed our two bottles of chocolate milk to celebrate the accomplishment of a new PR for Ryan.
After ringing the PR Bell and chugging the milk, we made our way to Craig and Catharine’s Yates’ hotel room. Instead of doing the gear check, we had given the Yates a bag with our clothes to wear after the race. It also allowed us to have a place to change instead of trying to find somewhere or going back to the car after the race.
Once we were changed we made our way back to Military Park. We saw several friends along the way. We also saw the Yates. Catharine, who had been battled through the last couple of weeks of training, crushed the two-hour barrier with a time of 1:54:14.
We went to the running club village at the after party. We had been invited by Lindsey Hein at the Athletic Annex tent. Hein and I have corresponded a few times through Twitter. She has a great podcast called “I’ll Have Another.” Much like Ali Nolan and Hannah McGoldrick’s YouTube “Super-Secret Mystery Meeting,” I highly recommend you give Hein’s podcast a listen.
We talked with Hein and her husband, Glenn, for a few moments. She congratulated Ryan on his PR and asked him what he thought about running. We also congratulated Hein on her time from the race.
It was finally time to head home. We needed to help Wendy finish setting up for the after party at our house. Not to mention, with a new PR in hand, I owed Ryan a HUGE Dr. Pepper and we also hadn’t had anything else to eat besides the cookies, water and chocolate milk after the race. Ryan got his Dr. Pepper and I got my coffee. We also each got two doughnuts.
Our friends from the Coach Jenny group began arriving around 2:30 p.m. We watched some of the 500 Mini race along with the interview we did prior to the start with Pescovitz. Mostly though we sat around and talked about the race and how great it was to finally meet each other – some for the first time ever in person. We can’t wait to do it again after the Monumental races in November here in Indianapolis.
Saturday night after everyone had left and we had watched the Kentucky Derby, I sat on the couch with Ryan. We had a chance to reflect on the day’s events and how the race transpired for us.
As we watched the race again, I realized something I had seen Ryan do throughout the race. It wasn’t just the few times we were on television along the course, but every time a spectator said his name, he saw someone performing, saw a police officer, fireman, military person, or a volunteer along the route, he waved at them. Even heading down New York Street, he waved at people as they called out his name toward the finish line.
Ryan did it with the biggest smile on his face for the entire distance.
The final number Ryan made was the hundreds of people he waved at along his run that morning.
In the end, Ryan had done what I told him to do back in February when we started training for Saturday – forget about a PR and just have fun.
Ryan had indeed made the race a victory lap of his comeback. There was no better place to do it than at the “greatest spectacle in running” – the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.