May in Indianapolis is a big deal. The Indianapolis 500 is the Sunday before Memorial Day, but we celebrate all month. For our First Friday’s gallery walk, most of the stores and businesses on Mass Ave create tire art, which is displayed all month. Some of my favorites this year are Henry’s triple layer cake with a cherry on top, Stout’s extremely detailed eagle, and the huge stethoscope that stretches down a multi-story building.
We are serenaded by the sounds of cars speeding around the brickyard and many take field trips to the track to watch practices, qualifications, and carb day. Carb day is the last day race cars are allowed on the track to practice prior to race day; it is a shortened practice time after which there is the Pit Stop competition and a concert. Race car drivers are at least as famous as basketball players in Indianapolis, and Hollywood celebs join in the fun for the weekend of the race. The 500 Festival kicks off every year on the first Saturday of May with the Mini-Marathon.
The Mini is the largest half marathon and overall 5th largest running event in the US. One thing I appreciate about the Indy Mini is that it is not overly competitive. It is perfectly acceptable to walk the entire course, making many people of all ages feel free to participate. There were some children out pacing me. There is always the group of firefighters that walk the course in full gear,including masks. This year I saw a teenager dressed as a monkey running after another dressed as a banana.
Within the first mile, we cross the canal and pass by the Indianapolis Zoo. Although on a normal day you can see the elephants while driving down the road on which we were running, it still felt like a special view. At times it was amazing to think about just how far I had run by comparing to times I had driven to those same locations. Running around the track is a big part of the Mini. As I approached the track, I thought about the excitement I feel each year as we walk up to the track to watch the race. We join the crowd in the infield, picnicking, meeting new people, and enjoying the sunshine. The track is long when running around it (2.5miles), but it does not seem very wide. It’s amazing there aren’t more wrecks with 33 cars driving at over 200mph.
To get us from downtown to the track and back, the course runs through some less popular neighborhoods. I have to give props to the small business owners that took the opportunity to market themselves. (To the guys that offered me free barbecue after the race, I only did not return because I had to drive an hour to a retirement party. It smelled wonderful!). I want to get my website and logo printed on a shirt for next year and take advantage of the 90,000 people at this event. I’m surprised more businesses aren’t sponsoring runners.
Read Brooke’s account of her experience running the Indy Mini Marathon.