Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

IMMlogoNEW09Yesterday was the second running of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. Emily and I were able to participate this year. While we were both successful in that we finished and are able to walk and negotiate stairs, neither of us was as prepared as we would have liked. Overall, this race was not our favorite, but it highlights how much organization goes into the majority of these events.

As much as we sincerely appreciate the many volunteers who make these events possible, it just seemed that in general, the Monumental Marathon volunteers did not receive enough training for this event. The race’s organizers are known for their professional production of other local events, but it just didn’t seem to come together this time. I did not attend the packet pickup, but Emily reports that it was not up to the level of what we’ve come to expect from the highly organized races that we have attended here and elsewhere. There was insufficient space available for the participants who were trying to pick up their materials, and the volunteers did not seem to have answers to some questions about the t‐shirts.

While it is a pleasant surprise when a race gives out a technical t‐shirt instead of a cotton one, it was a source of frustration this time. Cotton and technical shirts fit differently, so knowing what type of shirt will be offered usually has an influence on what size participants should request. Particularly so when the shirts are not only technical, but in men’s or women’s varieties too. The Monumental Marathon was one of these events where the shirts were a surprise upgrade. As a result, both Emily and I wound up with the wrong size shirt. The volunteers were unable to assist with shirt exchanges, and told participants to return after the race and attempt an exchange later. Not surprisingly, this turned out to be impossible because there were no leftover shirts after the race.

Saturday morning, we parked in the Circle Centre garage, directly above Steak & Shake. The overpowering smell of onion rings was strong temptation to just skip the whole event, and I don’t even like Steak & Shake. (As a side note, the only other location that truly smelled awesome during the race was Shapiro’s Deli. I haven’t been to Shapiro’s in many years, and while I thought it was okay, I have had no real need to go back. But for whatever reason, it smelled great on Saturday morning. This calls to mind a contrast with last year’s Marine Corps Marathon, in which miles 21–24 or so were through Crystal City, with dozens of TGI-McAppblebee’s type chains filling the air with fried smells. And at that point in that race, it was enough to turn my stomach.)

The race got off to a pretty good start. It was a bit chilly at the start — the good kind of chilly, since it always feels 20° warmer when you’re running. Despite the field size being about the same as for the Air Force Marathon, the start of this race was quite a bit more crowded due to the narrower city streets. Seeing the condition of the downtown streets up close after not having run or driven on them for a long time, they have really gone to pot. The streets are an absolute mess, which is concerning, since winter is right around the corner. Perhaps it was the streets that were chosen for this particular race course, but it seems like the course was threatening us at each turn, whether we were dodging construction barricades or potholes trying to twist our ankles. Much of the downtown section only had two lanes available to runners, so the squeezing and tripping continued for a disconcerting length of time.

Some other complaints that I need to get off my chest focus on the water tables.

  1. Again, we recognize that volunteers perform an essential role in making big events possible, and their gift of time is much appreciated. They usually are so good at doing things like passing out water that you really notice when they haven’t been trained how to do it effectively. At the worst water station, the volunteers were sitting in folding chairs behind the water table, expecting runners to stop and get their own cup of water. This is helpful how?
  2. Water tables can’t be secrets! They need to be marked in advance with signs or hollering volunteers so that runners can maneuver over to get their water or Gatorade in a more or less orderly fashion so nobody gets hurt. This race was large enough that water stations should be on both sides of the course, or at least the for first part of the course where the full and half marathons shared the same route. I inadvertently skipped three of the first four water stations because I did not see them until I was right on top of them. From the grumbles of other runners around me, I knew that I was not the only one. After missing so many, I actually exited the course and doubled back at one station on 38th street so I could finally get some water.
  3. Space them out! Having just one short table with water and Gatorade at each stop meant a lot of crowding and tripping. Concentrating all that traffic into the same area is pretty dangerous. By spacing out the fluids, it is easier to get out, get your cup, and get back into the flow safely.
  4. I absolutely do not mean to overgeneralize about inadequately‐trained volunteers. There were numerous others who were not as taxed, and who were so helpful in cleaning up and directing traffic. I hope that other runners also make an attempt to thank as many volunteers as we can as we pass by.

Water table rants aside, things improved after the first few miles. Public safety officers were professional as always. It is a very helpful feeling to know that they are defending us against frustrated and inattentive drivers. It was neat running through neighborhoods that I have not visited for a long time, especially seeing the beautiful fall colors (or what remained of them) and impractically expensive houses on Pennsylvania and Washington Streets.

By mile 16, I was having my usual thoughts about how “I’m ready for this to be over.” The scenery around Butler was very nice, I am sure, but I started feeling myself fade by the time we reached the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The stretch along White River Parkway — miles 19 and 20 — were completely devoid of any spectators, whose presence I would have appreciated so much. There was nothing but a long line of angry traffic in the opposite lane. I did get a passive‐aggressive boost by giving a cheer and a thumbs‐up (just a thumb, no fingers) to one particular driver of a brown Buick who was leaning on her horn out of frustration for having chosen to drive in race traffic despite signs warning about Saturday morning traffic restrictions.

Ironic how the same folks that complain about Indy not being a world class city are also angry re: marathon traffic. Get out and walk.” — Neal Brown

Due to a combination of my own unpreparedness and to an absence of support from people cheering along the second half (to a marathoner, the last 6 miles is the second “half”), I decided at the point that we turned onto Fall Creek Parkway that I would allow myself a walk break starting just after the turn onto Meridian Street. My right foot had developed a wicked blister in the arch area, and my gait was suffering as a result. My left foot felt like I was starting to lose a toenail. Too much information? Sorry, suffice it to say that I was tired and hurting.

Having looked at the race course before hand, I thought I could stick it out for a few more minutes before taking a breather. Except Fall Creek Parkway kept slogging on. Finally, Meridian Street came, and I walked the next 2 ½ miles. I was so disappointed to have to give up, but I kept in mind that my goal was just to finish, since I was in no way prepared to set any personal records that day. It was enough to run a second marathon this year, making up for two years ago, when I skipped one. There were quite a few runners who stopped at about the same time I did, and I felt so bad for them, knowing they were in the same boat. They were doing so well, but running the whole way just wasn’t going to happen that day.

Initially I just thought I’d walk for a mile and then start running again. I tried just that, and literally after the first step I knew that was a bad idea, so I just kept walking. Another mile later, I tried again but the same thing happened. The wind had picked up also as the morning continued. By this point I was headed into the wind, which was gusting to 30 mph. This made walking surprisingly difficult in places, with the bank of the road, potholes, and my gimpy gait. Spectators had returned to the course along Meridian Street, such a welcome change. Even though I was trudging along at a relatively brisk walking pace, the spectators were cheerful and supportive. Thanks!

By the time I rounded Monument Circle, only the last half mile of the course remained, so I forced myself to start running, because by God I was going to be running across that finish line. Unfortunately I chose to start running just as an event photographer sprang up in front of me, so that photo is bound to have a nasty expression on my face! Yeah, I’ll be sure and spring $40 to get a copy of that one!

Oh, and about that last half mile! Again with the course complaints, I’m glad I was prepared for the last few turns. This was one of those courses where you get SOCLOSE to the finish, only to be forced into a turn that takes you some five blocks farther before turning back to the finish at the rear of the capitol building.

That stretch of walking added about 13 minutes to my time, according to my running pace just before and after the walking, but at least I didn’t seize up, and I could still move enough to rake leaves and mow the lawn later that day. Made it!

forerunner Race profile on Garmin Connect

kml Monumental Marathon in Google Earth (74 kB)

View 2009‐11‐07 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in a larger map

Outrun the Sun 2009

This year’s Outrun the Sun race was in a new location at Fort Benjamin Harrison. We enjoyed the chance to run in a new part of town and on the trail system. The course was hillier than most other races, and the older streets afforded the opportunity to push the jogging stroller over the bumpy parts, which was a great source of entertainment and giggles for its occupant. David finally took advantage of “his own race” and participated in the kids’ run afterward, as well.

View 2009‐06‐06 Outrun the Sun in a larger map

Best Buddies 2009

We really like being able to support Best Buddies Indiana. They held a race last weekend along the Canal Walk in downtown Indianapolis last weekend. Beautiful weather and nice people!

View 2009‐04‐26 Best Buddies in a larger map