Back in 2008, when I was well over 200 pounds, my sister asked me to walk a half-marathon with her: the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon. When I signed up, I had all these plans of training and losing weight before the race. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. On race day, I only had a few miles of walking under my belt, but I did the race anyway. It was extremely difficult, and I even wound up getting bad tendonitis from my nonexistent training, but I loved the race itself. That was the first race I'd ever done, so I didn't have a clue what to expect, but I definitely wasn't expecting it to be so fun!
I immediately signed up to do the race again the following year. Despite my intentions of losing the weight (again), I toed the line in 2009 at my heaviest--253 pounds. However, I did prepare and train this time, and had a much better race. It was during the 2009 race where the infamous "before" photo of me in the blue shirt was taken.
Seeing my brother, Brian, along with my sister's friend, Jen, and my friend, Renee, run that year lit a fire under me to start running. Instead of making weight loss resolutions, I decided I was going to run the half-marathon in 2011. I had been doing a little running up until then, and was at the point where I could run 5K, so I started adding mileage and working my way up to training for a half-marathon.
In 2011, I was 147 pounds, and ready to run 13.1 miles for the first time. I am SO glad that I chose the Indy Mini as the first half-marathon I ran! The course is so entertaining that the miles just flew by, and I truly (honestly!) enjoyed each minute of it. I ran the entire way, and crossed the finish line in 2:10:40.
The 500 Festival Mini Marathon is a FANTASTIC race, especially for first-time half-marathoners. With 35,000 participants, the Mini is the largest half-marathon and the seventh-largest road race in the U.S., as well as the 18th largest road race in the world. The course is lined with over 80 bands (yes, EIGHTY!). There are also several groups and cheer squads along the course to entertain the runners and walkers.
The race is also very walker-friendly! I walked this race for three years before I decided to run it. The course has minimum pace requirement of 18:00/mile, but even if you're just starting out, I believe there is plenty of time to train to meet that requirement. I held a 17:41/mile pace at my heaviest weight (after training). With 35,000 participants, there are a LOT of people walking; I never felt embarrassed to be walking instead of running. Here is the plan I used to train to walk the race; and here is the plan I used to train to run the race.
The course is unique in that you get to run around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway race track. That's where the name "500 Festival" comes from--the Indianapolis 500 is a 500-mile motor race around the track held over Memorial Day weekend on that track.
Personally, my favorite part of the course is actually in the first mile, when you get to run past the zoo. If you look to your right, you can see the elephants :) It's kind of crazy, but when I walked the race, just before the 2-mile mark, you can see the elite runners as they approach mile 12! They start the race right as the gun goes off, but since I was in the back of the pack of 35,000 people, it took me nearly 30 minutes just to get to the starting line. So the timing makes sense that the elites would be there at that point. The first place finishers usually finish under 1:02 (about 4:43/mile). Crazy fast!
Each time I've gone, we've made a fun weekend out of it. We get a hotel right at the starting line (the Embassy Suites Downtown Indianapolis), so we can literally walk out of the hotel and into our corral. We've always gone out for pasta at Buca di Beppo the night before the race. And I LOVE that this race is on a Saturday, because that means we can spend the afternoon/evening
Anyway, I was already registered for the 2015 race when the Director of Marketing contacted me to see if I'd like to offer a giveaway on my blog. I'm not an ambassador for the race or anything--I just truly love love LOVE this race, and I would love to give the opportunity to someone else! I'm really looking forward to spending the weekend there in 2015 with my Sole Mates Ragnar team.
I have not one, but TWO free registrations to give away. Right now, the registration cost is $85, and it jumps to $95 on January 1st (the race usually sells out before then, however). I know that because of the location, many of you may not be able to enter; but if you're considering a destination race next year, this is a great one to do!
So, if you'd like to enter to win a registration for the Indy Mini, just fill out the form below. Before entering, please just double check that you're able to go to the race if you should win. (ETA: There was an issue with the form--my mistake. So sorry if you weren't able to have access to it before! It appears to be working now.)
I will close entries and choose a winner on Friday, November 21st at 1:00 PM EST. Good luck!