I had never really planned on running the Indy Mini – ever, really. Though it's one of the biggest (if not the biggest, depending on the year) half marathons in the country and just two hours from me, I never really saw the draw. It was crowded, often hot and with 2.5 miles on the race track, it seemed tedious.
However, when a friend offered me the chance to run for her, I had a hard time turning it down. It was a big year for the race, after all. It was the 40th running of the Indy Mini, Meb was going to be the guest of honor and my BRF was participating. And speaking of BRF Tami. Not only did she put in the miles for the race, she put her soul into it. Instead of setting a time goal, she decided to raise money for Riley Children's Hospital in honor of a friend whose baby spent months at the facility. Tami not only raised more than $2,000 but she was the top fundraiser for Team Riley.
And so the plan was that I would run with her, and we were going to celebrate her accomplishment. Run with joy. In the meantime, we'd set an awesome PR in fun.
I headed down to Indianapolis on Friday night after work, stopping for a roasted chicken on wheat from Subway. Tami had picked up my bib so once I got to the hotel, I was able to wander around and get an early peek at the finish line – just two or three blocks from where we were staying. I thought I might try to find a coffee or a snack but nothing seemed close by and my stomach was a bit off. I couldn't tell if I was hungry or feeling sick.
The feeling of nausea intensified through the night, and I couldn't decide whether I wanted to get up to vomit or go to the bathroom. Instead, I opted for a fitful night's sleep – the kind where you don't feel like you've slept at all. I didn't want to get up and have, err, issues and wake up Tami and her husband.
Race morning, I felt a little bit better and so I slowly ate a brown sugar Pop-Tart and sipped a Diet Pepsi. I got dressed, put fruit punch Nuun in my Nathan hydration pack and prepared for the race.
I was in a good mood albeit nervous when we got to the start line. Tami and I took fun selfies; I danced to the music because, when in doubt, dancing is always a good idea; and we marveled at the outfit selections of our fellow runners. It was mid-50s at the start, and we saw people in full tights and long-sleeves to men in shorty shorts and no shirts (but heart rate straps). There were runners lined up as far – and farther – than the eyes could see, and it felt awesome to be a part of a race of such magnitude.
When the checkered flag waved for our wave to go off, I set off with Tami ready and hopeful to take on the race. It was a bit crowded and congested but we managed to find a steady pace and a bit of space in the crowd. I felt OK, not great, for the first few miles. The 9:30ish pace, leg-wise, felt good and the nausea was apparent but not aggravating. The biggest problem, if anything, was the weather – nearing 60 and full sun with the urban neighborhoods offering no shade.
But things got a little more iffy as we got closer to mile 5. Tami said she wanted to use a portable bathroom. Pregnant = pee break (her, not me). It, the request, was almost apologetic but I was grateful. It would give me a chance to walk, maybe settle the stomach and I could use one, as well. I thought maybe everything would work itself out if I popped in.
It didn't work itself out, though, and I knew from then on that I was, quite possibly, in trouble. Real trouble. I began thinking about whether to DNF and how I could DNF. I wondered where the medic tents would be and how far I could go before stopping at one.
We were so close to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, though, and running on the famed track. I told myself to just get to the track, run the 2.5 miles around it, kiss the bricks and be done.
Just outside, at an aid station, I walked a bit to grab water and a selfie with a Chick-Fil-A cow. Inside, I told Tami that I needed to walk and when I did so, I nearly threw up. Actually, I wanted to and I couldn't. After the seventh mile beeped, the urge (and failure to do so) came again.
We kissed the bricks and I told Tami to go. I felt so sick and crampy, and any race I had in me was over. She looked reluctant but she didn't sign up for this and this was her race. Also, I promised that I was going to quit.
At mile 8.5, I exited the track and looked for a med tent.
At mile 9, I grabbed water and tried to do math. I could walk 4 miles in 40 minutes. Or I could run 4 miles in 48 minutes. Wait. What the what. I decided to try a run-walk strategy to get to mile 10.
At mile 10, I thought I only had two miles left and figured I could death march it to the finish.
At mile 11, I realized I was wrong. But now it really was two miles. My goal was to run 0.75 of every mile and walk a quarter but it was closer to 0.6-0.4 or worse.
At mile 11.75, I used the port-o-potty again.
In the last mile, I saw a guy on a stretcher being loaded into a medic cart. I wondered if it should be me. A volunteer in a military uniform thought it should be, too, and tried to get me to sit down. I was walking, slowly, in the last half-mile. I said I just wanted to finish. I had made it this far, after all.
At mile 13.1, I finished a race I had no business running. I don't know how I did it and I'm not sure I'm proud that I did. I went through the finishers' area, grabbed some goodies and headed back to the hotel to use a real bathroom.
Many times after such a disappointing race, I'd be inclined to beat myself up, wonder where I went wrong and what I could have done better. In this case, there's no beating myself up. The hardest part is that my stomach bug/possible food poisoning affected what was an otherwise great race and the race of my friend. I'm used to being a strong, dependable runner and running friend but on this day I wasn't – not even close.
But, to glean something positive from the day, I realized why everyone wants to run the Indy Mini and now have a reason to go back and destroy it.