I always laugh when saying “mini-marathon” in reference to the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. There’s absolutely nothing mini about it. From the 35,000 runners and walkers to the 13.1-mile course, which includes a lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, everything about this event is huge. I’m no runner myself, but I have attended this event several times to cheer on friends and family. Just being a fan can be a bit overwhelming and it helps to have a plan in place ahead of time. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way, along with some tips from the 500 Festival.
- Check your route and plan to walk. Many streets are closed for this event, so particularly if you’re coming from the west or north side of the city, have a sense of how you’ll get downtown that day. A road closure map is here. You’ll likely park far from the finish line, so even though you might not have signed up to walk 13.1 miles, you’ll end up getting some exercise too. A map of available downtown parking areas is here.
- Know your runners’ and walkers’ times. Try to get a sense of how long it will take them to complete the course. If you plan to be there at the finish line, this will be helpful for you to know when to really start paying attention and keeping an eye out for them among the masses.
- Find out what their starting corral is. Each runner and walker is assigned a designated corral to start the race. For those in corrals toward the back, it can take nearly 30 minutes to actually get to the start line in the morning when the race begins. You’ll need to calculate that wait time when determining what time they might finish. A map of the starting corrals is available here.
- Sign up for updates. This tracking ability is new this year, and I think it’s an amazing addition to the fan and participant experience. Registration for Runner Tracking is open May 2 at 9 a.m. through May 6 at 9 p.m. (EST). You can receive text updates, emails, Facebook posts or tweets as your friends and family cross Mile 5, the Yard of Bricks, Mile 10 and the Finish Line.
- Know where you want to watch the race. I always choose the finish line, where there are plenty of bleachers. I mostly do this because there’s nothing better than watching a loved one complete such a phenomenal personal accomplishment, but it also means you can take in some of the hoopla of the event. Military Park is the home of the post-race party, and there are food and beer vendors, entertainment and more.
- Have a meeting spot for after the race. Hopefully you’ll see them finish, but regardless, you won’t want to be coordinating where to meet up at that time. There are lots of tents set up around the finish area where you could meet. If they trained with a particular group or organization that will have a tent, I’d recommend meeting there.
- Bring your camera and a box of tissues. I don’t know why, but I get choked up every time I go.