I have put off writing this post for a week because I didn’t have the words to talk about it. It was so wonderful to see all my college friends and their families. It was wonderful to just be together and hang out.
I arrived in Indianapolis Thursday morning. I had meant to arrive around 11 p.m., but my work schedule changed, so I decided that I would just take the whole day to travel and chill out a few days before the race. I really lucked out because the standby flight I got was the same one my good friend Ian was on! Ian’s wife, Stef, and their baby, Penelope, were already in Indianapolis, so it was nice to have each other for company while we waited for our flight.
Once we arrived, the catching up started in earnest! We had a great time playing with the little ones. Hannah, the oldest,
is 4, and her brother Zach is 2. They belong to Gene and Tomi, who were our gracious hosts in Indy. We ate like kings and just enjoyed each other’s company.
I also found a precious, precious beverage: Boulevard Wheat! The beer of my grad school days in Columbia, Missouri, it used to be impossible to get outside of Missouri. They seem to have expanded their distribution, and I couldn’t have been happier.
On Friday, Tomi and Gene hosted a get-together for some friends. A number of them were also running the race, so it was fun to chat with some new folks. We are massive amounts of Italian food and guzzled water (and okay, I had to finish the Boulevard. Beers count as carbs, right?)
Race morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed for the group shot above. None of us were awake, of course, but we were all getting pretty excited. We left the kids with Stef and Tomi’s sister Kerri (who took all of the best photos in this post. Anything else was shot with an iPhone and can’t even compare) and headed off to get in our corrals.
We were all in different ones, with me the furthest back in corral P. Everyone else was up in I and J. I had to sneak up to J to hang out with my friends, since the volunteers were sending people backwards to their proper places pretty aggressively! Still, I got in (during the National Anthem, when no one was looking at me) and we were able to start together.
It was 65 degrees or so when the gun went off and 90 percent humidity. I knew it would be a tough race, but I hadn’t realized quite how tough.
After the gun went off, Gene and Tomi hit the first port-a-johns and I waited for Tomi because hey, she talked me into this race. I wanted to run at least part of the way with her. (Also, she’s the one who first got me into running, so it seemed absolutely fitting.) Gene blew past us, of course, but we knew he would do that. We hadn’t seen Ian since before the gun went off, so we just hoped he was doing well.
As for us? Well, we had downed about half of my water bottle by mile 5. The first few miles of the course were really lovely, along the river and over bridges, but then we got to the area around the Speedway and there were fewer distractions.
And then…the Speedway itself. It’s mile 6-8 of the race, basically. The track itself is 2 and a half miles but feels much longer. I lost Tomi at mile 7 – she was having heat-related stomach issues and I definitely didn’t want to mess with that. There were two rules, I decided at the outset – no fainting and no barfing. We may not have hit our time goals, but we made sure we didn’t break those rules. I had forgotten that people kiss the bricks until a couple in front of me did a perfectly executed squat, kiss, and jump mid-stride. They must have practiced it for ages; I was just grateful I was far enough behind them that I didn’t trip over them!
I also managed to have my iPhone fall out of my pocket into a pack of runners and almost had heart failure. Luckily no one stepped on it and a kind soul picked it up for me. Thank goodness! My iPhone has my whole life in it and I would be lost without it.
I ran a pretty strong race, though I had to walk at mile 11.5 or so because my stomach was starting to rebel. I took a water or a Gatorade (sometimes one of each) at every water stop – they were every half-mile by then – and don’t think I’ve ever drunk so much during a race before. During my walk break I got a text from our brilliant spectators telling us they were waiting at the finish line.
I started running again at mile 12 and powered through the home stretch. Mostly I was just. So. Ready. To be done. I was hot and sticky and had terrible thigh-chafe and all I wanted was a bottle of really cold water and maybe an orange.
My chip time said I finished in 2:33:57, but my watch said 2:22, and since I had two bathroom breaks in there, I’m going with my watch. It’s not a PR, not even close, really, nor is it even as good as my first half-marathon, but it was a damn sight better than Philly and I felt strong and injury-free the whole time I was running. I’ll take it!
We all made it to the finish line. I don’t think any of us were really happy with our times, but that was all sort of beside the point. We had accomplished something amazing, something a lot of people never even try to do, and we had the best damn support team in the business. Thanks, running friends, for the awesome experience, and thanks to Penelope, Zach, Hannah, Stef, Kerri and (remotely) Tom for being the best friends, cousins, siblings, kids, and spouses anybody could ever want. You guys are the best and I had so much fun doing this big, awesome, scary thing with you. Can’t wait until the next one!
Enjoy the photo gallery if you’re inclined to click through and check out more of Kerri J. Sparks’ photography on her website. She’s amazing, y’all!