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Mini-marathon swag for 2012. Just getting the shirt is worth the registration fee–it’s a really nice one.

On top of working, looking after a new dog (I generally walk Francis three times a day), and taking care of a jealous guinea pig, I spent a lot of time training for the Festival 500 Mini Marathon which took place on May 5 at 7:30 a.m. I’m glad that I finally made it to that point because I spent a lot of hours running and getting ready for it. Plus, I can now be a little less disciplined with my diet (did someone say french fries and beer?).

This race is the largest half marathon in North America and is capped at 35,000 registrants. For those of you who have run the Vancouver Sun Run, one of the largest 10 km races (6.2 miles) in the world, you know how crowded in gets in the starting gates when there are over 55,000 people standing at the start line with you. At the mini, within the A-Z gates, I was assigned to the “M” corral and I estimate that there were about 15,000 people ahead of me, and another 15,000 people behind me (give or take a few thousand). I would have preferred to have been a little closer to the front, like in the “I” or “J” section, but alas, they seem to assign spots closer to the front based on your recent half-marathon time over the last year or two–I had not completed a half since 2009. I noticed that within the first minute across the start line (which, by the way took me almost 16 minutes to cross because I was so far back), I passed a handful of speed walkers (how the heck did the speed walkers get seeded in the same section as the runners? Needless to say, it was a little irritating). I spent the entire race dodging and passing people (often times I had to slow down behind a line of people and wait for an opportunity to pass them). I passed a lot of people–I definitely passed more people than people passed me.

The other issue I had with this race, was the lack of porta-potties at the start line. Before the race started, I would have stood in the line towards the “Y” section, had I known that there wouldn’t have been any bathrooms by my section. I ended stopping in the middle of the race to stand in line at one of the porta-potties at the 5 mile mark (I’m personally taking 2 minutes off my official finish time for that).

In the days leading up to the event, there was concern about the possibility of heat and humidity hampering the race; these two conditions are major safety concerns for participants. It was sobering to run past a few people who were lying on ambulance stretchers. It can be a tough balance to push yourself to achieve a good time while listening to your body and knowing your limits. About 3 miles into the race, I started to feel the heat of the sun hitting me from head to toe and then bouncing off the pavement and hitting me from toe to head. The sun would disappear for a few moments and there were occasional breezes, but otherwise, running was a little tough. I stayed hydrated the day before and pretty much stopped at every watering station during the race. I ran under every sprinkler and one woman was even spraying grateful people with a garden hose as they ran past her house at the 10 mile mark.

One cool part about this race, is that you actually get to run around the Indy 500 track at the Speedway. One immediately thinks of a high school track but, it’s an intimidating 2.5 mile track with stands that seat 400,000 people. Some people say that it’s the hardest part of the race because the track is so long that it feels like you are running in a big circle going nowhere. However, they did have music blasting during the race. When I heard the Beastie Boys Intergalactic song, it pumped me up and I was able to pick up my pace. They also played Soul Sister, by Train and Bryan Adams’ Summer of ’69 , and more 80’s music with I ran by Flock of Seagulls. About 3/4 of the way around the track, I crossed the famous Yard of Bricks (lots of people stopped to kiss the bricks, pose on it, take a picture, or do a push up–I can’t believe how many people kiss that line!)

The last couple of miles of the race were tough. The temperature was creeping up, there was full-on sun and my body felt a bit tired. It was nice to hear all of the people cheering the racers on with words of encouragement–it makes a huge difference. I finished the race with a 2 hour 4 minute official time (minus the bathroom break and wait it was probably closer to 2:02). I didn’t run it in under 2 hours like I had hoped and it wasn’t my personal best time, but I felt that I didn’t do too badly considering the crowd, the heat and how my body felt (the next day, I hardly felt sore–not like previous races after which I could barely walk up the stairs). I feel confident that under other circumstances, I could have had a personal best time. I’m now thinking of entering an autumn mini, just to prove myself right–for now, I’ll just order a side of fries and a beer to celebrate.

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