Top Tips for the Indy Mini-Marathon

14 May

For locals, the One America 500 Festival Mini-Marathon is more lovingly known as “The Mini.”  It is the largest half-marathon in the country with 35,000 participants.  For the past decade, the race has sold out, and it is wildly popular here in Indianapolis. There is also a corresponding 5K, which is a great option for those not quite ready for long distances.   If you are thinking about running this race (or are getting ready to run the race) here are my top tips.

  • Arrive early.  This race is huge. There are 35,000 runners, but that doesn’t include all the 5K runners, spectators, and media.  If you have to park, make sure you arrive with plenty of time to find a spot and get to the start.  You don’t want to let things get down to the last minute.
  • Mentally prepare for the track.  This is the Indy 500 track – it is not your college running track.  It’s meant for cars, not people…so it’s much longer than you think it will be.  If you go in there knowing it’s around 2.5 miles on the track, it will be much easier mentally.  The first year I did this race it really caught me off guard that it’s just so long.  This year, I was prepared and really enjoyed the track.  Sit back and relax – you’ll be out there a long time.
  • Make sure you submit seeding if you run faster than 2:30.  A race with 35,000 participants is pretty huge.  I mean, it takes the back corrals about an hour to cross the start line (that’s not even the finish line!).  If you are a runner and interested in your time/pace, it’s crucial to submit proof of your speed.  This usually has to be submitted about 2 months before the race, so plan in advance.  There is a real difference between corral E and corral X.  Many people walk this race and are put in the later corrals with the other walkers.  If you want to run it, get your seeding done and in early!  You can submit another half-marathon or other race times.  Here is the chart with times:times
  • Don’t miss the bricks. One tradition for Indy 500 winners is to ‘kiss the bricks.’ Well – runners in the race can stop and kiss the bricks too!  The sad part for me – I’ve done this race twice and not only have I not kissed them – I haven’t even seen or acknowledged them!  It’s something really unique about the Indy mini, so it’s definitely worth noting even if you don’t want to stop.  You can join the ranks of all the Indy 500 winners!
  • Run on the left (if you’re going for a PR). This year I stayed predominantly on the left (unintentionally) and realized it tends to be the “inner” part of the course.  A lot of the turns and the track veer to the left.  After sticking pretty closely to the left this year I feel I have found a solid strategy for future minis.  Call me crazy! One thing to remember is that the “left” is often the passing lane for many – be sure to follow nice racing etiquette and don’t stay on the far left if you’re not using it for passing.  I tried to stay “one lane” from the far left and that worked well for me.
  • Run in the grass. Along the track is some deliciously soft grass!  Give you legs a break and run on the inside of the track in the lawn.  I didn’t spend too much time on the grass, but just a few minutes of it was a nice change of pace for my legs.
  • Plan for spectators.  Have I mentioned the mini is huge?  Yeah – so huge that you will miss your spectators if you don’t know where they are!  Specifically know roughly what mile-marker and most importantly the side of the road they will be on.  My ‘fans’ were at mile 5 on the left and that seemed like a popular spot and relatively easy for them to navigate.  I’m so thankful we decided ahead of time or I would’ve been very disappointed to miss them, or be stressed searching for them the whole time!
  • Wave to everyone. Okay this might be my biggest secret of Kelly racing history: I wave and thank supporters.  Consistently and cheerfully.  It might seem crazy to “waste” energy doing this.  But holy moly – it’s amazing how energizing a returned smile can be.  Plus the more energetic you look, the more likely spectators will look at your bib and cheer your name.  Seriously – works like a charm every time.  I’ve done this in every single race (yes even the nightmarish mini of last year) and I don’t see any reason to stop now.  If you’ve never done it, give it a whirl!  You’d be amazed how you can brighten up a random spectators day!  Specific to the mini- the course has to go through some poorer parts of town to get to the main event: the track! Because of this many spectators sit on their porches and don’t really realize runners are paying attention to them.  It’s so heartwarming to see them enthusiastically wave back when they realize runners are happy they are out!
  • Anticipate crowds.  Just like any major race, expect crowds.  Expect lines for porta potties, race pictures, and parking.  Budget extra time getting to and from the race and you’ll have a much smoother and stress-free experience.  The 500 festival does an awesome job so they work through lines and crowds very efficiently, but it’s still a lot of people!
  • Don’t miss the Chocolate Milk. Wow – fantastic new discovery this year!  They give away free chocolate milk at the after-party.  Yeah – talk about big tip (you’re welcome).  The trick is that the milk isn’t in the finisher’s shoot with all the other food and goodies.  Once you leave that area head around to the right and there is a whole booth dedicated to chocolate milk!  It was everything I could’ve hoped for.
  • Pick up your results. The mini has a results tent in the after-party where you can pick up a sticker with your results time and details.  I grabbed mine and stuck it on my bib for a great keepsake.  It was quick, easy, and an awesome way to personalize my bib!
  • Have fun! You’re racing on the Indy track with 35,000 other runners!  What an awesome experience.  The most important tip: have fun and enjoy.  This is a race you won’t soon forget!

Happy racing!


Have you ever run “the mini”?  Do you have any tips?

2 Responses to “Top Tips for the Indy Mini-Marathon”

  1. megbek May 15, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    These are such good pointers. I would probably freak out like crazy with so many people. In fact, I’m doing a 10K in July in ATL and supposedly, it’s the biggest 10k in the country and I’m anxious about the large crowds. The start corrals last for a while for this race too so hopefully I’m in a good one! Chocolate milk is the BEST after a race, I’m with ya there on that new discovery! I haven’t ever run the mini, but so many bloggers posted about that it’s on my bucket list. :)

    • racesrepsramblings May 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

      Yeah – it is overwhelming for sure! It helps to mentally prepare for that many people. Glad you enjoyed the tips and I hope you get to run the mini someday. It’s an awesome one! Certainly unique :) I can’t wait to hear about your 10K in July! Good luck with the rest of training!

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