OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon – Part 1: Aggravations
The OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon boasts of being the nation’s largest half-marathon, having sold out with 35,000 participants for the last 11 years. Being a relatively new runner, I was told that if I were to run a half-marathon, I simply HAD to run the 500 Festival. It needed to be on my runner’s bucket list. Well, I needed a half-marathon for this year’s race season so I figured, what the heck and I signed up.
Like a good runner and the rule-follower that I am, I read the course regulations, FAQs, and every other thing I could read to get a handle on how large the race actually was and what to expect.
Because there are 35,000 participants, obviously seeding is important. Directly quoted from the website, it states that “All participants will have a corral letter on their bib number. This letter corresponds to a specific starting location based on your estimated finishing time. You must start in this corral or, if you are starting with another person that is in a different corral, you must start in the slower of the two locations. The order of the corrals are as follows (from fastest to slowest) A, B, C, D, E, F, etc.” Participants can submit information from previous runs and verify how fast they plan on finishing the race to get a good seed corral. People who plan on walking get seeded in the back corrals to avoid congestion on the course. As stated on the 500 Festival website, “This corral method is designed to help alleviate passing and congestion throughout the course making your race experience more enjoyable.” This makes perfectly good sense to me. However, if you are seeded in the back half of the alphabet (corrals M-Z), it could take up to an hour for you to even get to the Start line. But no matter how tempted you are to hop the fence and get into a faster corral it’s really not cool to everyone else who is following the rules. That is just my personal opinion. Another thing that it is very clear in the course regulations is that “The following are strictly prohibited at all times: Baby Strollers (and a bunch of other things).”
Now that we have the background info on rules and regulations, I’m going to blow a little steam. Being a school teacher, rules and following rules are a big thing to me. I am not a person who thinks to herself, “Rules are made to be broken.” or “Rules don’t apply to me.” If there are rules there must be a good reason for it, so I should follow it.
The folks at OneAmerica have this 500 Festival Mini-Marathon down to a science, from the confirmation post card they send you in the mail, e-mail updates, the race packet expo, and the race itself. Everything was well organized and there were volunteers everywhere. However, with 35,000 race participants PLUS family, friends, and random people around to watch, it can be difficult to catch every little thing.
Before I get to sounding super negative, let me just reiterate that I was not in a bad mood by any means and I was super excited to take part in this race. But also keep in mind that I was trying to beat my last mini marathon time of 2 hours and 2 minutes. So here I am, in my corral by 7:00 AM just like the handout that I received at the expo told me to be. Each corral had a little entrance manned by 2 volunteers checking bibs to make sure you were in the correct corral. (I’m seeded in Corral L.) I’m hanging out, stretching, waiting for my husband to get there from parking car. As the time gets closer to 7:30 AM, I notice people starting to hop the corral fences instead of walking back to the corral entrances. Ok, no biggie. I can see why you don’t want to walk back to the entrance that is at the tail end of your corral. But then I notice that the people hopping the fence are supposed to be in Corral M, T, and X. WTF?! I earned my spot here in Corral L and I’m supposed to be here. Then an older couple hopped the fence right in front of me and their bibs said Corral S. (Yes – I was reading bib numbers and corral letters). I was getting highly annoyed at this point. If I were in Corral S, I would be in the correct corral mainly because I would be afraid of getting busted and made to move. But these people had no qualms about breaking the rules as if the rules didn’t apply to them or they simply didn’t care. (And we wonder where our morals have gone in this country… people can’t even follow rules at a race).
I was determined not to let it get me down, after all I was participating in the largest mini-marathon in the nation. This is a HUGE deal. So the time finally came to start. I’m slowly moving closer and closer to the start line (literally start and stop). Soon it was our turn to start running. Weaving in and out of people is normal at the beginning of a race, but I’m sorry you SHOULD NOT BE WALKING in the first mile of a mini-marathon if you are in the front corrals. This is why we have seeding, people! So here I am, trying to get around people who are walking trying not to bulldoze them over to get around them, in between them, etc. Of course then I had to turn and look to see what corral they were supposed to be in and of course I passed what seemed like at least 20 people with corral letters in the back half of the alphabet. These “rule-breakers” who clearly were there for the experience (which is totally fine by the way) were clearly in the way of people who were trying to set PRs or run their first min-marathon to get a baseline time. RUDE – I was highly annoyed but I muscled on.
The biggest thing about running the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon is being able to run on the Indy500 racetrack. This is supposed to be a cool, once in a lifetime experience (unless of course you run this race every year). You are running on the track, music is blaring, people are cheering for you, the energy is great… until you run into the person in front of you who is walking on the inside of the track. I literally was running in the grass passing people. I really think to improve this experience, there should be a walking lane so if you run out of steam, you can merge into the walking lane so those of us who are trying to run the entire thing (albeit not at Olympic paces) don’t have to worry about tripping over you. It was very congested and I felt very claustrophobic.
My last aggravation is baby strollers. Normally I they don’t bother me at races. In fact, I think kudos to you for running AND pushing a baby stroller at the same time. But it clearly states no baby strollers simply because there are 35,000 people trying to run this race, the roads are always wide, and it’s a safety hazard. Not surprisingly though there were baby strollers (jog strollers) in the race. Now the people who were pushing the strollers that I saw were really getting at it so I’m not complaining about their pace – it was just the principal of the matter… again the “rules don’t apply to me” or “rules are made to be broken” attitude. It’s no wonder some of our children in our schools don’t follow rules because they watch adults break rules all the time.
Actions speak louder than words and children learn by watching. So even though hopping corrals might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, people are teaching their children that if doesn’t seem like a big deal then it’s okay to break the rules. As a teacher, please let me tell you that it is never okay to break the rules no matter how small.