The Indy Monumental Marathon was my eighth marathon and not to spoil the recap, but it was my best one so far. Apparently age isn’t slowing me down yet!
Although I had a great experience when I ran this race in 2018 I didn’t intend to return this year. I have run so few marathons that I’ve aimed to run a different race each time. The Boston Marathon is an exception if I can get there more than once. My initial plan was to run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon this fall after COVID canceled the 2020 race. Border restrictions were still tight at the beginning of the summer and I knew very well that the race might not happen. Eventually they announced that there would only be a 10K which left me hunting for a new fall marathon. The Vermont City Marathon has been on my list so I signed up for that. No luck – they opted to drop the marathon distance in favor of a half marathon because it wouldn’t require as many medical resources as a marathon. By early September I still didn’t know what marathon I was going to do. I didn’t want to book then potentially cancel another flight, rental car, or hotel room so I wanted to pick a race that was closer to home. I knew a bunch of friends were going to run Indy, it was within driving distance, and I ran a great race there. I decided to break my loose rule about only running different marathons.
The race took place on Saturday, November 6th and I made the 5-hour drive on Friday. I checked into my hotel by Lucas Oil Stadium then walked to the convention center for the expo.
My visit to the expo was pretty brief. I got my packet, browsed some of the merch, then decided I really didn’t need more gear. I already had a hoodie from the 2018 race plus I was adding another official race shirt to my collection. I was tempted by a t-shirt that fans of the TV show Parks & Recreation would appreciate but I opted to just take a picture instead.
Friends were going to dinner at 7:00 so I chose to do my own thing because I didn’t want to eat that late. I wandered around town a little bit, took some pictures, then got a sandwich from Potbelly to eat at the hotel.
I woke up around 6:00 the next morning for an 8:00 start. I had a Mint Condition Picky Bar with some water, got ready, then ate another bar an hour later. The previous night I had spent some time debating what to wear because it would be in the low 30’s to start the race. Fortunately I chose correctly because I wasn’t too hot or cold during the race. The cool morning was perfect for running.
I left the hotel at 7:15 and jogged half a mile to the gear check area so I could have warm clothes waiting for me after the race. I made another bathroom stop first and was thankful that there weren’t any lines around the corner from gear check. I DID end up waiting in line for 10-15 minutes at gear check though. I didn’t expect to waste so much time there and then I found myself following quite a crowd heading to the starting corral.
I found a sign for the B corral which is where I needed to start. Gates lined the corral with no openings in sight. Maybe I had to walk to the very back of the corral to get in but it would have been a whole lot easier if they had openings by each letter. I remembered that had been an issue for me in 2018 as well. I waited to get through one spot where people had yanked the gates open just enough for one person to get through at a time. By that point I only had 5-10 minutes before the race started. I saw a couple of pacers with a 3:30 sign and gathered behind that group. I was aiming to run 3:30 (an 8-minute pace) like I had so many times in the past. I was hung up on a 3:34 PR and hoped the pace group would finally help me get there. I’m glad I heard the pacer explain his plan. He said that the first mile was going to be a little slow. Then they’d run a bunch of miles in the 7:50s. There would be a “hill” by mile 16 and they’d slow down for that. He said he was aiming to run 3:29:30. It sounded like a good plan for me.
Once the race started it took a minute to get moving. I really wanted to rely on the pace group and too many times in the past it hasn’t worked for me. Sometimes the pacers start too fast (or I start too slow) and I lose them right away. Sometimes it’s just too crowded for me to get to them. It was my mission to try to stay close. I was glad one of them kept holding the sign up high enough for me to see him. I worried he’d lower it after a bit and I’d lose him. There were over 9,000 people running together until the half marathon split off a little after the 7-mile mark. The roads were crowded! It had been two years since I’d run a marathon so I hadn’t run in a crowd that big in a long time.
I barely paid attention to any scenery during the early miles because I was so busy watching the ground and the pacers. Considering how congested it was I’m surprised that I ran 8:09 for the first mile. I thought it would have been even slower than that. The second mile was 8:00 right on the dot so I could tell the pacers were doing a good job. Somehow they hadn’t slipped away from me yet but it was a constant worry!
I had a fuel belt with 21 oz. of a Nuun electrolyte drink but I knew I needed to grab water along the way as well. I didn’t have any luck with the first few water stops. Sometimes I was in the middle of the pack and by the time I saw the tables there was no way I could cut over fast enough. I got pretty frustrated and realized I better forget about trying to run tangents. I moved to the outside edge where I figured at least I stood a chance. Even then, sometimes I’d be on one side of the road then the water stop would be on the opposite side! I was thankful it was cold and hoped that would help me from getting too thirsty. I ate my first Clif Blok five or six miles into the race and continued to eat one every 1.25-1.5 miles. Fortunately my stomach was never an issue and I didn’t get too thirsty so it all worked out.
It was pretty crowded until the half marathon runners split. I realized part of the congestion had to do with the pack of people following the pacers. Maybe it was more spaced out away from the group. I kept going with the flow and appreciated how the pack setting worked in my favor. It was easy to maintain a rhythm when everyone else was doing it. I didn’t have to think – I just had to follow! I put all of my faith in the pacers and they were right on target with their plan. My Garmin splits started to stray from the mile markers, probably from weaving so much to get to the water stops and trying to get behind the pacers. Sometimes I had to play catch up when the stops got too congested and the pacers got too far ahead. I knew if I was still behind the pacers I was on track.
Eventually I actually enjoyed some of the scenery like the bright orange trees lining the neighborhood roads. The sky was blue, there was little to no wind, and it was gorgeous. Some parts of the course were familiar since I ran the race in 2018. When we ran past Butler University I paid a little more attention and remembered how I really liked that area last time. There were lots of pretty spots along the course. The course is basically flat but there were a few spots with enough of a decline for me to be thankful that I didn’t have to work as hard to hold the pace. The pacer told us that the “hilly” part would seem like nothing to people who train on real hills. A couple spots required a little extra effort but it wasn’t anything too taxing. Nothing compared to what I’m used to!
Before we hit 20 miles I found myself a few steps ahead of the pace group. I didn’t feel like I was going any faster and I hoped I wasn’t pushing my luck. I knew that it had been pretty easy up to that point because it was so mindless following the pack. When I got ahead of them it was much more spaced out. I figured if they caught back up I’d just fall behind them and keep rolling. I could still hear them behind me for a while. It looks like my pace was just a few seconds faster than it had been with the group. After a few miles of doing that my distance from the group continued to grow. I was grinding a little more but nothing hurt and I was still able to maintain it.
Around 23.5 miles into the race we made a turn onto what felt like the final stretch. We could see the skyscrapers downtown and it seemed like we didn’t have far to go. In reality, that stretch was at least two miles. While it felt good making that “final” push for a bit, eventually it got tough because it lasted so long!
I heard a woman passionately yelling, “I got this! I got this!” I think she was saying it to some spectators she knew. Her mantra got into my head and I told myself the same thing. The 3:30 group was still behind me somewhere so it meant I was on track to really do this. I finally heard a spectator say that we only had two turns left. I knew we had a brief stretch down one road, another straightway, then the turn to the finish. I remembered my friends who told me to have “fun” at the race. This was supposed to be fun! I was going to hit my goal and that DID seem fun. I kept grinding away and grimaced through the last few miles but tried to smile too. I told myself that I was used to this feeling from workouts. I was used to pushing through when it didn’t feel easy but I could still nail that pace. I’m kind of surprised by how “comfortable” I felt for most of the race. By the end I tried to convince myself that I love how I feel when I run. Wasn’t this great? It didn’t really feel like it but I tried to convince myself to add a positive spin.
The spectators were loud and awesome as I got closer to the finish. I truly did smile because I knew that I was really going to do it. My 26th mile was actually the fastest of the race – a 7:40. I’m used to a strong finish when I run half marathons but I usually struggle and my pace falls off by the end of marathons. That didn’t happen this time! I didn’t know what kind of pace I was running at the end but I was giving it my all.
As I rounded the final turn I started to cry. I know that crying while running is not good because it makes me hyperventilate! I couldn’t hold back the emotions of knowing that I had FINALLY done it. I had been aiming for a 3:30 marathon for six years. I had finally proven to myself that the goal really WAS achievable. I was so ecstatic. I saw others crying after I crossed the finish line as well. It can be such an emotional place. I looked at my watch and realized I came in just under 3:29 with a time of 3:28:55. I actually finished a minute UNDER my goal! I waited for the 3:30 pacers to cross the finish line and went over to each of them to express my appreciation. All while still crying tears of joy!
When I saw my splits later I couldn’t believe how consistent they were, especially when broken down into 5K blocks. I give all of the credit to the pacers.
After I stopped my watch I started to get notifications. I had a text from my mom that I answered first, then I ran into my friend Pete. He had run an 8-minute PR and we caught up for a bit. Another friend Michelle finished a few minutes after Pete and she got a PR too. I collected my medal, a knit hat, and stopped for some photo opportunities too.
Eventually I had to load up on the treats like chocolate milk, a Clif Bar, chips, and a chocolate chip cookie. The heat sheet I received at the finish helped but I knew I should go to gear check for my warm clothes too. I was juggling texts from some great friends who had been tracking me then found the table with slices of pizza.
Before I knew it I had to work my way to Weber Grill to meet friends for lunch. It was fun to chat about our races and I think the Impossible burger and fries were a good way for me to refuel. I was stiff when I got up from the table after a couple hours and my legs had gotten achy while sitting there. Things weren’t too bad once I started to walk. I went back to the hotel to clean up and it wasn’t long before I was already thinking about dinner. My eyes felt heavy and my contacts didn’t feel very good so I passed on dinner with friends. Instead, I went out to grab pizza and cheesy bread to enjoy while relaxing in the room. Surprisingly, I didn’t have a post-race headache, blisters, or any other real issues. I even slept reasonably well! I still had the 5-hour drive back home the next day and it felt pretty rough when I got up after sitting so long. As long as I kept moving I felt pretty good. It was a good sign that I didn’t even struggle with the stairs!
Who knows how things would have played out if Toronto or Vermont had worked out but I’m glad I ended up in Indy. I’ve been very happy with most of my marathons but this was the first time I finally performed at the level I had trained for. I ran my first 50K (actually 33 miles) in June and maintained my endurance after that run. I did another race where I completed close to 25 miles, then I did five 20-mile training runs leading up to this marathon. In the past I may have maxed out with three 20-milers. Although my weekly mileage wasn’t higher than any other marathon training segment, I think maintaining that level of endurance made a difference. Like other training segments, I often found myself running 10 seconds faster than my goal pace during targeted workouts. That helped reassure me that I would be fine when I ran a bunch of miles in the 7:50s and didn’t hold steady at 8:00 the whole time.
I can’t believe I got a 5-minute PR and qualified for Boston again with an 11-minute buffer! I couldn’t resist – when registration for Boston opened on Monday morning I had to sign up. It won’t be confirmed until the end of November or early December but I’m pretty sure it will be my next marathon.
I know a lot of people struggle with post-marathon blues. I’ve taken a few moments to question what’s next. I surpassed my goal. Do I keep working to get even faster? If I keep venturing into ultramarathon territory will it make me stronger for marathons? If this is the fastest marathon I ever run am I cool with that? Is it satisfying to simply enjoy the distance by running different races? I honestly haven’t gotten too hung up on these thoughts. I’m still excited about what I achieved and the thought of returning to Boston. I’ve been pushing pretty hard for most of the year so it’s time to give my body a little time to reset and hopefully get rid of a little foot annoyance. In no time I’ll be back to training again!