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I love Indianapolis.

November 3, 2012 was the first time our family returned to Indianapolis after our move to Michigan. It was a strange feeling returning without having a home here.

Running here felt so special. I started running in Indiana. Our life has completely changed (for the better) while living in Indiana. We have met many great people in Indiana. We always loved visiting Indianapolis. Especially the downtown area.

When I first learnt about the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon event, I wanted to participate. Because of all the emotional connections to the state of Indiana and to the Indianapolis area, I really wanted to run at this race and did not want to wait until next year. So two weeks after the Detroit Free Press International Half Marathon, here I was standing in the middle of the 8 min/mile pace wave in Indianapolis ready to run another 13.1 miles.

An emotional race with a strong start, familiar and unfamiliar streets, countless high fives and arms in the air finish. And here is how all that happened.

Pre-race preparation:

It might be a common thing at other places, but for me it was surprising to see that this race will take place on Saturday morning instead of Sunday. Not that it is good or bad, it was just new for me. Also since there was no race day packet pick up, we took a day off and drove to Indy on Friday morning.

Everything in hand for the race

Packet pick up went smooth, there was even a station where you could scan your bib to confirm that it really works. Great idea! We did not spend any extra time at the Expo as the gang was already in starving mode. With starving kids, browsing through the Expo is not fun, so after we picked up the packet, purchased some GU shots for the race and then took off. We have spent the rest of Friday at a friends’ house and could not wait for the race to start.

Race day morning:

The race was going to start at 8AM. The kids stayed with our friends, so my wife and I could drive to downtown as a race day date.

I have seen warmer…

We arrived to downtown sometime after 6:30AM. Parked in the underground parking garage at the Indiana State museum, which is a few minutes of easy walk from the Start and Finish lines. Since we got there a bit early again trying to beat the crowd, we had about an hour to kill by the time everything was prepared for the race.

Almost ready to go…

So we decided to walk around downtown, discovering the streets in the chilly, early morning weather. It was interesting to see the continuously growing crowd on the streets. We were watching the volunteers installing various things, getting ready to support the event. Though it did not feel that the temperature was getting any warmer, but this early Saturday morning date was making up for the cold weather.

Soon there will be lot of people here ready to run…

Then the pace signs showed up and fellow runners started to gather around them. Once there was a decent crowd already, I kissed goodbye to my date and took my position not far behind the invisible line of the 8 min/mile pace marker.

Start:

One thing I am yet to experience is upset runners. This has been my third Half Marathon, with large crowd at the start and yet still everyone is so patiently waiting for their turn to finally cross the Start line and start running.

So ready to run

Everyone is watching out for the others, there are always some funny persons around who make funny comments while standing and fighting with the rapidly increasing anxiety of wanting to run. In the chilly weather it was difficult to tell who is moving arms and legs because of the increasing anxiety or just simply because they wanted to keep bloods flowing in their veins. In my case first it was a balance of both, but the closer we got to 8AM, the more it was the anxiety I felt. I just wanted to run already.

8 min pace group – yes, I tried to set the bar high…

And finally the crowd started to move. Surprisingly within less than two minutes our group was already crossing the Start line and within seconds we were all running. I love this moment and I love Indianapolis. It has been an amazing feeling knowing that I am running in this great city. My wife recorded the race start. Unfortunately here phone gave up before I could get there, but still this is a great clip to get you excited about running… (please click here if the video would not show up)

Mile 1:

The first few miles of the race was zigzagging through the downtown area (click here for the race course map). Before we reached the Mile 1 marker, we run south on Meridian Street.

Great route through Downtown

Passed all the bars and restaurants. Some that I had great memories linked to. Then I remembered the great walks we had here, the times we went to downtown to grab a few beers. Great area. Then we turned a couple corners and there it was: we were passing by the Lucas Oil Stadium. Beautiful building. I remember when I was there for the first time. Amazing feeling. Then I remember when we had visitors from Hungary and took them to a Colts game. I never thought I will see a grown up tough man with teary eyes just as he was staring at the field from the stands. The first mile went by so quickly. I also checked the race clock and I knew I am running too fast. Obviously compared to myself and to the pace I wanted to start with. So I tried to slow down a bit, but I can tell you slowing down is not an easy thing to do, when there are so much memories, so much emotions running through your mind and there is a great group to run with. And on top of that if there is a great crowd cheering everywhere on the sidewalks.

I reached the Mile 1 marker at 8:05 with a 7:43 min/mile pace (as always, the Sports-Tracker miles are not aligned with the race mile markers, so I keep posting both numbers, hoping that at some point somebody might help me to find an explanation…).

Recorded my time at every mile marker (not sure why Sports Tracker is off compared to the official mile marker positions)

Mile 2:

I told you I was running much faster than I planned to. 7:43 min/mile pace on my own scale is super fast. Especially when I have another 12 miles to run. So much for the disciplined plan execution! As always: I wanted to start a bit slower, then increase my speed little by little and running very strong from 8-10 miles onward  depending on how I feel at that point. In reference: running slower for me now means running around 8:35 min/mile, fast means 8:10 min/mile. 7:43 min/mile was not even on the radar for me… Well at least I did make some adjustment on my speed keeping the second half of the race in mind.

This mile went by quickly as well and I reached the Mile 2 marker in 8:39 with an 8:27 min/mile pace. Great adjustment Laszlo! Keep it up!

Mile 3:

An awesome mile in the race!!! The closer we were getting to the Monument Circle, the more excited I was. I know sooner or later we will pass the Monument and I was expecting there will a bit more people cheering. And it did not disappoint. The feeling I felt when I was approaching the Monument, then making a right turn in front of it, following the flow. The cheering crowd was great and this was not the moment to slow down. I wonder how much faster everybody would run if there would be such a huge crowd through the whole race. I am not sure, but while running through this crowd, I felt I could run very strong forever… I remembered all the great moments we had around the Monument. We always stopped by here. We went on a horse carriage ride around downtown. We climbed all the stairs up to the top of the Monument. We were playing tag with the girls around the Monument. Run up and down the stairs probably a million times. And sometimes we were just sitting on the stairs, watching the crowd. Watching the bikes and hot rods on a warm Saturday evening. I was already running with teary eyes.

Reached the Mile 3 marker in 8:24 with an 8:22 min/mile pace.

Mile 4:

The further away we were getting from the Monument Circle, the less familiar the streets were for me. Not that it is a bad things, it just shows how much more we still have left to discover in this great city. So I tried to capture as many mental images as possible. What has not changed was the friendly crowd cheering from the sidewalk. It seemed like a giant was playing a computer game with us and copy-pasted all the friendly people through every mile, every yard, every step. Here I was running with great excitement, wanted to see more and more what I have missed to see from this great city. So I kept on running with the flow.

I reached the Mile 4 marker in 8:31 with an 8:15 min/mile pace.

Mile 5:

I felt great and I felt still strong, but I knew that the emotions got the best of me and I was running faster than I wanted to through these first miles, but I did not mind too much anymore. I also knew, that I was able to adjust my speed from the super fast (Laszlo scale to be used here) first mile and the fact that the last few miles will be  going on Meridian Street, a very familiar street gave me confidence, that I will be able to get through this race well. Also at this point I felt that I have a really good chance to pass the Finish line in less than 1:50. That is my next milestone to pass. I also looked for the GU shots. I had two GU shots with me and planned to take the first one after 5 miles. I had a good practice run where I had a GU shot and did not have upset stomach or any other issues, so I felt comfortable using it here.

I arrived to the Mile 5 marker in 8:34 with an 8:15 min/mile pace.

Mile 6:

GU shot time! I do not know what kind of experience anybody else has with GU shots, but based on this limited experience that I had, so far they seem to be working well for me. This time I opted for the Mandarin-Orange. Tasted good, it was easy to use without the choking hazard of my previous choice (the Mott’s fruit snack – which I still like, but GU shots are easier to handle through the race).

By this time we were running through residential areas then started running up North parallel with Meridian Street. I wanted to be a good citizen, so I decided that I will carry my trash until I find a trashcan. Which came soon at the next aid station. The conversations I heard around me confirmed my estimate of running at around 8:15 min/mile pace. Compared to myself that was a fast pace so early in such a long distance. I still felt comfortable, I still felt strong, knees were holding up, no issues. I also decided that I will take some water at a later aid station, so at least the GU shot will have some company down there…

I arrived to the Mile 6 marker in 8:06 with an 8:04 min/mile pace.

Mile 7:

I knew this was going to be a special race for many different reasons, but I never thought it will be unique due to the fact, that I have never gave so many high-fives as I did through this race and through these first few miles. I felt that with every high-five I get an extra boost of energy. Thank you volunteers, thank you cheering people!!! The Mile 7 marker usually special milestone for me: once I pass it, it is a confirmation that I have less distance left to run than still ahead of me to conquer. I also knew that sometime around Mile 7 the Half-Marathon crowd will take a left turn, while the Marathon crowd will keep on going.

I reached the Mile 7 marker in 8:26 with an 8:14 min/mile pace.

Mile 8:

Shortly after the Mile 7 marker we started to see the signs, giving clear directions which way the Marathoners and which way the Half-Marathoners should go.

Half to make a left turn, Full to keep going…

Just as I was ready to make my designated Half-Marathoner left turn, I took a last look at the Marathoners who were heading for their 16 miles long loop before they would get back onto and head south on Meridian Street. We had about 3 more miles to run till reaching Meridian Street. I set my mental goal to reach Meridian Street. I expected that it will be much easier to pound through the miles, once I will see the tall buildings from downtown in front of me. Here we have been running through quiet residential areas, which was very comforting, very nice to run. I was surprised about the number of residents out in front of their houses. Some playing music for the runners, some standing out there cheering, some standing out there giving away high-fives… Given how chilly the morning weather was, for sure I was already sweating and did not feel cold at all, but for the people on the sidewalks and the volunteers who were standing out there for hours. That is an accomplishment as well. Thank you again volunteers and thank you again cheering people!!!

I reached the Mile 8 marker in 8:35 with a pace of 8:27 min/mile.

Mile 9:

I slowed down a bit, but still did not worry. We were running through streets I have never been before and I was not familiar with, but I knew we will turn back south somewhere close to the 38th Street. I remember when I told my wife that we are going to run up north until the 38th Street, she was amazed. I guess she was right. It is quite a bit of distance. After all by now I have been running for more than an hour already. I stopped to drink some water, and then continued running.

I arrived to the Mile 9 marker in 8:38 with an 8:20 min/mile pace.

Mile 10:

This mile is when my eyes and mind were goofing with me. Or this has been my weird mental low point through the race. I do not know, but I remember approaching an intersection and I saw the street sign showing 22nd Street and I thought: “Wow, we are running fast here, reaching the 22nd Street from the 38th Street so quickly”. Until a few steps later I could clearly see the sign “32nd Street”. Keep on dreaming Laszlo! Also somewhere here I happened to hear two fellow runners talking. One of the guys was asking the other if he was doing OK and if he can now leave him alone. The other guy confirmed that he was OK and then the first guy suddenly switched gears. Few seconds later I did not even see him anymore. Well this is what I envision myself as well for each race, that I will run at a comfortable tempo up until Mile 8 or 10 and from there on I keep switching gears until the Finish line. Well the keep switching gears was true for my previous race (Detroit International Half Marathon), but there I happened to switch to lower gears. Here at least mainly I was able to keep my pace and not slow down significantly. So I kept on going looking for the Meridian Street.

I reached the Mile 10 marker in 8:41 with a pace of 8:32 min/mile.

Mile 11:

Finally we reached the Meridian Street and saw the tall buildings around the Monument. Currently my physical low point is somewhere between 10 and 12 miles. This race just confirmed it again. I felt that I am slowing down, but tried to maintain momentum. The last few miles did not have official race clocks so I had a feeling that I will not be able to achieve the 1:50 goal and I knew if I keep slowing down, my below 1:55 and a new PR goal will be in jeopardy as well. The people on the sidewalks were still amazing and that kept me going. Also with every step the buildings in downtown grew taller and taller. I was looking for passing 10th Street and an immediate “mini-goal” and just kept pushing forward. I also convinced myself, that it is only a 5k that I still have to run and so it is really not that big of a deal.

I arrived to the Mile 11 marker in 8:52 at an 8:48 min/mile pace (I told you I was slowing down…)

Mile 12:

Big difference on this race, compared to my previous Half Marathon race in Detroit: here I never had that complete mental and physical meltdown. Mentally I was still able to stay focused and I was able to pull new sources of energy and I felt that I was able to increase my speed to finish stronger so slowly I started to switch into the “let it all out” mode.

Putting things into perspective also helped. The previous night at our friends’ house we had a long conversation about lot of different topics, but one thing was shocking for us to learn: both grandpas were going through a rough period. One had almost died due to various complications while he was battling cancer, the other grandpa received the news, that he was going to lose his eyesight on one eye and on the other nobody knew what to expect and when. I wrote about running without a cause in Detroit, well here I had my causes now. We met with both grandpas while they were here in the US. They all have been to our house as well. One of them has been battling again cancer that just seemed to keep spreading through his body, the other was expecting to lose his eyesight on one eye within weeks with not knowing what to expect on the other eye. I imagined what it would feel like not being able to see my girls anymore. Terrible. And while both of them were fighting so hard, how could I not keep pushing forward with only a couple miles left? I was thinking about my girls. I wanted to see them as soon as possible. I wanted to hug them. With a strong finish on this race, I wanted to convey some positive energy to the grandpas who have been fighting. I was also hoping that with every step I spend running I will decrease my chance to get sick later on. I want to be able to help my daughters as long as they need me there. I want to see my daughters growing up.

I was increasing my speed continuously reached the Mile 12 marker in 9:02 with an 8:38 min/mile pace.

Mile 13:

At the previous mile marker there was a race clock, so I knew that my time will not be that bad (relative to my own PR), but I also confirmed that unless I teleport to the Finish line, it would take a miracle to beat the “under 1:50” goal. Still nothing could slow me down anymore. I did not want to leave a single ounce of energy out on the race course. I was running as fast as I could. I was running as strong as I could. There were more and more people on the sidewalks cheering, which also was a big boost and I just kept going. We left the Meridian Street, turned on to New York Street and I knew the finish line is close. We were going to make two more turns and then I will be able to see the State Capitol building with the Finish line. No plans anymore to follow. Simply run as fast and as hard as possible.

I was passing the Mile 13 marker 8:34 later with an 8:27 min/mile pace.

Finish:

Amazing feeling when I turned the last corner and I saw the State Capitol behind the Finish line. I saw this on pictures from past races while I was reading about this race and the real life view did not disappoint. When I crossed the Finish line I looked up at the race clock and I knew I have a new PR. Now I just had to find out exactly what that was. Also right behind the Finish line I had to stop for a few seconds. I felt completely exhausted. My legs started shaking a bit. Might be just the amazing feeling finishing this amazing race in this amazing city. Maybe this was just all the emotions from this race showing up again in their own weird physical way. I do not know, but I started walking. Just as I started moving again my race day date somehow got there (still not sure how she was able to get in here) and hugged me. That moment right there made every bit of the effort worthwhile.

I reached the finish line in 1:01 with an 8:00 min/mile pace => Finally a strong finish from me!!!

Tried to finish strong…

Result:

I have a new PR. I love Indianapolis. I love the fact that my new PR was set in Indianapolis. My official chip time: 1:52:21.3. Placed 1178 out of 4991 Half Marathon finishers. I finished 152nd in my age group out of 374 finishers.

As usual, I have my Sports-Tracker recording of this race, just click here.

Sports Tracker summary – unofficial result

Post race:

Collecting lots of goodies at the end of the race, then we sit down and just looked at the other fellow runners reuniting with their friends and families after crossing the finish line. I am not sure how long we have been sitting there. The wind was picking up, but we were just sitting there with a blanket around us and watched the people.

What a feeling – just sitting there and watching all the people…

I wanted to absorb as much of this great feeling as it was possible. I did not want this moment to end. I knew that soon we will return back to Michigan and will leave Indianapolis behind, not knowing when we are going to be back again. Monday will come soon and the daily grind will continue. But at that moment all that did not matter. The increasing cold wind did not matter. The occasional rain drops did not matter. That feeling right there is I think what I am running for…

With my race day date…

And last but not least…

… a big thank you goes out to the volunteers who helped through the race, the race organizers to put together this fantastic event and for the City of Indianapolis for being such a friendly place. And did I mention that I love Indianapolis?

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