Race Review! Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon

10411752_10154478054699535_5006603407432002996_nEach year, on the first Saturday in November, thousands of runners, walkers, wheelchair athletes, and spectators take to the streets of Indianapolis for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and Half Marathon.  The course is fast and flat for Marathoners, Half Marathoners, and 5k runners alike and has seen its fair share of Olympians, Boston Qualifiers, Elites, and beginners!

Expo: The Monumental Health and Wellness Expo has changed a little over the 4 years that I have participated, for better and for worse. The expo is a two day affair as is common 2014expopicture_origwith many of the larger races. This years expo was held, as it has been for the past few years, at the Indiana Convention Center and generally features about 40 vendors, race organizers for other regional and national races, and packet pickup.

In addition to the vendors they also have a pretty robust speaker series featuring current and former Olympians, the race management team, national brand reps, sports health professionals and many more.  If you’ve got time to spare and you can attend some of the speakers it’s certainly informative and interesting.

My biggest gripe with the expo is that the packet pickup is hidden in the back of all of the vendors and with more of a square vendor layout it can make getting in and out quickly, say on your lunch break, a challenge. Once you do make it to the packet pickup area there are more than enough friendly and helpful volunteers at the ready to get your packet and bib to you.

T-Shirts/Swag: As many other races have done in the last few years, the Indianapolis Monumental has switched over to a virtual goodie bag for runners in an effort to be more green and save  few dollars in printing costs for their sponsors. The race organizers do a good job of making the content relevant but I’ll admit that I miss the days of a physical bag with a couple of freebies inside. But this is where the expo vendors can shine as there are more than a few who have things to give away at their tables.14225558_10155239674529535_8859481830814306807_n

The t-shirt is a technical fabric, short-sleeved shirt with gender specific sizing from Alanic. Designed to be colorful and eye-catching the shirts are blue for the Marathoner and red for the Half Marathon.  Their only downfall, in my opinion, is that they sew multiple panels of fabrics together leading to more than a few seams on the interior of the shirt.  I haven’t worn mine yet but 14956476_993714484074271_3377711957572368256_nI’ll let you know more of whether or not those extra seams lead to uncomfortable rubbing or chafing when I do.

After you’ve finished your race and cross that finish line you’re given your medal, bronze for the 5k, silver, for the Half, and gold for the Full and a knit toboggan in your respective color for the Half and Full.  b00b9b84-a9ff-4be6-ae24-61e2ef98b9b7

For the last three years the medal for the Half and full have had a small semi-circular notch missing from one of the corners of the medal.  The reason being, if you run all four races from 2014 – 2017 you will be able to put the medals together and add a special medallion to the middle.

Parking/Access: One of the most convenient and innovative partnerships that the Monumental race organizers have had for the last few years is with a company called ParkWhiz. Using ParkWhiz.com enables you to search, find and book guaranteed parking before you leave home. You’ll know exactly where you’re going and how much you’re paying ahead of time, so you won’t have to worry about it. Your guaranteed spot will be waiting for you. The service is available for both days of the expo as well as race day.

I’ve used the service two of the four times I’ve run this race and it makes your race morning commute so much less stressful!! If you do choose to try and find your own spot on race day there are plenty of parking garages within a half mile radius of the start line.

Scenery & Course:  Runners will follow an out-and-back loop course through the streets of what has come to be known as the “Crossroads of America,” thanks to its easy access from all sides as well as the fact that roughly half of the nation’s population lives within a day’s drive of the city.

imhmThe race, aptly named as it takes runners and walkers on a tour past the city’s Indiana State Capitol, Monument Circle and other federal monuments, begins on Washington Street near the Indiana State Museum taking participants all the way through to the finish line just off North West Street, not far from the starting line.

The course follows what is largely a north-south route through the city, passing by Monument Circle and University and Veterans Memorial Parks on the way to North Meridian Street, which participants will follow for the next several miles.

The turn back toward the finish occurs at East 37th Street, where runners begin making their way back along North Talbot and North Pennsylvania Streets. Along the way, participants will also see many of Indianapolis’s oldest and most historic neighborhoods, including Fall Creek Place, Old Northside, Butler-Tarkington and Broad Ripple.

The one section of the Half Marathon route that I complain about every year is from the turn at mile 7 through until you turn on to Meridian just before mile 10.  The pavement is uneven and pretty craggy and always hurts my feet.  The problem rises from years of harsh Indiana winters causing pot holes, then those pot holes being patched instead of repaved.  Just a word of caution – this is always the toughest part of the race for me to get through.

The course will close after 6 1/2 hours, which means that half-marathon participants will be required to keep a roughly 15-minute-per-mile pace for the first half of the race.

Elevation: One thing I can say for sure about this course is that is is definitely fast and flat.  There are no real hills, more like slight inclines.  The lowest elevation of the race is 696ft and rises to 732ft at the highest point, for a max gain of 36ft. Easy peasy.img_0102

I actually find the race to be a little boring as far as terrain goes.  The more races and longer distance runs I do the more I find that I prefer the variation for a number of reasons, it keeps my brain and body engaged in the run, it gives me something to look forward to conquering, and it breaks up the monotony of an even, steady stride cadence.  While that last one may seem a bit surprising I actually find the my hips and knees are more sore after a straight flat run than one with hills.

Aid Stations: There are 7 aid stations along the Half Marathon course.  All are stocked with water and Gatorade (some of those stops had red Gatorade which was awesome to see.) There were a few stations that were pretty narrow which caused some bottlenecking in places but other than that these were very well staffed with some pretty awesome volunteers. The stops are spaced about 1.5 – 2 miles apart with the last one at mile marker 11.

Race Experience: The crowd support along the course can be hit or miss depending on the weather.  Being a November race in central Indiana we’ve experienced everything from 8F and sunny to 48F and drizzling and everything inbetween.  On the sunny days the course is generously sprinkled with residents, family members, and friends out to support the runners.

With the out and back nature of the race it makes it spectator friendly too – just cut over a couple of blocks and you’ll catch more runners! There are also no shortage of awesome signs and power-boosting high fives along your way.  I’ve pulled some of the best signs that I or my friends were able to capture along the way!

The Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and Half Marathon holds a special place in my heart.  This was the first Half Marathon that I ran after my recovery from being hit by a car while running.  It was the race that told me that my running days were just getting started and that nothing could hold me back when given my full dedication, hard work, and determination.

It’s a race I’ve done several times and will continue to do despite the shortcomings that I’ve mentioned. Could it be better, yes.  Would I recommend it, yes. If you’re looking to PR or if it’s your first half or full the Indianapolis Monumental is a great race to do!

Happy Running!

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