For many of us, this time of social distancing has presented many unexpected changes in our lives. For educator and passionate runner, Andrew Bartolacci, this time has brought a mixture of both challenges and blessings.
Andrew has loved the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon and everything about the Month of May since moving to Indianapolis in 2014. In fact, he has participated in the Indy Mini every year he has lived in Indy. He even served as an Indy Mini Ambassador in 2019. “There is something so special about it,” Andrew said. “Even running in the cold rain last year, while miserable, was wonderful at the same time.”
When the 2020 Indy Mini became a virtual race, Andrew was bummed but understood why the decision was made. However, he knew that he was still going to run because that’s what he does, he runs.
Juggling the hats of being a teacher, coach, and father, Andrew was originally training for the Indy Mini on his treadmill. To spend time with his family after long days of teaching/coaching, Andrew would wake up at 4 a.m. and head to the gym. However, with the gyms and schools closing, Andrew was able to run outside during the day. With the rolling roads, the wind, and the sun, Andrew’s passion for running was reignited. He was also given the opportunity to spend more time running with his son, Bo, pushing him in the jogging stroller. In fact, ever since Bo was born, running has been their source of father-son bonding. Bo has been Andrew’s training buddy for the last 4 Indy Minis. The two have gone as far as 30 miles together, putting close to over 2,000 miles on the jogging stroller. As Bo is getting older, he is beginning to wave at other pedestrians and notices things along their routes, understanding a little bit more about what Andrew does.
Though this unique time has granted Andrew the time to enjoy running with his son, it has also presented challenges. As a physical education teacher for Indianapolis Public Schools, not being there in-person with his students has been tough. He sets up Zoom meetings with his students to continue their learning, but Andrew knows that some of his students are facing challenges themselves. Some may not have access to electronics or the internet at home. For some students, school may be the safest place for them or where they feel their best. Andrew loves to create one-on-one relationships with his students, but has found that challenging with 15+ students in one video call. In effort to uplift his students, Andrew has created a Youtube page to give students and parents some easy, physical activities they can do at home. For each age group K-8, he has created a muscle/bone worksheet, how to find your heart rate, workouts using household items, obstacle courses, an alphabet race, and so much more! Keeping kids active is more important now than ever. “Getting up and moving can completely change your mood and outlook on what’s going on,” Andrew said. “Sunlight feels good and does good for the body. It is so much more rewarding to be active whether inside or outside. Even just going outside and walking can make all the difference in your mood.”
Despite the challenges presented during this time, Andrew has found ways to keep his students and himself moving. He conquered his virtual Indy Mini on May 3 and had an amazing time with Bo by his side. He has always wanted to share and celebrate a race with his son, so the virtual Indy Mini was the perfect opportunity. To Andrew’s surprise, near the end of their route, Bo jumped out of the stroller and began running. With a smile, he told Andrew he had to chase him. Despite that being the last thing he wanted to do, Andrew happily chased him. It was an experience that Andrew will cherish forever. After his virtual race, Andrew celebrated with his usual glass of bourbon and relaxing outside.
To other virtual Indy Mini participants, Andrew encourages you to just have fun. Whether it’s creating your own pit stations, recreating the yard of bricks, or wearing a bib, don’t worry about a PR, just have fun!