My #IndyMini Story: Gary Aletto

Time can heal but it doesn’t forget. For Gary Aletto, the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon not only helped him honor a lost loved one, it’s added so much to his life.

Gary’s Mini story began ten years ago when he lost his brother-in-law, Pete, to Colon Cancer. To Gary, Pete was so much more than a brother-in-law, he was a great friend and was like a second father to Gary’s kids. Pete was an avid runner who had completed several marathons. Several of Pete’s friends from within the running community decided they would travel to Indianapolis to run in the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in his honor. Inspired by their gesture, Gary committed to joining them and running in his first Mini-Marathon in Pete’s memory.

When you ask Gary about his first Mini, it never fails, you’ll be greeted with the biggest smile and Gary’s trademark laugh as he tells you, “I wasn’t really much of a runner, so needless to say, my race wasn’t pretty.” Gary finished with a respectable time, just over 3 hours. As he crossed the finish line he decided that he didn’t want the Mini to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, he wanted it to be a tradition. Gary not only made running part of his life, he also got involved with the 500 Festival, the nonprofit organization that produces the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, serving on its Board of Directors.

10 years, 40 pounds, and hundreds of miles later, 2015 marked Gary’s 10th consecutive Mini-Marathon. It was also the year that Gary was elected chairman of the 500 Festival Board of Directors. A lot has changed since Gary’s first Mini. He’s a little faster (his streak of sub 2-hour half marathons is pretty impressive), he has a couple of new running buddies – his daughters who he helped train for their first Mini, and his cheering section’s gotten quite a bit larger thanks to the countless people his met through his work with the 500 Festival. You could also say that his experience at the Start Line has changed quite a bit. As chairman of the 500 Festival Board of Directors, he had the honor of waving the green flag to start the race!

Gary Flag

One thing that hasn’t changed after all of these years, Gary’s never forgotten the reason he runs the Indy Mini. After Gary completed his duties at the Start Line, he got out of the bucket truck and ran in his 10th Mini in honor and memory of Pete. Pete was with Gary as he crossed the Yard of Bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his memory gave Gary the wind at his back needed to finish that last mile stronger than ever.

Gary Finish

The Mini has given Gary the opportunity to keep Pete’s memory alive and make the community a better place, proving you just never know where those 13.1 miles will lead you in life! And yes, Gary’s planning to take on the 2016 OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. He’s gotta keep his sub 2-hour streak alive!

What inspires you to participate in the 2016 Indy Mini? Share your story in the comments below or on our website and you could be our next My #IndyMini Story!

My #IndyMini Story: Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders

May 7, 2016 will mark the 40th OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon! As part of the celebration, we’re kicking off our new blog series, My #IndyMini Story. The series will feature the stories of 40 Indy Mini participants who will each share their unique, inspiring #IndyMini story. Our first My #IndyMini story comes from our 2016 OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon Pacesetters – the Colts Cheerleaders.

People participate in the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon for any number of reasons. Some run to stay in shape, some run to relieve stress. The Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders are participating in the 2016 Indy Mini to start a movement and rally around a former teammate.

Just over a year ago, Tessa David, a former Colts Cheerleader, suffered a severe stroke at the age of 28. An athlete who was in peak physical condition, Tessa’s stroke injured 60% of her brain and left her partially paralyzed. Her teammates, family and friends were in shock.

When the 500 Festival extended the challenge of serving as the official Pacesetters for the 2016 Mini-Marathon, the team enthusiastically accepted. For the team, running the Mini-Marathon was an opportunity to show their support for Tessa and raise awareness of the warning signs of a stroke.

On September 14th, the Colts Cheerleaders took to the streets of Indianapolis to run the Mini’s 13.1 mile course. The team was united around one goal: finish faster than the average finish time of the Mini-Marathon, 2:33. If they could beat this time, the 500 Festival would donate $5,000 to the National Stroke Association.

colts cheerleaders

Fifteen members of the team came together to accomplish their goal and ran the Mini-Marathon route in 2:07, securing a $5,000 donation on behalf of their teammate, Tessa. Inspired by the team’s determination and teamwork, the Indianapolis Colts stepped up. For every Mini participant who beats the team’s time, the Colts will donate $1 to the National Stroke Association, up to $6,000.

In addition, the team’s time of 2:07 will be the official pace to beat for the 2016 OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. The 500 Festival will donate $1 to a charity, voted on by the participants, for each person who is faster than the Colts Cheerleaders.

Colts Check

The team could have stopped there. They had secured up to $11,000 for the National Stroke Association, and laid the groundwork for donations to other charities. But they knew there was more work to be done.

So they decided to participate in the Mini-Marathon’s Mini with a Meaning program, which provides non-profit organizations with opportunities to raise awareness and funds through supporter participation. Participating on behalf of the National Stroke Association, the Colts Cheerleaders will run the route for the second time in one year, to continue to raise awareness and, more importantly, to demonstrate their support for Tessa, who will be at the finish line cheering them on along the way.

What started as a challenge to set the pace for the 2016 Mini-Marathon has led to so much more. Are you feeling inspired? You can join the Colts Cheerleaders on the Stroke Challenge team and run on behalf of the National Stroke Association. To learn more, click here.

colts track

What inspires you to participate in the 2016 Indy Mini? Leave a comment below and tell us #IndyMini Story!