For Nicole, both the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon and the Indianapolis 500 are more than just races, they’re tradition. While the physical traditions had to change this month, Nicole found ways to keep the spirit and memories alive with a creative take on her virtual Indy Mini. Read her story below and share yours with us on social media using #IndyMini!
My love for the Indy 500 race and my love for running come together for one awesome event the first weekend in May every year: The OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. Every year, except this year.
I grew up in Indy. The Indy 500 has been a part of my life since I was old enough to go the track in a stroller with my parents. I grew up going to the Indy 500, qualifications, and practices with my dad and siblings. A.J. Foyt was a household name in my family growing up. Checkered flags decorated my home in the month of May and listening to “Bump Day” on the old AM radio is a vivid memory.
As I grew up, the 500 continued to be a part of my life and I decided to run the Indy Mini for the first time when I was in high school. I knew I wanted to run on the nostalgic Indy 500 race track and touch the famous brick starting line. I loved it, but life got in the way and I didn’t run it again until after I was married with two children. Since then, the Indy Mini has been a staple in my life. At age 11, my daughter ran the whole 13.1 miles with me. Over the past several years I have had many close friends join me for the run. Some years I like to take it all in by myself and be nostalgic and sentimental with every mile.
My passion for the 500 and love for the Speedway racetrack keeps me coming back year after year to see my running shoes pass over the famous Yard of Bricks or to stop and give them a quick kiss. When I’m running on the track, I glance up into the empty stands and I remember the good times with my dad as a child, his patience with me when I was begging to wait for another autograph, the hot days watching the pit crews and pit action, races sitting under an umbrella waiting for the rain to stop so the track can dry and the race can begin, teenage years in Gasoline Alley (where my parents told me not to go), and now the place where I sit with my aging dad and young son. Throughout my life I have tried to pass the love of the 500 onto all of my children, but only my son took the bait. He has joined my dad and me to the race ever since he was five years old. This year will be his 12th consecutive race with my dad and me.
The in-person Indy Mini was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I knew there were worse things happening in the world, but for me, the cancelling of this historic event was extremely disappointing. I knew I wouldn’t break my tradition of running it every year but I didn’t want to just run more miles by myself. I had just completed my virtual Boston Marathon and just felt like running another 13.1 virtually was anticlimactic for me. I’m used to feeling so many emotions during this race, that I wanted to make it a special event. I needed to feel something again.
I asked more than 13 special people in my life to each run a mile with me and luckily, exactly 13 said, “Yes.” Perfect.
I ran one-mile laps in my neighborhood and picked up (and dropped off) a new loved one with each mile. With quarantine, I have been missing my running buddies greatly and it felt amazing to run with them again and get individual time with each of them. It was also special for me to get my family members out with me because they usually won’t run with me. My father, who taught me to love the 500, was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s and it has been a very rough year with his struggles. He did part of mile 13 with me. My mom has kept up with his health issues and has been a true champion. She did mile 12. It was so wonderful and emotional to see each new person with every mile. It was the easiest race I’ve ever done because my family and friends were with me. Instead of looking up into the huge Speedway stands this year, I had a little cheering section of my children, niece and nephew, husband, and my parents on my front lawn. It wasn’t my traditional Indy Mini that I crave every year, but it was a new special race for me, which is exactly what I wanted and needed.