My #IndyMini Story: Chrissy Vasquez

By Chrissy Vasquez

Ring in the 40th Anniversary with a new you!

2016 is your year to reinvent yourself as a 500 Festival OneAmerica Mini Marathon finisher! I believe in you and if you want it you can achieve it! How do I know? Because I was once sitting in your spot, wondering if I could do this.

Do this? Change my life. In late 2009 I was overweight, unhappy and needing a change. I started working out, but I had nearly 100 pounds to lose, and that was completely overwhelming! Luckily for me, a friend dared me to run a half marathon in Miami Beach in spring 2010. I took a running training class and my first night I couldn’t even make it half a mile, WALKING, without having to stop. For some reason unknown to me, I kept going with the training program and made it to the finish line of that half marathon. It was incredible; I struggled, I fought hard and I made it 13.1 miles using a run-walk method! During the process I lost 40 pounds and started to pave the way toward a new lifestyle. Some days were better than others during that process, but I never quit!


WIM - Chrissy1


Two months later I ran my first Mini-Marathon. There were a lot of people, but it made it so fun! I loved that there were thousands of people on the streets, just like me, working to change their life. We were sharing the road with elite runners, casual runners, run/walkers and walkers. It didn’t matter our pace, it mattered that we kept going until the finish line!

Because of my lifestyle change I found an organization called Back on My Feet, that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change their lives through running as they work toward housing and employment. As executive director of Back on My Feet, I had the honor in 2015 to train with five members of the Back on My Feet program training for their first half marathon, the Mini Marathon. Through the Mini with a Meaning program we were able to participate in the Miler Series, presented by OrthoIndy and it was so fun to train with my teammates. We met each Saturday and it was rewarding to cheer each other on and see the progress we had each made.

WIM - Chrissy 2


After several months of training race day was here! We all hugged before we took off to the start line. It was a beautiful day and we were all grateful for the opportunity to run 13.1 together. I’m proud to say that everyone from our group finished! The day was filled with laughs, good memories and even some tears – one that will live in our hearts forever.

I’m looking forward to starting the training program in 2016 with more members from Back on My Feet as we set our eyes on the prize of the finish line! I’m going to be running side-by-side with fellow teammates as I work to lose the last 50 pounds I want to lose to get to my goal. I hope you’ll join us, you can do this!

Here’s a few tips to get you there:

-Tomorrow never comes – get started today. Even if you’re just walking to the end of your street and back, it’s further than you’ll get waiting for tomorrow.

-Find people to train with – you’ll be able to push yourself farther and harder with the support of other people. Join a training group at your local running store, come join Back on My Feet or find a friend to join you!

-Get the right shoes and training plan – training for a half takes dedication and some know-how. You don’t have to guess; you can go to your local running store to get shoes that fit YOUR feet well. Also get a training plan, you can find one in a training group or even one online. Having the right equipment and knowing what you need to do will get you to the finish line with less chance of injury and a bigger smile on your face!

-Consider racing for someone else – you can FundRace for Back on My Feet or your favorite local charity through Mini with Meaning. You’ll raise money through your network while you train. Knowing that your training matters in order to help someone else will encourage you to get out on your training days even when you don’t want to.

-Be good to yourself – Get plenty of rest, hydrate and eat well. Also go easy on yourself, you’ll have some great training runs and others will leave you frustrated. Take the good with the bad and be proud of your progress!

Good luck and see you at the 40th running of the #IndyMini! You’ve got this!

My #IndyMini Story: Katie Foster

By Katie Foster

At the risk of sounding cliche, I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. It all started in the fourth grade, when a boy in my class started calling me “Shamu”. I tried to lose weight dozens of times over the years, but never stuck with a diet long enough to make much progress.

The first time I heard of the Indy Mini was when my sister, Jeanie, asked if I would like to walk it with her in 2008. I had no idea how far a half-marathon really was, and I was over 200 pounds at the time, but I still agreed to do it. I thought it would be a great way to motivate me to lose weight. There was a large group of us (family and friends) that registered for the race.

I had intentions of training—I honestly did—but I never really got around to it. I think I did only ONE training walk before that first weekend in May rolled around. The race was MUCH harder than I anticipated, and I really struggled to finish. When I went home to Michigan after the race, I ended up having to wear a walking cast for a couple of weeks, because of severe tendinitis.


Still, I agreed to do the race again in 2009. I wanted a redemption! I followed a training schedule that time; but as my mileage climbed, so did my weight. When I went to the race, my weight was at a peak of 253 pounds. The race itself went much more smoothly than the previous year, and the training helped me to feel great during and after the race.

However, one thing that really bothered me was that I was, by far, the largest person in our group in Indy. Also, the entire time I was walking the race, I noticed that I was one of the most overweight people in the race. It was embarrassing, and very eye-opening. I decided that I would do the race again in 2010, but I wanted to be 100 pounds lighter.

It took me a few months to really start working on the weight loss, but in August of 2009, I finally committed to getting the weight off. I changed my diet by simply eating less food (I still ate all of my favorite foods, just much less calories), and lost 60 pounds before I even needed to start my training schedule for the Indy Mini. Then, I started to walk four times a week to train for the race, and I continued to drop the weight.

Whenever I had a hard time, or was struggling to stay on track, I would imagine myself at the Indy Mini, and NOT being the largest person there. I wanted to be a “normal” size, and to look like I belonged in the race. I wanted my race photos to show a fit, healthy person, and not the obese, unhappy person I was the year before.

When I arrived at the race, I wasn’t quite 100 pounds lighter, but I did manage to lose 88 pounds since the previous year! The first two years that I walked the race, I finished just under the time limit of 4 hours; in 2010, I managed to walk the race in 3:23, taking over 30 minutes off of my time. During that race, I became inspired to set a crazy goal for the following year—I was going to RUN the Indy Mini in 2011.

I started adding a little running to my walks (at first, I couldn’t even run the length of my street); and, eventually, I was running 3-4 days a week. I ran a 5K race, and a 10K race; and I registered (once again) for the Indy Mini—only my estimated finish time was closer to two hours instead of four hours.

In 2011, I arrived at the race having lost well over 100 pounds since race day in 2009. I felt amazing throughout the whole race, and I enjoyed every moment. I crossed the finish line in 2:10:40, a 9:59/mile pace!


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!

My #IndyMini Story: Introduction

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. 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 series will feature the stories of 40 Indy Mini participants who will each share their unique, inspiring journey as to why they participate in the #IndyMini.