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Recalling a slow race on the track at Indy

By JIM BUSEK • May 8, 2018 at 10:00 AM

As you might imagine, having completed 50 Adventures in 50 States, I now pay attention to what’s going on in all of the places I visited.

In Indiana, for instance, never again will May — the month of the Indianapolis 500 and all its attendant ceremony — arrive without my vivid recollections.

My Indiana adventure was to run a single lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 2.5 mile oval track where they hold the Indianapolis 500. I, of course, planned to do my lap on foot, jogging.

I had thought maybe I could call the PR department or somebody there at the track, tell them what I had in mind, and get permission to trot around the racecourse. I would be in and out in half an hour.

But a little snooping on the internet made it clear that they are very particular about who gets to make a circuit of the most famous paved oval in the world (hint: most of the people they allow are doing over 200 mph at the time).

There is, however, one day in the entire year when they allow runners on the track. As a kickoff to the Indy 500, there is an event called the 500 Festival held the first weekend in May. Its signature activity is a so-called Mini Marathon, a 13.1 mile footrace with over 40,000 participants. (This year they ran it two days ago on Saturday.) The race goes from downtown Indianapolis, traverses five miles via city streets out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, makes a lap around the track and then winds back downtown.

As you may remember, when I was there three years ago, I did not run the Mini-Marathon. I only ran the part I wanted—the 2.5 miles of perfectly smooth asphalt that passes in front of 257,000 bleacher seats and where the most famous names in racing history have earned their reputations.

I parked two blocks from the Mini-Marathon course in the appropriately named suburb of Speedway and made my way to Main Street where runners by the hundreds were approaching the halfway point of their 13.1 mile race.

I had registered and paid the hefty fee for the race several weeks earlier. That earned me an official racing bib and shirt which allowed me to simply step off the curb and into the pack.

I have always carried a bit of guilt about doing it that way. What really got me was the people lining the streets and yelling their encouragement. It was generic, of course; they were yelling to all the runners, not just me. But I knew I was the only one who did not deserve their cheers. I had not made the sacrifice and commitment of the people running beside me. They were in a long race. I was just having a little adventure.

But then we made the turn onto 16th Street, and there was the main entrance to the track. Above it, in signage 100 yards wide, were the words INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY.

Goosebumps. And my guilt was forgotten as I trotted through the entrance of one of the most iconic venues in America.

We runners made our way onto the infield road race course which funneled us onto the famous oval, just past turn number two onto the back straightaway.

The morning was sunny and clear and even the hardcore racers who had already run more than seven miles had smiles on their faces as they ran on the hallowed ground. Many of them dropped to push-up position to kiss the bricks that mark the finish line for the Indy racers.

See why all of this was on my mind again last weekend?

It was glorious. And for me the best part is that I have had 49 other adventures that are burned just as vividly into my memory.

And, of course, from time to time I will be sharing them again with you.

If you would like to jog along with me on the Indy track via a short video, click on the link that accompanies the online version of this column Tuesday morning. Or just search online for “Jim Busek Indiana.”

As you watch, I will be the one traveling (slowly) down the backstretch with a smile on my face.

 

Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] hotmail.com.

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