INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time in 12 years, there are still spots available in this year’s OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, and the winter weather could be one big reason why.
Officials said 3,000 spots were still available for runners interested in signing up for this year’s Mini-Marathon, an event that has been sold out every year since 2002.
So why no sellout this year? There could be more than one reason.
Certainly this year, winter wasn’t kind, and for some runners, that meant training wasn’t easy.
“At a certain point during the winter, I think folks gave up a little bit on it,” said Thom Burleson, a runner and co-owner of the Athletic Annex running apparel store on the city’s north side.
“I think there’s a number of factors,” said 500 Festival spokeswoman Megan Bulla. “It was a very rough winter, and a long winter, and some people didn’t get out and get trained like they had expected to.”
“It’s been pretty tough,” said runner Rob Mullett, who works at Burleson’s store. “(It’s been) week after week of cold weather and not being able to run your usual routes because of snow and ice.”
“Having run a few half-marathons not properly trained, I can attest it’s not really a pleasant experience,” said Burleson.
But local runners and Mini-Marathon organizers said weather isn’t the only factor–they also cite the many other competing races as a possible reason for this year’s downturn in registration.
Mini-Marathon organizers say they’re working to make their event more and more attractive. This year, they have a new app for spectators and for runners, and they’ll be starting the race in waves so it doesn’t get as crowded on the course.
“This will help thin out the field,” said Bulla. “We’ve heard some people say it’s very congested… this will help spread out the race so everyone can get a good run in.”
There will also be more changes in this year’s security plan.
After last year’s bombings in Boston, 500 Festival organizers worked quickly to upgrade security, making sure runners only brought clear plastic bags to the event, a move also adopted by the Indianapolis Colts.
“Last year we did a number of new security measures,” said Bulla. “All that will continue this year.”
They’ll also be putting barriers around Military Park this year, to make sure everyone’s where they’re supposed to be. And organizers have also been going over security plans for the 500 Festival parade and other big events.
“We have a different emergency and security plan for each of those events that we review each year,” said Bulla. “Obviously in light of what happened in Boston, we had to work quickly on our feet. Also we work very closely with the Department of Public Safety to make sure everything is in place and we stay as safe as possible.”
“The terrorism that happened a year ago has caused us to rethink a lot of conditions that we used to take for granted,” said Eric Dietz, the state’s former Homeland Security director, who now works for Purdue University. “I know people from Indianapolis Motor Speedway to Major League Baseball and a lot of professional sports and venues are all re-thinking the security mandates they must put in place.”