The time is near for the Walt Disney World Marathon. Most of our long runs are behind us. However, that last long run in marathon training is always a daunting one. You have spent so much time in training building up to this point. For me, it is almost to the point of burnout. That is why we like to use races for our longer runs as much as possible. Running with a large group of folks makes it easier, and the atmosphere around a race helps with the motivation. Luckily, this fall, several half-marathons have fallen in line with our scheduled long runs. Unfortunately, we had run out of half marathons for our longest run, until I found this race in Indianapolis. It looked like it would be a lot of fun. All runners received a Santa hat, beard, and tech shirt. As with any December race in the midwest, however, you are gambling on the weather at this time of year. It could be 70 or 20. Sun or snow. This year, it was 20, snowy, and windy.
So we headed north to Indianapolis last weekend for the Santa Hustle Half Marathon. It was our 20 mile long run day, so the plan was to run an additional 7 miles after the race. I usually like to add miles prior to a race so the finish line is actually the finish, but our schedule simply would not allow for that this time.
The best I can say about the weather is that it could have been worse. It could have been a snow squall. Indianapolis had just received about 5 or 6 inches of snow, and it was COLD with temps in the 20s and wind chills in the single digits. Undaunted, we set out with hundreds of Santas for our run.
Along with many other runners, we waited until the last minute to exit the parking garage (the exit to which was fortunately right next to the start area). It seemed like all the runners had some sort of holiday garb on, and the mood was festive despite the cold. I couldn’t run in the beard or hat due to my sweating issues, but we did have Christmas light necklaces to wear. They had large pace signs at the start, and sent the half-marathoners off in two waves. The race started right on time, and we started under cloudy skies with snow flurries and a stiff breeze. Crisp? No. Biting? Yes.
The course mostly followed the White River through Indy, but did make a detour at the start into downtown. With the snow on the ground, it was a very pretty, although cold, run.
Did I mention it was cold? Luckily, we were dressed for it, but it certainly added an interesting aspect to the race. They had plenty of water stations, and the Gatorade slushies were a nice, although unintended, addition. Any liquid left out for more than a few minutes froze. Each water station had Christmas Music playing, and they also had a candy stop and cookie stops along the course. Taking the M&Ms at the candy stop was not the best decision I have ever made. (Taking them again at the finish was also a poor choice). After leaving downtown, the race headed back toward the White River and generally followed roads around White River State Park.
Since this was designed to be a long run for our WDW Marathon training, we were not running for time. That being said, we both wanted to get it done so we could get out of the cold. It seemed no matter which way be turned, the wind was in our faces. I really commend the volunteers and police officers who stood out in the weather all day long with smiles on their faces. They even had unique motivational techniques for those struggling in the cold.
The sun finally started to make an appearance around mile 9 or so for brief periods. When it did, it certainly made a difference. Heading back along the river, we had a nice view of the Indy skyline. It was nice to be able to see the general area of the finish line from a few miles out. “We just have to make it to that building.” I avoided telling my wife at mile 10 that rather than almost being done, we were only halfway through the day’s run. Nothing good would have come of that.
The last few miles followed the banks of the White River and closed out the loop back at the same place we started. In the last mile or so, we ran behind the Indy Zoo, where the large limestone walls provided some cover from the wind, and crossed a bridge back over the river to the finish of the half.
Again, we weren’t running to break any time records, but we finished with what I would call a respectable time for a long run. We crossed the finish line and headed to the car for a short break to warm our hands and to change ear warmers (for me). After that, we waddled back to the start line to get started on the remaining 7 miles of our run. I had no idea how I would do it due to the way I was feeling, and feeling how cold it felt when we went back out. We ran back up the last few miles of the course a couple of times, and remarkably, we did pretty well. It did not get any warmer, and the sun disappeared, but we completed our 20 miles. Now it is on to the taper for the WDW Marathon.
Overall, I liked the Santa Hustle. It would have been a lot more fun if it was just a 13.1 mile run for us, or if the temps even sniffed 35 or 40. However, the mood was really upbeat, and all the Santa outfits were really cool. Best of all, the organizers shipped race bibs and packets ahead of time if you requested it. That saved us a trip to Indy.
Now, it’s on to Disney World and the redemption shot at the WDW Marathon. Hopefully, the weather and my body cooperate this year.