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How Mini-Marathons Work


OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon
Lucie Mays-Sulewski of Westfield, Ind., crosses the finish line to win the women's division of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, Saturday, May 6, 2006 in Indianapolis.
Lucie Mays-Sulewski of Westfield, Ind., crosses the finish line to win the women's division of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, Saturday, May 6, 2006 in Indianapolis.
AP Photo/John Harrell

What was once the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon is currently called the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. Named after the main sponsor, insurance company OneAmerica, the race is an Indianapolis tradition. It has been held on the first Saturday of every May since 1977. As the largest mini-marathon in the United States and the sixth-largest running event overall, it has a maximum 35,000 spots available to runners. "The Mini," as it's locally nicknamed, winds through downtown Indianapolis. It has reached capacity every year since 2003.

To qualify for The Mini, you must provide proof that you can run the 13.1-mile (21.08-kilometer) distance in under two and a half hours. Qualifying results from a road race of at least 5K in the previous year will suffice. The mini-marathon includes race classes for runners age 12 and under all the way up to a class for runners 70 and older. The Mini has a wheelchair division, and corporate and fundraising teams may enter.

Registration for The Mini begins online the previous November, but it's such a popular event that it fills up quickly. The 2010 race, for example, was full by Dec. 14, 2009. The $55 registration fee ($75 if you sign up after December 1) covers a race packet, a personalized bib number and all inherent racing costs. No cash prizes are awarded to winners.

On race day, runners line up at 6:45 a.m., and the race begins at 8 a.m. with more experienced runners starting first. The Mini has different corrals -- areas sectioned off at the starting line where runners are grouped according to their expected finishing times. The race ends at noon.

The Mini is an official part of the 500 Festival, a month-long civic celebration that leads up to the city's famous sporting event on Memorial Day weekend: the Indianapolis 500 auto race. The Mini is probably the only mini-marathon that calls its water stations "pit areas" to play up the Indy 500 connection. It's certainly the only televised mini-marathon. Indianapolis' WISH-TV broadcasts the race each year and puts it online, too.

The Festival includes a parade, kids' carnival and festival princess coronations. However, the running element is arguably the most popular part. In fact, it's so popular that more than 100,000 people attend the after-race block party. Whether you come to run or for the party of the year, this Indianapolis tradition is great fun.

Next up: Let it ride in Kentucky with the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon.