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  • Writer's pictureEric Spitz

Indiana - A Marathon in Every State

Back in 2019, I set a goal for myself to complete seven marathons. As November drew closer, the only thing standing between me and that goal was the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

When I originally set my plan for the year, I knew that I had to be strategic about the races I selected. Not only did I have to space them out far enough within the year, but I also had to make them all work around the two week vacation package at my day job. Indianapolis was a no-brainer for me for a multitude of reasons:

1) It was late in the year, and was spaced far enough apart from my last race in New Jersey (check out New Jersey - A Marathon in Every State to read about that experience).

2) It was only a three hour drive from home.

3) One of my closest friends Tyler lives in Indianapolis, so it would be a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and catch up.

Unfortunately number three didn't pan out how I originally wanted. While my former roommate Tyler normally does the Indy marathon every year, he was going to be missing it that year because of a work trip in Vegas. His girlfriend (now fiancé) Christina would also be working the night shift at the hospital, so there wasn't much overlap in our schedule. However, Tyler still let me stay at his place the night before the race, as long as I kept his Mini Aussie Seb company. An offer I simply couldn't refuse.

Friday, November 8 rolls around. After putting in a standard eight hours at the office, I got in my car and drove straight to Indianapolis. With my car already packed and ready to go, I was eager to get to Indy and prepare for my final marathon of the year.

As I made the three hour drive, I worked through my normal rotation of playlists and podcasts. The drive is often just as therapeutic as getting to the destination for me. I'm able to clear my head, and by doing so, I'm able to look at situations with a better sense of clarity.

It was during the drive that got me thinking critically about my marathon goal. What started as a fun hobby transformed into a part of my identity seemingly overnight. Even people I haven't connected with in years were aware of my goal of running a marathon in all 50 states. People seemed to be interested in the story, but I wanted it to be more than about myself and my strange goals. I ultimately wanted people to see that every place has something unique and special to offer. Running was simply an intermediary for me, a convenient way for me to connect with the people around me.

I thought back to a PUP concert I went to earlier in the year. As the band stood on stage and went through the standard routine of reminding listeners where their merch table was set up, they mentioned how they would be taking donations to a charity they were passionate about. This wasn't just a charity they donate to whenever they go on tour, they specially picked a charity that was local to the area they were playing, which that night, was Grand Rapids. It got me excited about building enough momentum to do something similar for my marathon running. I wanted so badly to give back to the states that gave me such wonderful memories.

I got so excited at the thought of giving back that I called my friend Bri to tell her my ideas. I had no idea what my plan was for getting there, but simply became overcome with excitement with just the sheer thought of giving back on that kind of scale to a cause that was very near and dear to me. If anything, it certainly passed the time on reaching my destination.

I've navigated Indianapolis several times, but I still need to pay close attention as I get closer to downtown, where Tyler lives. There are tons of one ways, street names that are all state themed and just overall congested traffic. It doesn't help that I always seem to arrive into the city at night either. Tyler thinking one step ahead, told me to enter an address in the GPS slightly different than his, which leads straight to the parking ramp. Luckily his proactive thinking made the drive in much easier than trying to rely on my sense of direction, or lack thereof.

With Christina picking up my race packet the previous day, and coordinating a spot to pick up their apartment keys, everything was running smoothly for a very thrown-together trip from my end. Seb was a little confused at my presence, and seemed nervous around me in the beginning. Seeing him once a year at Friendsgiving wasn't quite enough to make me one of his besties. However, after playing with him and giving him a dentastix, the relationship got better.

I originally had the intention of stopping at the grocery store to pick up supplies prior to my race. However, once I arrived at my destination, I really didn't want to leave. Christina told me I was welcome to whatever amenities in the house to make my stay comfortable, but warned me they didn't have much food stocked. I simply got creative and preferred a steady diet of eggs, Eggo Waffles and granola bars over trekking back out into the hustle and bustle of downtown Indianapolis.

Even though they essentially gave me free rein of the place, I still felt guilty utilizing what little food they had left. I brought a mix and match six pack of beer with me to act as an accord and satisfaction to the both of them for letting me crash at their place. I felt like Kramer from Seinfeld just barging into an apartment building and getting by without actually using cash.

Maybe it was this Kramer mindset, or just my overwhelming fear of sleeping through my alarm clocks whenever I'm left to my own devices. Either way, I slept on their couch in a small travel sleeping bag I brought with me, despite having the entire apartment to myself and a guest room set aside just for me. Whenever I need to get up early, couches are usually my first resort to make sure I don't sleep too comfortably. I think Seb was even a little confused by my decision, but he still curled up with me for the night all the same.

My plan worked like a charm and I didn't sleep in. I even felt well rested and ready to go for the day. Tyler told me previously that the race started a mere half mile from his apartment. At first I thought he was stretching the truth, but when I mapped it on my phone, he was right. I was able to get everything around comfortably within the apartment, and with my spike bag in hand, I walked out the door and toward the starting line.

Maybe it was pre-race jitters, or just the thought that walking to the race would take me longer than expected, but I seemed to arrive with plenty of time before the start of the race. This was a relatively frigid Midwestern November morning, so I kept my sweats on as long as I could to stay warm.

15 minutes before the race started, I stripped down to shorts, a tank top, a headband and gloves: my standard racing attire for the later Fall months. As I stood inside of a Starbucks waiting to use the bathroom, I could hear the people behind me commenting on my running shorts with the California flag on them. I've never lived in California, but have always been a fan of their flag with the mighty grizzly bear.

Within that same Starbucks, I overheard an individual saying that this was about to be his first marathon. I naturally felt inclined to let him know some of the trade secrets I've learned after completing 14 up until that point. Whether or not he took the advice I don't know, but either way I felt compelled to share some of the things I would have liked to have heard prior to my first marathon.

Warming up outside shortly before the race, another stranger asked me if I was from California, looking at me with a puzzled expression as to why I'm wearing next to no clothing with morning temperatures in the 20s. I assured him that I was a fellow Midwesterner, and used to running in colder weather.

The conversations made the time fly by, and after swapping more stories with other participants at the starting line the race was finally underway after the good luck wishes were passed around.

I was assured from Tyler that the course for the race was flat and fast, which was a perfect way to finish out the year. I knew going in the course would likely be a lot less demanding than Haulin' Aspen in Oregon. Either way, I wanted to get rid of any expectations for a time, given that I was attempting more marathons that year than I've ever tried, and I was just coming off physical therapy from my knee a month prior.

The course was certainly a polar opposite from Oregon both in difficulty and scenery. With Haulin' Aspen being a trail marathon in The Deschutes National Forest, the Indianapolis Marathon took participants around the metropolitan area, passing by Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Indiana State Capitol, to name a few. It was a true experience of the city felt on a cool Fall morning, similar to how it felt in the Baltimore Marathon back in 2018.

The race was living up to the expectations, and more. I was having a blast, and truly enjoying myself taking notice of the scenery around me. Past the halfway point, I was feeling smooth, in a rhythm, and with no nagging knee pain. I was averaging a steady pace that I was pleased with, and was feeling optimistic.

Practically on cue, my pace drastically slowed down on mile 19 leading into mile 20. This wasn't a knee pain, or any sort of ailment I could physically point to. This was an overall feeling of exhaustion. I felt completely devoid of energy seemingly out of nowhere. Maybe it was the steady diet of Eggo Waffles, or the three hour drive after a full day of work, or sleeping on a couch the night before. Quite possibly a mix of all of those elements. Either way, I was desperate to try and find the energy to gut out the rest of the race and salvage my time.

Shortly before mile 22 some of the race volunteers were handing out Gel packets to the participants. I've never had much luck using them in the past. The caffeine is meant to give athletes an energy boost. But coming from a person who drinks coffee non-stop and still sleeps like a baby at night, I've never really noticed a difference. Either way, I was desperate to try anything.

The taste of the Gel is usually pretty dry and terrible, but this mocha flavored one was hands down the best I'd ever had. Maybe it was because I had such a lack of nutrients in me to begin with, but either way it made me look at the packets in a much more positive light than previously.

It took a few miles to kick in, but I felt that much needed boost in energy soon after. It came at a perfect time, with a flat course elevation for the remaining two miles.

The mile splits on my Garmin started dropping back to that steady pace they were previously in the race. As the finish line drew closer, I stared at the clock in bewilderment. Despite all of the hardships I dealt with in the year, and coming off a nagging injury that's hindered my racing performance, I was still on pace to finish under three hours for the first time all year. Mustering up all the strength I had left, I finished with a time of 2:59:03.

Even though it was too late in the year to use that time to qualify for the 2020 Boston Marathon (which ended up being virtual anyway), I was still very happy with my result given the circumstances. I celebrated in the best fashion I knew how: by devouring the complimentary post-race slice of pizza like a rabid wolf.

After gathering up my supplies, I had a nice and relaxing walk back to the apartment. I even caught a few Pokemon on Pokemon Go near the Canal Walk. Once I loaded up everything I packed, I said my farewell to Seb and made the drive back home. I didn't even shower until I got back to Lansing. Once I did, I immediately threw on my best floral button up and went bowling to celebrate a friend's birthday.

Looking back on it, this entire string of events is quite possibly the most I've ever crammed into a short 48 hour period. However, when they're things you truly enjoy, none of it feels daunting or overwhelming. Crashing on couches and traveling to run destination marathons fills my heart with more joy than words can convey.


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