These blogs are a combination of memories of doing the Mini® and advice, based on those memories, of how to do it. I had no clue, in 1999, about the proper approach to the race. All advice given in this, or any other column, is not given as a healthcare professional. I do not have the formal training received by M.D.s, so check with your physician before the Mini®. And while you’re at her/his office, be sure to get free samples.
Before the start, part 4.
Don’t be alarmed by the social graces (or lack thereof) of the people around you as you shiver and wait for the start. Some are groups of friends and have that social insulation small groups employ, unconsciously, in crowds. Others are into their own little worlds, contemplating how in the fuck amd I going to do 13.1 miles? Others, though, will chat. I have found the older I get, the more the older people around me will talk to me. (Wait—that doesn’t mean I’m old, does it? That’s why I pay the stylist to tint the hair.)
Also, if you are running, try and stretch out. It’s difficult, but people will give you a little room. If you’re walking, you know those standing stretches you can do. If you don’t know them, Google® "standing/stretching exercises for race walks" or something similar. Play with the parameters of the search.
My first year of law school I lived in Ball Residence Hall, almost at the bridge on Michigan Street. During the summer, the smell of corn syrup wafted over the river from those silos on White River Parkway. You will pass those on your right. You will also hear people giving words of encouragement to each other. Even strangers will tell people who look like they’re having a rough time, "Come on, it’s not that far. You’re almost there."
You see the numeral "12" ahead, in neon orange. You turn left and walk uphill. The grade actually is slight—it’s the New York Street bridge (probably named after someone, but I don’t know who that is). At this point, after 12 miles, any angle upward is a pain. Then the bridge crests and it’s all downhill. Use your cell phone and call whomever it is who is meeting you at the end. Let them know you’re close.
Now there will be mileage signs every quarter-mile. People—who were much faster than you, but never mind—walk past the other way, medals around their chests. People hold signs for oved ones over the entire route. The concentration of signs is greater near the finish line.
Keep one foot in front of the other now. You’re almost done. I’ve seen people lose it at this point. One year Sarah saw a guy start walking in circles, babbling to himself. The EMTs, cops, and course personnel are pretty good about getting help to those folks.
Myself? At this point the memories come back. As I ended my first Mini® in 1999, those memories particularly were sharp: of the second day in the hospital and not being able to walk at all; of legs that hung from me like dishrags, and not being able to will them to move even the least; of sitting in a wheelchair for yet another procedure and, when the nurse or whomever would ask my diagnosis, breaking into tears as I said, "I have multiple sclerosis"; of not knowing whether I would live, much less be able to walk or even work again. I get less teary-eyed each year, but there’s still moisture under my prescription shades. And this last mile no doubt is special for everyone. For me it is special because I’d might as well lift one hand, extend that middle finger, and gesture to an unseen/non-existent entity—the personification of MS. Of course, my knee, by now, hurts like hell, but that has nothing to do with MS.
On the loudspeaker the announcer reads off names of people as they approach the finish line. The stands are getting empty. Look up again and smile—one more time for the photographers to snap you on a critical stage of the course.
MAKE SURE YOU GET YOUR MEDAL! Folks are draping them around the necks of people who have finished. Get yours.
You now will walk around to the right. There are bottles of (warm) water. There also are bananas. If your time is faster than mine, try to pass on the bananas. By the time I get there, sometimes they’re out. (Just kidding; go ahead and grab one. Be a heartless bastard.) You will keep walking around to the right, past chocolate chip cookies and potato chips. The race organizers want you to know you can have your picture taken.
I look for a break in the fence to my left. Once I see it, I wedge my way through. I usually meet Sarah (with her own medal from the 5-k) around Michigan and West, just behind the finish line area. I then hobble along as we head for the car. A towel is on the front passenger seat, to protect it from the sweat on my body. The A/C comes on as soon as the engine turns over.
I am not hungry yet. My hypothalamus will take a few minutes to register the need for food.
The drive up Illinois seems lonely each year—like going home after the 500 always seemed to be when we went to the Race. The energy levels have subsided. Everyone is headed home.
We will stop at Kincaid’s (if we have not picked up meat the day before) for the obligatory porterhouse. Then it’s home, a shower, and a short nap.
One year, as Sarah got back into the car with the steaks (I can’t move very easily after the Mini®), she asked, "Are we ready?"
I said, "Just one more stop. We need to hit St. Vinnie’s. I don’t mean to alarm you, but I am having massive chest pains."
I have a sense of humor, but never would joke about something like that. A few minutes and about an 80-mile-per-hour ride later and I was admitted into St. Vinnie’s ER. They ran an EKG, took blood samples, checked BP. Finally a jolly MD came in, a lollipop in one corner of his mouth, and asked, "Do the Mini® today?"
I am wearing my bib number and medal plus I smell like a goat. I am not going to say, "What were your SAT scores?" Instead of being a smartass, I said yes. "Your heart’s fine. So’s everything else."
"But the chest pain," I said. "It’s real."
"Have you done anything in prepping for the race you haven’t done before? Like in the past few weeks?"
"I started doing pushups," I replied. "I’m up to about 75 per day."
He smiled. I thought I detected smugness. He knew from my chart I am a lawyer. There’s this thing we have against each other as professions. When my professional "ancestors" were drafting the Constitution of the United States, the living document by which this country has been governed for over 200 years, his predecessors had barber poles outside their lodgings and used leeches to suck blood.
"You’ve pulled a pec muscle," he said, and took the lollipop out. "We’ll give you some muscle relaxants for it."
I learned from that—don’t do massive pushups in training for the race.
At home, after my nap, I get dressed in clean clothes, put the medal back around my neck, and we head to Broad Ripple Tavern. This is the one day each year I can wear that medal and not look like an idiot. People ask me if I did the Mini®, congratulate me. I thank them.
I don’t explain about how it all came to be. Friends know about the MS. Others know as well. I do not make a secret of it.
This year will be special. We will stream the Mini® live. May 5 will be a Special Edition of "Civil Discourse Now." You can watch the race as it never before has been seen.