This is not a small balancing act to pull off.
The year was 2008. The event was the inaugural Indianapolis Monumental Marathon/Half Marathon. The title sponsor was St. Francis. I was a 48 year old John Bingham-esque accidental athlete who had gotten a little overconfident after a few successful local 5Ks and decided to sign up for a half-marathon. I couldn’t resist the appeal of running a first-time distance through the neighborhoods of my adopted “hometown”—Indy. My goal was to stay just ahead of the SAG wagon. I finished the half in 2:21:21 wearing a headband handmade by my artist niece and finishing 1070th out of a relatively small field. And so began my relationship (okay, love affair?) with Beyond Monumental. It was my first half and my first full marathon…earning the Monumental a place in my personal history akin (well, almost) to my first love. In November 2017, I’ll do it again.
I’m not the only one who became smitten in those early days. Consider Ted Maple, president and CEO of Early Learning Indiana. The inaugural race of the IMM was his restart to a running career. It gave him something to shoot for when he began running again in July of that year. “Who knows if running would be as much of my life as it is today?” he ponders. “I’ve seen the race grow over the years and become an incredible event. Early Learning Indiana, the organization for which I work, has participated in the children’s event and one of our Day Early Learning centers is on the half-marathon course on Central Avenue. Some of our staff volunteer at the water station near our center. It is a highlight of my run every year to run by our center and see our staff cheering people on.” And Maple reports that Beyond Monumental has become more than a race, but also a family event for him. He ran the race with his son, Jonah (age 12) in 2016. Running with Jonah in his first half-marathon will always be one of Maple’s favorite memories of the Monumental. It’s a “dad thing.”
Brian Schuetter, Indy Runners Medical Liaison and coordinator of Saturday runs, ran the Monumental as a half during the inaugural event. “I’ve done the half six times and the full three times,” he reports. This year, he’ll run the full marathon again. It is, he says, a “great tour of our city.” Schuetter also celebrates Beyond Monumental as a sort of “family reunion” for runners—in which “50% of the folks out there—racers, organizers, fans”—capture the “get your friends together and put on a race” element that combines with Hoosier hospitality for visitors, and a first-class race for the elite field, to create a world-class event. As Schuetter rightly observes, “This is not a small balancing act to pull off. I am impressed with how the Beyond Monumental group has continued this.”
When asked about favorite memories of the event over the past 10 years, Schuetter recalls a favorite memory from 2016 when Indy Runners, Carmel Runners, Back on My Feet, Wayne Township schools, and many others paid tribute to a member of the running community, Erika Wells, who was killed on her bike on 10/12/2016. Though I, personally, have had many awesome memories of this event over the past 10 years, four that stand out are the tributes to Erika in 2016; the bright green t-shirts of local students who participated in the event, which benefits education; meeting marathon Guinness World Record Holder and Arizona resident Larry Macon on the course near the IMA in 2010 while running my first marathon (when he encouraged me and got my novice marathoner self through mile 18 or so); and experiencing the growth of the event without it losing its warmth. “The tone is set from the organizers,” says Schuetter. “We’re welcoming everyone to our neighborhood and making them as comfortable as possible as they pursue their goals.”
So, what keeps those of us who were there for the inaugural event coming back year after year after year (Maple, Schuetter, and I have participated in EVERY one)? For Maple, it is the family-friendly nature of the event. “Both my wife, Johanna, and one of my sons, Jonah, are runners, and this is one of the highlights of our year. Also, it is just a great race. The weather is almost always wonderful. The course is nice and flat. It is fun to be downtown. The event has such great energy.” Maple enthuses: “We love the Monumental and will keep coming back.” For Schuetter, it is the family feel of the event and its commitment to local schools and childhood wellness programs as well as the way the Monumental “acts as a sort of end-of-the-running-year get together for the running family.” For me, it is all of those things and more.
Indeed, outstanding stuff.
Join us in November, won’t you?
Judy Hasselkus has an extensive collection of IMM bibs. And medals. And shirts. Look for her out on the course in November!