“When I woke up, it was pouring down rain in Pendleton,” said Dee Fowler, as she recalled the morning of Saturday, May 3. The weatherman had predicted a soggy day for the 32nd running of the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini-marathon, and it appeared he got it right.

It wasn’t a big deal for Fowler, a seasoned veteran, who had run in the Mini 19 times previously, and had encountered all types of weather over the years. For her, it was just another mini.

But, for her cousin, Chris Wilson, this would be her rookie run. Rain could make for a challenging day.

The two women and their husbands headed out early for Indianapolis, and as they drew closer to downtown, where they would join the crowd of 35,000 participants, the rain began to subside.

They made their way to a window on the third floor of Circle Centre Mall, where they looked down at the sea of people. “I said, ‘Thank you, Lord, that I am with Dee and she knows what she’s doing,’” Wilson recalled with a sigh. “It would have been terribly intimidating to be there my first time, by myself and knowing nothing.”

The temperature was a perfect fifty-five degrees as they stood in their starting corral. At 7:30 a.m., the Mini-marathon began right on schedule. Yet, it took a full twelve minutes for them to reach the starting line because of the bottleneck of runners.

“Chris just kept saying, ‘This is so cool. This is so cool.’ She was super-psyched the entire day,” laughed Fowler.

Wilson and Fowler wore typical running shorts and tank tops. But, there were plenty of people who went out of their way to stand out in the crowd, including a guy in an orange tuxedo.

   As the runners began to spread out during the 13.1-mile trek, people along the sides of the road cheered them on. Fowler said she spotted more familiar faces than in any previous year. “Every now and then, I’d hear, ‘Mrs. Fowler!’ and it would be someone I knew,” she said.

The sun came out just about the time they reached the Indianapolis 500-mile racetrack, which, according to Fowler, is near the halfway point of the Mini and she considers it as one of the more difficult stretches of the course. For the first time, they began to break a sweat. It was about then that they glanced up at the huge Jumbotron, a real-time display of what was taking place at the finish line. The first two runners had just finished the race.

“Are we gonna be okay?” Wilson asked.

“I’ll tell you that at the ten-mile mark,” Fowler replied, adding that she never doubted that Wilson would finish, although the tenth mile is when she generally begins to feel a strain.

Mile 10 came and went. And, at mile 12, Wilson said to Fowler, “I feel really good. I’d like to kick it in.” Fowler told her to go for it.

With a finish time of two hours and one minute, Wilson ended up crossing the finish line twelve seconds ahead of Fowler, who couldn’t have been more proud of her rookie cousin. They’d started jogging even before they reached the start line and they never stopped.

“Every step of the way, we jogged — the whole way,” said a beaming Wilson. Although she had never in her life jogged more than eight miles at a time, that day she’d reached her personal goal to jog the entire 13.1 miles of the Mini.

“I didn’t ever feel out of breath,” she remarked. “It was all so fun for me. I just couldn’t believe it was over. It went so fast.”

Fowler agreed. “Every mile went pretty fast and we talked the whole time,” she said.

The two women averaged a 9:17 pace, which Fowler said was faster than she’d run in a long time. “She was just on fire,” she commented, referring to Wilson. “She was really pumped.”

Both of them stuck with their original plan to consume plenty of carbs the day before the race, with an extra focus on staying hydrated. As they ticked off the miles on race day, they gladly accepted drinks from volunteers at water stations all along the route. “The last one, I dumped down my back,” Wilson said. “The sun was beating down on us by then.”

She said her legs didn’t get tired until she really poured it on during the final mile before she crossed the finish line. Just as the more-experienced Fowler had predicted, the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles was hard to ignore. But neither of the women were ready to call it a day.

After collecting her medal, Wilson went home and planted flowers in her yard. “When I got finished, my back and arms hurt worse than my legs did,” she laughed.

Fowler did laundry and went to the grocery, where a friend saw her and said with surprise, “Hey, I thought you were supposed to do the Mini today.”  Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, as the old saying goes.

Wilson said there was never a point in her run when she regretted making the decision to participate. And from Fowler’s perspective, it was much different than her previous 19 Mini-marathons. “This was definitely my most fun. We were good together. We complimented each other’s strengths,” she said.

Will they do it again next year?  Not a doubt. And, at this point, it looks like they’ll be joined by plenty of people they know. Principal Bill Hutton and Assistant Principal Arlene Dawson, who both work at Pendleton Elementary School where Wilson teaches second grade, have issued a corporation-wide challenge to kick it up a notch.

They are encouraging staff members at all the South Madison schools to put together teams for participation in the 2009 event. According to Hutton, there are already 20 committed participants at the high school, another 20 at Pendleton Elementary, and twelve at East Elementary. They and other interested individuals will meet during the summer to put their heads together and come up with a plan for landing sponsorship pledges. Their tentative goal is to raise $10,000 that will be contributed to a worthy cause which would benefit the student population in the South Madison community. Additionally, Dawson said, it will serve as a wellness campaign for students and faculty.

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=For the first time in history, the 2008 Mini-marathon ended in a tie, as Kenyans Lamech Mokono and Valentine Orare both ran the course in 1:02.53. It was decided that both men were declared winners and would each get a full first-place prize purse of $3,500. Registration for next year’s Mini-marathon, which will take place on May 2, 2009,  has already begun. For more information, access the web at www.signmeup.com/indymini.

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