INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time in three years, tens of thousands of runners and walkers will line up in downtown Indianapolis for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.
“We’re thrilled to be back in person and back on the streets of downtown Indianapolis,” said 500 Festival spokesperson Lindsay Labas. “We’re excited to bring the 20,000 plus participants, both runners, joggers, walkers, wheelchair participants.”
The last fully in-person Indy Mini was held in May of 2019, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last two race events, in 2020 and 2021, have been virtual in nature.
“People are anxious to be back in person and get on the streets and running again,” Labas said.
For many years, the Indy Mini consistently attracted about 35,000 runners and walkers to downtown Indianapolis. Race organizers began limiting those numbers a few years ago in the interest of safety and overcrowding downtown.
500 Festival officials say 20,000 participants Saturday morning would represent a roughly 75% return from 2019 participation, which is what organizers expected.
“I think it is a step toward what normal life looks like,” Labas said. “People are getting more excited to get on the streets and get back into what they’ve been doing prior to the pandemic.”
The Mini Marathon has long been considered one of the largest and most prestigious half marathons in the country. The racecourse gives participants a chance to travel from downtown Indianapolis to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a 2.5-mile lap around the world-famous race track.
Bob Schultz, Interim President and CEO of Downtown Indy, Inc., said the return of the Mini represents another step back onto the national stage and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Thousands and thousands of people coming back into their downtown, you know the IMS spirit of back home again,” Schultz said. “This is the mini marathon, this is truly the kickoff.”
Officials at Visit Indy said they believe the race weekend will inject $8.3 million into downtown area businesses like hotels, restaurants, shops and others. That would follow last week’s Fire Department Instructors Conference, which attracted more than 30,000 attendees to Indianapolis.
Visit Indy’s Chris Gahl said Indianapolis’ tourism industry will be 90% recovered from the pandemic after this weekend, with a full recovery possible by the end of 2022.
Phil Ray, General Manager of the downtown JW Marriott, said rooms are filling up fast ahead of this weekend.
“Our final rooms are being sold, we are going to be completely sold out on Friday night,” Ray said.
Ray said all 2,284 rooms across the 5 hotels of Marriott Indyplace will be booked Friday night. That’s largely due to a combination of the Mini Marathon and Indiana University Graduation ceremonies.
“All these events are coming back with even better attendance, better numbers than people were expecting, so a lot of positive momentum going on,” Ray continued.
People driving downtown Saturday morning will want to watch out for street closures surrounding the racecourse. Those can be found here.
Anyone coming in from out of town will also want to be aware of interstate and highway closures like the North Split project leading into downtown Indianapolis. INDOT’s website has closures and construction zones detailed so you can plan your route ahead of time.