The 2024 Carmel Half Marathon

The 2024 Carmel Half Marathon

Where do I even start with such an incredible weekend? I may have overdone the number of things that I signed up to do. This included my first ever booth at a race expo, creating all of the awards for top three in each race in each gender category, and being an emcee after also running the half marathon. Let’s start with the expo...

If you don’t know me, know this, I am a perfectionist. So, to represent myself and my brand I wanted the Athlete Bouquets booth to look good. If anything else at least I would look like a real company and a real professional. On TikTok, I saw this background that looked like a piñata I decided I wanted to make my booth look like a big celebration. So I found a way to make this background using garden fencing and plastic tablecloths. I won’t admit to you the number of hours I spent basically making a giant piñata blanket to hang in the back of my booth. However, this labor of love was well worth it when I look back at the pictures from the expo. I also decided to get balloons to go with the party theme and a table wrap to showcase my company name (unnecessary looking back).

Little did I know how long and how much work it would take to get everything together for the expo after coming back from spring break vacation. The week of the race, I spent hours and hours trying to make sure I had all of the inventory I needed which - spoiler alert- I did not, but it was still worth the time and effort.

I also asked two of my best friends to help me in my booth and I can’t thank them enough for coming to my aid. My friend Ashley Schwab brought two of her four children and helped steam my table wrap to make it look good. She also took her kids back to my house to grab some things I forgot and brought me a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

My friend Alyssa used her day off from being a dental practice owner to come to my house early lug everything up and downstairs into my car and then inside the event center. She helped me set everything up and was the greatest hype woman. Alyssa even left for a lunch meeting and came back and spent hours working with me until we decided to pack up at 8 PM so I could get some rest before the race.

Yes, I sold quite a bit but my favorite part wasn’t the sales aspect. It was being able to meet a lot of different runners both local and from out of town. It was fun showcasing what I make and getting real time feedback. It was really fulfilling and energizing simply just to be there all day talking to people. Thank you to everybody who stopped by my booth thank you for to everyone who has supported my small business.

After packing everything up and heading home, I was able to order a pizza to be delivered when I pulled into my driveway. My husband left for Vegas so I ended up having the house to myself with my kids at my in-laws. Thank you so much to them for giving me this time. I ate my pizza, some more pop tarts, and a beer. Then, watched a show and went to bed. It was almost hard to sleep in an empty house without kids coming in in the middle of the night or my husband kicking me. 

Being able to enjoy my pre-race routine in peace was another benefit of the empty house. I was able to brush my teeth without a kid on my bathroom counter and had my usual AG1 and coffee and peanut butter toast to get things moving. I gave myself enough time to make a bouquet for my photographer friend, Lindsey, who came to the race to take pictures at the finish line. After that, I got dressed, double checked that I had everything, and headed out the door.

As an emcee, I was able to park close to the start line which was really nice and lowered my stress level. I met up with team RMR for a picture and to meet up with my friend, Amanda Luper, who I was planning to share a few miles with. I also introduced myself to the other emcee's and let them know. I would be helping them after I finished my race.

After a few pictures and nervous chatter with the team Amanda and I and her friend Jason headed off to the corral in order to find the 1:50 pacer, Todd Oliver, who if you don’t know, this happens to be the founder of the race. Since Carmel was no longer my race of the year, I decided to have fun and join Todd‘s pace group to have an opportunity to run with the man who created this amazing race. In the corral I also saw my friend, Colleen, who was recently on the podcast. I’m not sure if Todd liked it or not, but I bragged to everybody that it was his race and that we were getting an opportunity to run with him so that they could ask him any question they wanted to. It was fun watching Todd look around and make comments about things that he did differently or would do differently about the event. 

The 5K and 10K race took off at 8 AM and we started the race at 8:10 AM so it was hard to wait as you heard them countdown for the first race to go. The corrals were crowded, but with the cool morning I didn’t mind and it kind of made me feel more comfortable just getting ready to go and the energy with the sun shining on us was absolutely electric. Finally, it was our turn to go and we were able to start moving which is always when my heart rate goes down and the nerves start to loosen.

Running with Amanda and Todd was a great choice. I had my headphones around my neck and didn’t use my music for at least the first half of the race. The first few miles went by so incredibly quick just chatting and listening to Todd start to tell stories listening to other members of the group, ask questions, questions, or talk amongst themselves. we spotted Timmy Howard, who is at most local races taking photos. He was dressed in a hotdog costume on a bike and snapped a few photos of Todd. That was around mile 2 and I started counting down to my first nutrition in this race, I am still on my maple syrup kick. At mile three Amanda took her first nutrition and at this point Todd manages to trip over a cone and completely bite the dust. I swear he did a full somersault. There was a moment of panic that he was really injured, but without missing a beat Todd popped right up and I swear didn’t even add a single second to his time. Amanda and I were still together and staying relatively close to Todd so we could still hear his voice and we could also make sure we didn’t start out too fast. The nice thing about being with a pace group is that they will call out each mile and the amount of time that you have been running and where you should be based on where you actually are. So I don’t think I looked at my watch during this race especially since my goal was to stick around 1:50 and simply enjoy the experience after the long day I had before and the long day that was to come.

I think it was before mile four when I lost Amanda and she started breaking away. I remember yelling to her to not go too fast, but that’s the last I saw her and she absolutely crushed her race with a huge PR. Not long after this, we were getting ready to turn onto Hazell. I saw my friend Sarah‘s uncle John and I had actually seen him at the expo the day before which was funny. He thought I was trying to sell him something. We chatted for a couple of miles just about life. He’s a big runner and I tried to convince him that he should go from the half to the full marathon because he does so many halves. I remember saying that one year during this stretch of the race it was snowing and so I was glad that the weather we had was so nice and pleasant.

Todd would also call out the typography of the course. He'd tell us to be sure to hold back and not go too fast during the flat parts. He knew exactly what was coming, which helped me either reign it in and be patient OR get ready to to tackle the hills. Around mile seven is when there’s the largest hill of the course and this year the family that lives on the hill had a Jurassic Park theme which was amazing. There were at least three family members dressed as dinosaurs and I’m pretty sure the mom was in one of the costumes. They also had a few signs of encouragement along the hill. It certainly helped distract from what was happening, but my legs did enjoy the change in elevation. At this point, I had started breaking away from the pace group and could no longer really hear Todd. I was ready to just do my own thing. I also lost my friend’s uncle who moved ahead of me.

"Over halfway", I told myself. But through the rolling hills of the neighborhood I was ready for some downhill! Around this time I met Erica, a full marathoner hoping for another BQ. She told me she liked my tattoo. Turns out she was from St. something Chicago so I asked if she knew my North Dakota/ podcast friend, Himanshu, and she did! What a small world. She said she felt like she now had her own personal “Ali on the Run”. We shared maybe a mile or two and I wasn’t feeling like I could keep up with her, so I told her I was ready to hang back a touch and let her go. 

If memory serves me correctly, there was a lady talking pretty loud and being negative. At this point I still had my headphones out and I can’t even tell you what exactly she was saying but I can tell you that a guy next to me was like “why is this lady being so negative?” I agreed with him and said positive things - hopefully they were somewhat motivating. 😂 I took this as a sign to put my headphones back in for the last few miles. 

A little after mile 10 one of my favorite running songs came on - Where the Streets Have No Name - it also happens to be one of Todd Oliver’s favorite songs so I turned around to see if he was in earshot, but no such luck. I let the song carry me knowing I was entering the home stretch. 

Just after passing the Carmel High School football stadium we hop on a running trail and its mile 11. We run by a dog kennel and the smell makes me run faster to want to get by it. Then there’s a small hill that takes us up onto the Monon. I’m happy to see a familiar face, Alan, from the Fishers running club, at the top cheering us on. 

Since Todd isn’t behind me I know I’m going to beat 1:50, which was my goal going into the race. And I haven’t seen Amanda, so I know she’s going to crush her sub-1:50 goal. I start thinking about my photographer friend, Lindsay, who will be at the finish. In a weird way it helps motivate me knowing she’s watching my location I shared with her and waiting for me to get there. 

As we run through midtown Carmel there’s less than a mile to go and there’s a dude dressed in a full flesh leotard. 

Almost there. As we turn onto Rangeline road I tell myself that there’s one turn left. I see my friend Timmy Howard dressed as a hot dog again and it helps me pick up the pace and “look like I’m running”. When I ask Timmy if it looks like I’m running a guy behind me says I’m sprinting, so I’m feeling good and want to kick it in to the end. 

I plaster a big smile on my face and remember to enjoy the final stretch where the sun has brought out so many spectators. And wouldn’t you know it - my new friend Erica is next to me moving left to take on the second half of her race. “Ally!” She says. Then she tells me she’s jealous I get to finish and I tell her that she shouldn’t be because “she gets to run a marathon today!! I wish her luck and tell her I’ll be cheering at the finish. 

I turn my legs over as fast as I can and try to be respectful of others while also trying to pass as many people as I can and get in a position where I’m hoping Lindsay can see me to get pictures. 

Shortly after I cross, Lindsay finds me and hugs me. She’s holding one of my Carmel bouquets and I take it from her and pose proudly. I love this photo.

I got to hug my friend, Amanda, and congratulate her on earning an almost 5-min PR of 1:46:57. 

A minute later, Todd comes through the finish with the 1:50 pace crew and I turn around to find him. He has blood streaming down his leg from his cone altercation which makes for a pretty epic finish photo. We wish each other congrats and I tell Lindsay I need to get some of the snacks and come back around before I start my second job of the day as an emcee. 

I grab a bottle of water, fruit snacks, a banana, and some Lays potato chips. It’s funny how my memory blocks parts of the race but I can vividly remember selecting my post race snacks. 

As I’m on my way back around to the finish line I luckily run into my sister Morgan and her husband with their friends. They did the 10K. We snapped a post race photo together.

At this point it’s just after 10, when I’m scheduled to help at the finish. So, I find where my partners in crime, Tim and Jeff, are stationed and lay all of my snacks on the table. Since they’d been working all morning, they were happy to hand over the mic and I had zero idea what I was doing. There was a computer set up where names would appear as people were finishing the race. And that was it! So, I started announcing people coming in and had Lindsay capture the moment. 

My favorite part of being an emcee was having a chance to announce people who had spectators waiting for them right after the finish. There were proud parents holding pictures of their runner. There was a fiancé cheering for his soon-to-be wife. I loved being able to make sure their runners felt special crossing the finish line. And while the half marathoners were finishing, there were full marathoners running on the other side of the street making their way through the halfway point. So, we’d do our best to go back and forth and cheer on the full marathoners as well. 

And then not long after, it was time for the full marathon winners to come through and that was really fun to see. I remember going over to the men’s winner to get his name since he flew in and we didn’t catch it in time. 

After a while I took a break and went over to the bathrooms. There, I ran into my Instagram friend, Mark, who I had briefly met at the expo. We chatted about our races and life and when he had to go I wandered over to the beer tent to grab my free beer. Since I was working I only took a few sips, but it tasted so good in the hot sun. Plus, now I knew firsthand that the sponsor, Bier Brewery, was serving up deliciously cold beer for finishers. 

I worked for another hour or so until the finishers started to spread out and it was clear there wasn’t a need for three emcees anymore. Jeff volunteered to be the last one of us standing and Tim and I headed out. Since my in-laws were watching our girls I wanted to get home to relieve them. 

As I got in my car I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I am. This race weekend had me on cloud nine. It is clear to me that running is where I’m meant to be. I’m not sure being an emcee is my professional calling, but what I do know is that I love being around runners and the running community so much. And if you’ve made it to the end of this recap, you’re a part of it. Thank you! Can’t wait for next year.

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