Wet, wonderful trails await

It’s almost time for Trail Boy’s favorite spring event, the  Anti-Mini, which is a kick-butt trail race and stick-it-to-the-man social protest all in one.

The race begins at 7:25 a.m. Saturday at Starkey Park in Zionsville, about a half-hour from my house.

The scenery is worth the drive. The woods are nuclear green this week, thanks to days and days of rain. The trails will be filled with puddles, roots, rocks and a few steep embankments along the creek. It’s all part of the trail-running experience.  The road runners, in their nice, clean shoes, won’t know what they’re missing.

OK, but what about that social protest thing? And why is it called the Anti-Mini?

orangey1

Race organizers prep the course on Friday, using orange highlighter to make the roots more visible.

Besides being a fun event in itself, the Anti-Mini something of a quiet demonstration — in this case, against the Indy Mini-Marathon, which is the nation’s largest half-marathon, with 35,000 runners, and which also takes place this weekend.

The Indy Mini a huge deal in this town. For half a day, the city closes down dozens of streets.  Tens of thousands of people flock downtown. Television stations put helicopters in the air for aerial shots. It’s a big party.

But is it worth all the hype?

I ran the Mini one time, and I found it to be one of the most over-rated, disappointing spectacles of all time, and not much fun to run.

First of all, the entire course runs on pavement, with nary a lick of shade or scenery, making it feel like a tedious 20 or 30 miles.  Runners are shoe-horned into tight corrals like so much cattle on their way to the stockyards. Then for the next two or three hours, runners fight for elbow room as they jostle the crowded streets.

If that weren’t grim enough, the course runs through ho-hum neighborhoods, past factories and warehouses, up and down some of the dullest roads you could imagine. It’s as if someone deliberately designed this course through the least scenic parts of Indy.

The highlight, if you can call it that, is a mind-numbing, 2 1/2 -mile lap around the Indy Motor Speedway, which is basically like running around an airport parking lot. After you’re done with that, and just about ready to blow your brains out from the tedium, you run back to downtown — yes, on more pavement. 

Then there’s all hype, hype, hype — overdone to the nth degree, with bands and helicopters and loudspeakers and medals and grandstands.  It’s a highly commercialized event. It’s not what running means to me.

The Anti-Mini, on the other hand, is a back-to-basics trail race and a wonderland for the senses.  It is refreshing and joyous. The course runs through green parks, along singletrack and groomed trails. The air is crisp and clean. You can actually hear woodpeckers and songbirds. 

On top of that, it’s free and fun. It attracts a few hundred runners who think the Mini has gotten too big, too expensive ($75), too organized and too hyped.

Read more about the race and its history and loyal  following at the race web site here.

Roots, puddles, dirt and lots of greenery. What's not to love?

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