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Oy vey- long title, right? (as a side note- how many of you use the phrase “oy vey”?). My blog post comparing the Indianapolis Mini Marathon vs. the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon gets continuous hits throughout the year, so now that I’ve run the Carmel Half Marathon, I thought I’d throw that race into the mix!  If you have specific questions about any of the races, feel free to ask in the comments section!

Race Size: The Mini is by FAR the largest, followed by the Monumental, and Carmel bringing up the rear. Each race size comes with pros and cons, so it really depends on what you’re specific needs are. The monumental feels really personal, the mini is a huge party, and carmel was nice and small, which led to extra friendly runners! The mini has people cheering constantly, but the course can be really congested, which is frustrating the first few miles.

Starting Line: With the Mini you’re assigned corrals and you must stay in that corral. In 2012 it took me about 20ish minutes to cross the starting line after race start, and in 2013 it took me maybe 12ish minutes. With the Monumental, there aren’t corral assignments (at least through the 2013 race this was true), and you line yourself up with pace signs depending on what you feel is appropriate for you. With Carmel there were corral assignments, but I switched corrals to fit with the pace that I thought I could run that day. With both the Monumental and Carmel I crossed the starting line in less than 5 minutes.

Spectator Numbers: If you want people lining the course screaming and cheering the whole time, then the Mini is your race! Obviously the Mini, because it’s the biggest, has lots of family members out cheering and holding great race signs! The Monumental is smaller, so there are less spectators, but still have quite a few people cheering along the course. With Carmel, there weren’t too many spectators out, which was a little sad, but with running with a pace group, I didn’t feel like I needed that many spectators either. Carmel winds through lots of neighborhoods, and there were people out in their driveways or at their front doors cheering. With all 3 courses, the spectators were great though!

Entertainment: Again, if this is of key importance to you, then the Mini is your race! There were lots of bands, singers, cheerleaders, friends, and family members lining the course (even in the speedway!). The Monumental has some bands along the way, but not as many as the Mini. I think I only remember 1 or 2 bands out playing on the Carmel course. This isn’t of high importance to me, so it didn’t matter much…

The Course: The Mini and Monumental are both located in downtown Indianapolis while Carmel is located in Carmel, Indiana. The 3 courses don’t overlap at all, which is nice for people who run all of them each year. The Mini takes you on a loop around the Speedway, which is sort of fun and sort of painful all at the same time. To me the speedway is the most difficult part of the course. The Monumental doesn’t have anything as big as the speedway, but it runs through a number of other “monuments” in Indy like Lucas Oil Stadium (where the Colts play) and Monument Circle. Both of these courses are really flat and speedy. Carmel winds mostly through neighborhoods except the last few miles. The course has some hills (don’t believe when people say that it’s a flat course unless you’re used to running big hills regularly!), but they’re very doable even if you don’t train on hills.

Hydration: All 3 races are absolutely fantastic with providing water and powerade/gatorade throughout the course! I have absolutely no complaints in this area for any of the races. Most of these races have stations about every mile and a half or so on the course.

Race Volunteers: All wonderful! All 3 courses have fantastic and helpful volunteers. They have all been friendly, encouraging, and supportive.

Price: I think the Mini is slightly more expensive than the Monumental, and I know that my entry to Carmel was about 10-15 dollars cheaper than the Mini.  I know that I didn’t pay more than 65ish for any of the races though. Something else to consider: you have to pay for parking both for the expo and on race day for both the Mini  and the Monumental. With Carmel the expo and race day parking are free, and that saves you around 25-30 dollars!

Expo: For both the Mini  and the Monumental the expos were held at the convention center downtown. Both had lots of vendors (merchandise, businesses, and running gear), but the Mini expo is larger than the Monumental. For Carmel, the expo was much smaller, and had far fewer vendors. It was easy to run in and run out.

Race Swag: All of the races provided tech shirts (Mini was long sleeved and Monumental and Carmel were short sleeved). 2 of the races provided hats (Mini was a regular hat that didn’t fit me well and Monumental was a nice winter hat), and all 3 included finisher medals. The Mini and Carmel had a few small samples in the race bag (like vegetable oil, lotion) and some coupons while the Monumental had a race poster. The Monumental has kind of a cool virtual swag bag, and that came with an option to get a year free magazine subscription (I got Women’s Health Magazine). Carmel came with a few coupons for local things to do and some health/fitness services. 

Communication Pre-Race: All the races were fantastic about this! I got emails regularly for each of these races, and I felt well prepared before the race. Each race had course maps with water, gatorade, and medical tents marked, along with starting line information, gear check, etc… All were really great about this! All 3 races are also very active on twitter, so that provides easy access to someone to ask simple questions. 

Time of the Year: Carmel takes place in the middle of April, the Mini takes place the first weekend of May, and the Monumental takes place the first weekend of November, so all can provide some extreme temperatures. I’ve been really lucky and had pretty ideal conditions for all 5 of my half marathons so far. 

Overall Race Quality & Enjoyment: I really truly loved all of these races. I think they were all worth the time, energy, and injury that went into training and running each of these races. I plan on running all of them again, and of course having fun while running them. It was really nice to not have to run that Speedway during the Monumental though, and I’m not the biggest fan of the hills with Carmel. I’ve run the Monumental twice (and have already signed up for the 2014 race), the Mini twice, and Carmel once. I’ve really loved them all. 

If you’re interested in specifics of these races, check out my race recaps or leave a question in the comments section. If you’ve run any of these races before, feel free to share any thoughts that you have about the courses!

Now it’s your turn to share! What do you look for most in a race? What’s the best or weirdest race swag that you’ve ever received?

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