Katie O'Connor | Echo
Chatter softens to a whisper and the gunshot sounds, signaling the start of what thousands spent months preparing for.
Senior Lilly Burton had three things on her "Taylor bucket list" when she first arrived as a freshman: she wanted to travel to another country, to win Airband and to run the Indy Mini, the largest half-marathon in the United States.
During a cold dead week in December 2016, rather than focusing on an upcoming anatomy final, Burton took the first step in realizing her lifelong goal of running the Indy Mini.
"I was like 'You know what, I'm going to run the Indy Mini,'" Burton said. "And the next day, I ran three miles. To myself, I said I just want to be able to run the whole race and not walk. That was probably the one thing I was the most nervous about; what if I did all of that training and then ended up walking?"
Burton described the 20-week intensive training regimen as challenging and exhilarating, but it helped her prepare for the 13.1-mile race, which occurred last May. At first, the program has runners taking three-mile runs most days, with a longer five-mile run at the end of the week.
As the weeks progressed, the mileage of her runs increased, up until two weeks before the race. At that point, the regimen recommended tapering off mileage to allow the body to restore itself before the big day.
Burton was one of seven women from First East Olson who decided to run the Indy Mini, three of whom ran the Mini as their first competitive street race. Although Burton ran the actual race by herself, she recognized the benefits of having friends who could take long runs with her during training and then later empathize with sore muscles together.
Sophomore Alexa Kling, another member of First East Olson, is one such person who could empathize with Burton. A student athlete, rigorous workouts are not new for Kling. This did not change the fact this was her first competitive street race, though.
"It was the first race I had ever run, so I was super nervous about being able to complete it, but it was actually a really fun experience and all the adrenaline helped me push through," Kling said. "I'm planning on doing it every year that I'm in Indiana."
Inevitably, the clock kept ticking, and the anticipated day was right around the corner.
May 6, 2017: race day. Burton's nerves began to rise, and they came in the form of a fashion crisis.
"In my head, I changed my outfit for the race so many times," Burton said, laughing at her own indecisiveness.
After a 6 a.m. wake up, a Clif bar and some coffee, Burton was out the door by 7 a.m., ready to put her nerves to rest.
At the starting line, time momentarily stood still. The distinctive skyscrapers of Indianapolis rose before Burton, and smells of morning dew and soft rain drizzle filled the air.
"Strangers all around started talking to each other; in a country seemingly so divided, it felt like there was so much we had in common at that moment," Burton said.
The gunshot sounded, and Burton, along with thousands of others, set off to accomplish their goal. Stimulation and energy flooded in from every angle; spectators cheered, music sounded and confetti blew.
Burton's proud family was never far from her during the race. Her parents, along with her boyfriend, senior Abram Stamper, cheered Burton on from the beginning of her training regimen in December all the way through until the moment she crossed the finish line in May.
"Right before I crossed the finish line, it was text after text after text coming in saying, 'You can do it!'" Burton said through a smile. "Everyone on the sidelines was able to see my name on my race tag, so people were cheering me on and it felt empowering."
Once she turned the final corner and saw the finish line, Burton grasped her dream of running the Indy Mini had finally almost been realized.
Two hours and 12 minutes after the gunshot, Burton's Indy Mini narrative reached its close, but only momentarily. The day after her first race, Burton promptly signed up for her next Indy Mini, which she will run May 5.
Two weeks from graduating, Burton can rest easy knowing she's completed all three things on her college bucket list.
Initially full of doubt and fear as to whether she had it in her to run the whole race, Burton's sense of accomplishment after completing the race was incomparable to any other feeling she had.
"I would definitely recommend the Indy Mini for everyone," Burton said. "If you can run three miles, you can run a half marathon.