An Indianapolis half-marathon that is a key part of the May lineup leading up to the Indianapolis 500 has seen its number of finishers drop in the last three years, putting its status as the nation's largest 13.1-mile run in jeopardy.
Organizers of the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon say they're focused on producing a quality event and aren't concerned by the numbers, which have fallen from 31,170 to 24,472. The number of finishers is the industry standard by which the size of an event is measured.
"We're more or less encouraged. We have a huge, overwhelming positive response. Our No. 1 priority for the Mini-Marathon is to produce a high-quality event," Kim Gale, director of marketing for the 500 Festival, told The Indianapolis Star.
Rising competition from other mini-marathons may be cutting into the Indianapolis event. In 2000, there were about 482,000 finishers in U.S. half-marathons. In 2013, the number had grown to 1.9 million.
There are 14 half-marathons in Indiana in April and May, including two each in Carmel, Noblesville and Bloomington. One also is held in Fishers.
Nearby states also are attracting their share of runners. The Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon in Louisville drew more than 10,000 finishers a week before the Indianapolis event, while Cincinnati's Flying Pig Half-Marathon had more than 11,000 a day after the Indianapolis race.
"Every time you turn around, there's somebody else putting on a half-marathon," said Phil Stewart, editor and publisher of Road Race Management. "It seems to be a distance that runners like. It has the mystique of the word 'marathon,' but it's half as long."
Despite increased competition for runners, the nonprofit 500 Festival has seen revenue increase in the last three years. Gale attributed that in part to ancillary training events and increasing popularity of a 5K race.
Runners this year paid $55 to $95 to enter the race. That's up from $40 in 2006.
No-shows aren't issued refunds.
Gale said she's isn't worried about losing the status as the nation's largest half-marathon.
"While being the largest is an honor, you could be the largest half-marathon and have people walk away and not have a great experience," she said.
"Our No. 1 priority for the Mini-Marathon is to produce a high-quality event where participants walk away with a good experience."