The Day I Got Lost in a Race- Indy Women’s 5k

Well…. that was not the headline I had hoped for. As you may have guessed, it was not the race I had hoped for either.

I never thought I would be that girl. In fact, I always do (and did this time), take the steps to avoid it.

I looked at the map. I ran the course the day before. I knew where I was going, and I knew I was likely to be at the front, so even asked the race director if there was going to be a lead vehicle while I was on the start line. Yes, he responded; one for the half marathon, and one for the 5k. So I relaxed.

What I was not accounting for, was both lead motorcycles going straight when they announced that the 5k runners turn right at the split (which was on par with the course I had run the day before). So I turned, but he did not, and therefore no one was up ahead alerting the rest of the police officers that the lead woman was coming.

But lets backtrack a little, starting from the beginning.

It had been a while since I felt this ready to race. Since the London marathon in fact. I ran the Bluegrass 10000 in less than optimal shape, and then after the Bix 7 I felt like I was a few weeks away from a good race. However, that of course was wedding time, so I hoped that I would get my training in and stay healthy, which I did.

We picked this race a few months ago, knowing thinking that it was a big enough race to be well organized, and it was a fast course. I was not exactly looking forward to racing a 5k, I even asked Steve the night before the race if I could do the half instead, but he was standing his ground.

I needed to get used to the pain of a 5k again….ugh.

But a small part of me was very excited, was looking forward to really seeing where I was at. We had some indicators these last few weeks that I was ready to go, and I was looking forward to having something solid to see for real where I was at, rather than just what my garmin had been saying….or so I thought.

Steve and I traveled up to Indianapolis the day before the race (3 hour drive), and stayed in a hotel less than 1/4 mile from the start line. Everything seemed like it was pointing towards a great race. I had a lovely chat with Lindsey at the Expo, and then Steve and I went out for pizza at a local place called Bazbeaux, followed by cupcakes at Flying Cupcake. With a happy belly, I felt relaxed, but excited, and even slept decently well that night.

We shared Buffalo Chicken and Mexican Pizzas- Steve and Tina LOVED these!

At 4:45am I woke up, and went downstairs to allow Steve to sleep a little while I ate my bagel and drank my tea. I heard some thunder, and looked at the weather forecast. It was not looking good…..the race officials said they would make a last minute decision, so Steve and I waited until the last minute to warm up. At 6:45, I started my 4 mile warm up, and it had stopped raining, it was looking promising. I went up to the room at 7:15 to change into my race outfit (one of the benefits of being so close), and we headed to the start line for the 7:30 start.

I felt good on my strides, and the weather seemed to be holding off….for now.


The race started, and I took off into the lead, knowing most the women were in the half marathon. About 800m in, a woman came flying by me, and I knew I was going fast….probably too fast, so it surprised me. I expected to see one of the other two elite women I saw in the starting corral, but it was neither of them, it was a Russian woman I have raced before, who was in the half marathon! I wondered what she was doing, but it actually ended up working in my favor as I kept catching her, before she surged away again, it gave me something to focus on so I did not back off the pace. I felt confident, especially as she kept turning around to see if I was still there….being the metronome I was, I was just keeping my pace.

I did not look at my watch, so at the time I had no idea what speed I was going at, but it felt fast, and that was all I really needed. Steve seemed happy at the 1 and 2 mile mark, so I kept going with my run by feel.


After the 2 mile mark, the race split into the two distances, the Russsian woman kept going straight, and I turned right to make one more turn onto the main road, back towards the finish. I noticed I did not have a lead vehicle with me (even though I asked at the start line!!!), but like I said, I knew where I was going, so I did not panic. However, I soon noticed that all the other participants of the race were to my left….and to turn into the finish I had to turn left…..I wondered how I was going to get across them, but figured that wherever the turn was, the marshals would somehow let me through. EDIT: The Russian lady had changed her status from half marathon to 5k, but she would have been DQd for doing this had the race displayed official results. For that reason, I must have turned too early when they announced that we needed to turn right, I assumed she was going for the half, but in fact she was in the 5k also.

I put my head down (the wind had picked up significantly and it had started to downpour), and focused ahead. I was hurting, but I was supposed to be at this point right? I only had 800m to go.

Suddenly, nothing looked familiar anymore. People were still yelling “go girl” and “woooo”, but there was now traffic coming towards me, within inches of me.

I started to panic, frantically looking for the street names (which of course there were not any as I was traveling down a one way), knowing in my heart that I had gone too far, but no one was saying anything at each block I went by, and my mind was foggy with the tiredness, so I kept going. Until I reached the road that I knew the race started on. I stopped to ask a police officer where the finish was. He had absolutely no idea. At that point I knew my race was over. My watch was at 18 minutes, and I was at 3.4 miles.

I started to cry, and at this moment Steve caught me up (he had realized what had happened and was chasing me down). We both ran towards the finish in the pouring rain, and I saw lots of other runners finishing.

I yelled and cried at the officials I could find around the finish (apologizing to them later), I was so frustrated. This was the first race in a long time I had really gone for it, and I was in good shape to do it. I could not believe this had happened, and I was just lost for words that such a big race would not only have a lead vehicle who did not do their job, but no marshals to direct me to the finish!

I cooled down with Steve, and we went over what happened, and then I talked to the race director who apologized profusely, as did another guy who in charge of the finish area when I crossed. They were both great, and I could see in their eyes how sorry they felt for me, they knew how much this race meant to me.

I know they were under a lot of stress, and the thunder and lightening that started with the rain meant that the half marathon was cancelled, so I can only imagine how stressed they were.

I could see in their eyes that they were brokenhearted that this had happened in their race. They did not end up publishing official results, and I think part of the reason for that was because they knew how much they messed up. Although I have heard that the elites got lost last year too, so maybe they are not learning from their mistakes….

However, it doesn’t change the fact that I was so upset and mad. I could not believe I was so ready for a great time, and after struggling through these last few months of speed work, I finally had my chance to show what it was all for. And besides, I know I was not the only one who got lost.

My splits averaged 5:15 per mile, which would put me at a 16:15-16:30 for the 5k, but I honestly believe I would have run sub 16:20 as I would have kicked it into the finish. That is only just over 10 seconds from my PR, which is a great step forward for me. I only wish I had the result next to my name to prove it. It doesn’t really mean anything when you say “I should have done…..” because anyone can make that up, but like I said on my Instagram post that day, at the end of the day, we got what we wanted out of that day; we proved I am in good shape, and I got a hard effort in.

These things happen in life, but its how you learn from them that really sets the next part of your journey in motion.

Yes, I am frustrated. Yes, I am bummed. But I now have an extra motivation to really go for it in my next opportunity to race, as you never know what is going to happen.

Oh, and once again, you see that even elites have bad days 🙂

[bctt tweet=”Wow! Even elites get lost! Read this recap from @tinamuir” via=”no”]

Have you ever got lost in a race? What was your worst racing experience?

5k, Indianapolis, racing

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  • Lisa@runningoutofwine
    September 23, 2015 5:32 am

    That is so frustrating! I saw your post over the weekend and couldn’t believe that happened. But it’s awesome that you ran a strong pace and you know you could have had that strong finish at the end. And like you said it’s motivation for your next race:)

  • I’m so sorry this happened and I got super frustrated just reading this so I can only imagine how you feel!!! At the end of the day you did (sort of) get what you were looking for but the win and the actual time are always good to have. If nothing else, it’s a great story and although this was not your fault, you will be hyper vigilant about the course in the future. Onward my friend!

  • What.A.Story! I am so so sorry that this happened! I can totally see it too and feel for your situation. I ran a 5k in the city once that wasn’t organized and even I wasn’t so sure where the heck the turn was, I can’t imagine it as an elite runner. For sure they screwed up, super big time. Ugh! Be proud though, you ran real fast and felt well. In a little while, that will be what stands out to you.

  • First off, congratulations on what you did. You had a great pace going and you went out of your comfort zone running a 5K instead of the half. That says a lot about your confidence, attitude and training.

    It’s so crazy how that happened, but I do not think it was your fault. It sounds like the whole race had a lot of issues. As a recreational runner, I always try to “control the controllables” and when beginners ask, I tell them that too. You never know who will show up or how the will be weather, and this is another one of those situations- you didn’t know the cycles would go the wrong way. Still, it’s hard bc you trained super hard and probably took it easier the week before in order to really race and didn’t get the chance to run your “victory lap”.

    I think it’s interesting you wanted to switch to the half because of the pain of a 5K. My mom and I were discussing this the other night because I’m debating that with an upcoming race and she commented on how much harder a half must be- but you are so right… when you truly race a 5K it hurts!

  • I am so sorry to hear about this Tina. You are an incredible runner and one race will not make or break you. I know you will bounce back and go for that PR. I cannot wait to see it.

    I remember during Ragnar there were people who go lost and I go so paranoid as a result! Especially when you are by yourself and you don’t see markers. But to have that happen during this type of race is unacceptable! Still, killer race, you know you ran strong, and sometimes, that unfortunately just has to be enough.

  • Ugh!!! I’d be irrate! That’s just crappy on their part. So sorry this happened to you!

  • I am so sorry Tina. That is incredibly frustrating. Take heart in knowing how fit you are!!

  • Oh no! That really really stinks! They should get their act together!
    I got lost at a really small race once but I ended up running shorter not longer. Either way a bummer!

  • Soren Brockdorf
    September 23, 2015 9:21 am

    Now that is a bad day….

  • Wow that is crazy!! I am sure that was super frustrating but at least you know you can still crush it with those fast mile times. I got lost in a 10k once and ended up in some neighborhood running an extra 1.5 miles.

  • Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry that happened to you, but you sure have the right attitude about learning from it and moving on. Thank you for sharing this story, as most of us have probably witnessed or been a part of getting lost in a race (small races) but never imagined this could happen in a big one, especially to an elite! I hope you will line up another 5k in the near future since you are ready and we can all see a success for you!

  • I saw this on Instagram and I think I said something like “OH NO!” out loud and Andrew’s like, what? So I told him and we were both so frustrated for you!

  • Ugh so frustrating indeed Tina! Congrats on getting out there, showing yourself that you were ready and going for it- that is half the battle. Obviously would have been better had things gone smoother but moving forward you know where you are at. I had that happen to me at a 5k years ago, a volunteer told a few of us the wrong way to go- I lost the win as well as a PR. Frustrating as hell and hard not to get emotional. I heard that this was an issue before, like you said I hope they can learn from it!

  • I was a course director for a small local run . Having a very sore foot all I was able to do was find a 10 k trail course and mark the directional changes . 3 runners got lost and backtracked taking a DNF as a result . One of the runners being a good friend of mine.I resigned my position from the committee 2 days later . I am sure everyone will want to dis and trash the directors . All I am saying I know just how sick the officials felt over what happened to you .
    PS my race fiasco happened just this past Saturday , it is still painful .

    • Thank you for sharing Ric, and I am sorry that happened to you. I hope it came across in this post that I was not meaning to trash talk the race, I mentioned a few times that I knew how stressed they were and how bad they felt for me. I hope I did not come across as ungrateful and/or rude. As for you, it happens, as long as you learn from it 🙂

      • Having sorta run a few races I know what gets said in those heated moments . Not that I blame you for your emotions . The next day I went for a 10 k trail race with the friend that took a DNF . I am still sorting it all out in my head . My mention of dissing the directors was a reflection of our local race . I can not speak for you or the Indy 5 K .

  • Unbelieveable and how frustrating – I am in shock that something similar happened the previous year and they did not change or adjust to prevent it! Shame on those coordinators but kudos to you for recognizing your accomplishments.

  • I would be so frustrated!! So sorry that happened… but it is fantastic that you ran so well and know that you’re at a good place fitness-wise. Hope you get to prove it to yourself soon!!

  • What an upsetting and frustrating situation. You step to the line completely prepared and this happens. BUT you proved you are in great shape so hopefully that PR race will happen sooner than later!
    I have an issue with trail races – I got lost during a 50K and even more helplessly during a half on the trails. Always fun to get lost in the wilderness 🙂

  • ARGH how frustrating. I really feel for you 🙁 But at least you know you were on for a good time.
    I’m not comparing myself to you at all because that would be silly, but I had a similar (albeit far less important!) experience at a parkrun (5k). My friends and I went to a different one which was notorious because it was super flat. I was on for a PB time and felt SO strong…and then finished at 2.9 miles. I was so annoyed. Obviously my time was amazing but it wasn’t a real time because the course was so short. They had to amend the results afterwards (adding time on to everyone) because of their error. So annoying. Looking back I wish I had just kept running until I hit 5k!

  • Wow, Tina my heart is sad and frustrated for you. But still – I love how even through the disappointment you focus on the good – the fact that you ran a strong race at an incredible pace and had the stars been aligned in a different way, you would have finished the race exactly how you imagined. It is still a great story to tell and is super inspiring for others (like me!). Thanks for sharing:)

  • Martina Di Marco
    September 23, 2015 1:49 pm

    This made me so mad! I’m so sorry… However, I’m sure you’ll be able to redeem yourself very

  • That is so frustrating and upsetting! Congrats on holding such a strong pace – you’re going to do so well the next time you race! It sounds like the race had organization issues and it’s truly unfortunate that they affected you so negatively, but you handled it with such perspective and confidence.

  • OH MY GOSH! My jaw dropped and my heart was racing reading this – that moment when people were still cheering you on, but traffic was so close to you, and you knew you’d gone too far. I’m so sorry!
    Thank goodness you had Steve there to console you and calm you down. Imagine if you’d traveled to the race alone & had to find the finish yourself, then be alone! I’m glad you were at least able to hit your goal of a hard effort for the day. Hopefully the race directors will get it right next year after having 2 poor races for the elites.
    Also, that top picture of you racing off the starting line with everyone else is AWESOME!

  • This is such a huge bummer!! BUT the bright side is that you know you are in kick butt shape!!!! I can’t wait to read about you getting that sub 16:20!!!

  • Angie @ Pace with Grace Blog
    September 24, 2015 9:58 am

    I’m sorry this happened to you, Tina. I would be so frustrated! But you’re right, the race was not a total loss because you showed what great shape you’re in! Those times are incredible! I know you will do amazing at your next race, keep your head up 🙂

  • Ugh I’m so sorry this happened to you! That’s so frustrating and upsetting. But also 10 seconds from a PR and you got lost?!?! You’re going to KILL it in your next race.

  • WOW! Can’t believe that this happened to you. It’ll be really exciting to see what you can do when you have a race team that knows what to do and can show you where to go! That’s actually one of my biggest racing fears is getting lost. Thank goodness I’m never in the front so I don’t have to worry about that! Thanks for sharing this story!

  • OMG, I would have been so pissed! I’ve never gotten lost personally because I’ve never been in the front of the pack, but I know people who have and it happened multiple years in a row. Not sure how they can’t get that right! Awesome to know how good of shape you are in though, you will kill the next one!

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