When you’re among the leaders at the Mill Race Marathon, the run can be a long and lonely one.
Luke Inman estimates that on his way to a fourth-place finish last year, he ran about 20 of the 26.2 miles by himself.
No companionship, no competition — except from within.
“When you run in Boston, Chicago, New York, you’re able to settle in with a group of runners that are going for the same finishing time that you are,” Inman said. “And you can kind of feed off of them and race against them — whereas Mill Race, it’s you against yourself.”
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Inman knows all too well about battling against himself. This year, for the first time, he feels as though he’s winning.
The 28-year-old North Vernon native never had really run before taking up the sport in 2013. His first attempt at running a marathon, at Mill Race that year, went extraordinarily well. Inman ran the course in 3 hours, 5 minutes and 58 seconds, good for 15th place among the men.
The following year, he dropped down to 2:50:20, finishing seventh. Inman cracked the top five last year after running the race in 2:50:36, but he was far from satisfied with his performance.
Part of the problem, he said, is that he was too concerned about the clock and not concerned enough with how his body felt.
“My body was telling me to slow down early in the race last year,” Inman said. “But I wanted to hit my splits, so I wasn’t listening to my body. And the last 10K last year was just an absolutely disastrous finish.”
Inman is confident that he will be more prepared from a tactical standpoint heading into this year’s race. Perhaps just as importantly, he’s made some big lifestyle changes that should help boost his performance.
For the past eight years, Inman said he has struggled with alcoholism. And while that’s a battle that his race times might not say he was losing, he felt otherwise.
He took up running in the first place to help himself overcome the issue, but he just now feels as though he’s seized the upper hand in the internal tug-of-war.
“Since (alcohol) won’t be in the picture anymore, I think my body will be able to recover a lot quicker during this training,” Inman said. “My body won’t be under duress or tired. I’ll just be more healthy.”
A healthier body should make it much easier for Inman to achieve his primary goals this Sept. 24 — one, to duplicate his top-five finish of a year ago, and two, to come in with a time under 2 hours, 45 minutes.
That should be doable on the relatively flat Columbus course considering he ran the 2015 Boston Marathon in 2:45:41 and the 2014 Chicago Marathon in 2:43:28.
But posting a similar time, Inman said, will be largely contingent on whether he listens to his body and runs a smart tactical race — and trains well, too.
This spring in Boston, Inman reached the halfway point in 1:19:35, well on his way to a personal-best time. Late in the race, though, the wheels fell off.
“I totally bombed it,” he said. “It was bad. I went through the halfway point at like an hour and 19 minutes — and then after that, I just fell apart. My training wasn’t right; I didn’t train hills like I was supposed to.”
Having learned from his mistakes, Inman is ready to turn in the race of his life in Columbus this fall. But even if he doesn’t achieve all of his performance goals, he knows that running has put him in a better place in life.
“It’s been a huge part of my life since 2013,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get this alcoholism under control and running has really given me an escape. Two hours out of my day, I can just be by myself. I don’t have to talk to anybody, I don’t have to listen to anybody. …
“If I have a goal in mind, something to work toward, that helps me out, and it keeps me on the right path. It gives me direction.”
And he appears headed in that direction faster than ever.
Luke Inman will be writing a running diary leading every other week up to the Mill Race Marathon from the perspective of an experienced runner. His first entry will be published on July 10.
Name: Luke Inman
Hometown: North Vernon
High school: Jennings County
Mill Race Marathon history