INDIANAPOLIS — Lynn Ray may live in Woodinville, Washington, but she is a big fan of Indianapolis' half-marathon.
"Whenever you talk to someone who has done the Indy Mini, everyone's eyes light up," Ray said.
Her dad, Larry Ray, certainly felt that way.
"Seventeen years ago, my dad asked me to do the Indy Mini," Ray said. "I'm like, 'Well, Dad, that's a half-marathon. I'm not sure.' And, he's like, 'C'mon, that would be fun.' That's how he would say it — 'It will be fun.' How do you say no to your dad?"
She couldn't. So, she came to Indianapolis in 2005 and ran with her dad. It became a May tradition.
"I'd fly in for the race three to four days ahead of time. Usually, it was pretty warm weather. We'd meet our friends for dinner at Buca di Beppo. My mom would come over and watch us. We'd all meet at Military Park," Ray said. "The night before, we'd go to the expo, and that was always so much fun. One time, we went to one of the pre-dinners."
The tradition became one he wouldn't dare miss.
"One year, he had a surgery. He hadn't even walked 10 miles, and it was like two weeks before. He's texting me, 'Just finished my 10 miles.' I'm like, 'Dad, we should be tapering off a bit here,'" Ray said.
Larry Ray was a retired United Methodist pastor and an avid hiker, who loved attending the Indy 500 and privately competing with other participants in the Indy Mini.
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"One tradition he started would be to find a couple people that he thought he could beat. He would say, 'I think that person is about my age,'" Ray said. "He was like, 'I think we can pass them.'"
Some years, friends and other family members would join the father-and-daughter tradition.
"He wanted to run. We've got pictures of him running and I would watch him. I'd be like, 'Come on Dad! You can do this! You've got it!' And, it was so much fun," Ray said.
When they walked together, Larry Ray would do most of the talking.
"He is talking about food nonstop and saying, 'I can't wait to eat this,' and I'm like, 'Dad, they're going to pick us up on the bus if we don't walk a little faster,'" Ray said.
When the pandemic canceled the in-person race in 2020, father and daughter took part virtually. She walked 13.1 miles in Washington while her dad did the same distance in Wabash County, Indiana.
"He had the whole route. Mom would drive along the route and give Dad water. We set it up that we could call each other every four miles. We'd have a conference call and make sure we were still going," Ray said. We'd have a nice little chat. Cheer each other on. It was a bummer we couldn't be together because of all the years we had been together."
In 2021, they did the virtual Mini-Marathon together in Plainfield. They took photos holding official bibs.
"He's like, 'Why do we need to print out the bib?' I'm like, 'Dad, it's very important.' I'm like, 'Dad, we have to wear this bib,'" Ray said. "We met him at 7 in the morning. We saw so many Indy Mini people. We walked along some railroad track area. We just had a blast."
On Oct. 1, 2021, Larry Ray lost his 10-year battle with a lung disease. He was 82.
One of his final wishes was having a photo of the Indy Mini at his funeral. On May 7, those who loved Larry will participate in the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon because they want to "Live Like Larry," and will wear this message on T-shirts designed in his memory.
"Everybody was like, 'We want to walk this in memory of your dad. This meant to much to him. Indiana means so much to him.' He's a Hoosier all the way through — a Boilermaker, mind you," Ray said. "It's a tradition I want to carry on as long as I can."