To be completely honest with you, I only did this marathon because Mike was going to it alone and needed some company, and that it was in a state that I had not run a marathon in yet, North Dakota. What I received was an absolutely wonderful marathon that had almost everything going for it, almost everything.
Mike and I got up early on Saturday and left for the race in plenty of time. It was cloudy and looked like it could rain at anytime. Driving to the FargoDome where the race started and finished was not too much of an issue. Yes, there was traffic, but since we left in plenty of time, there were no worries as we found parking about 2 blocks from the Dome. As we parked, the rain began. It wasn't a down pour but it was steady. About 45 minutes from the start, we headed out in the rain to walk to the Dome where they let everyone stay dry and warm. This was a really cool thing they have going for them especially since the weather was rainy.
The 10K started at 7AM and the half marathon at 7:30 so since the full started at 8, we wouldn't have to deal with all the half runners. Awesome to have them start separately. 10 minutes before the start, Mike and I make our way toward the start area complete with ponchos on to stay dry at least until the start. After a good national anthem and a few words from the Gov., we started off with the rain coming down.
I had planned on running with the 3:50 pace group and since the wind was low, I kept them in my sights for quite awhile. At mile 3, I turned to my right and there next to me running was Dean Karnazes. We chatted for about 3/4 of a mile and he said he had run the 10K prior to the marathon. What!?!?!, Well, I suppose, it is Dean Karnazes, so that makes complete sense. We had crossed into Morehead, Minnesota now for a few miles. I wish they had put up a sign stating this. Maybe they had one but I did not see it. We ran in Minnesota until mile 7 when we crossed the Veterans Memorial Bridge back into North Dakota. This is the memorial that is shown in the Fargo Marathon Poster and on the Finishers Medal. It was also at this time the rain finally stopped and all that was left were the puddles and not too much wind.
Miles 9 to 17 are one giant out and back which was a nice course but did not allow us to run in tangents to any curves or turns. Since all courses are measured to the tangents, this made us all run extra distance which was confirmed by my garmin which said 26.45 miles. Running the tangents is really the smart thing to do and is allowed since the course is measured that way, even if most runners do not follow this.
At about mile 10, I see blue skies in the distance. This did not make me happy as I knew the humidity was going to come and the wind with it. People along the course were asked to put out sprinklers for the runners and many of them did. I think I pasted maybe 15 or so people with sprinklers. This was a big help. At about half way, the sun peaked out and it got warmer and humid. It was about 60 at the start and now climbed into the 70's. I was feeling good through the half with a time of about 1:56:30, only a minute and a half off goal pace and still very confident. By miles 18, I was feeling the heat and humidity so I dialed it back a touch to make sure there was no crash and burn. I went through 20 at 2:59:06 but now giving up on 3:50 and pursuing a sub 4. Unfortunately, this is when the winds really picked up. Running though the downtown Fargo area between 21.5 and 23 turned into a very big challenge as the winds were whipping at over 20 mph with gusts over 30. One gust even pushed my into my other leg almost causing me to trip. But after 23, we ran with the wind for quite a bit but while it did help running with the wind, it did not offset the time we had to run into the wind. A little sand on the street didn't help either as if felt like a small sandblasting at times.
So far, I followed my plan of walk breaks only at water stops which were every 2 miles. At mile 22, the water stops were every 1 mile and I did take the breaks there. Only 30 seconds of walking but enough to keep me going. I got to mile 24 and I thought 4 hours was not going to happen or at least I needed a major push to do it. Also this is where the 4 hour pace leader passed me. At mile 25, I took my last break and calculated that I needed to run something like 8:30 pace to break 4. It was already off the mile marks by 0.2 of a mile so according to it, I was under 4 pace, but the race it to the finish line, not the garmin's 26.2 mile mark. I must have increased my pace but as I enter the FargoDome I knew I was in trouble. Turns out the clock changed to 4 hours just as I entered the building, a mere 75 meters or so from the finish line. Final Official Time was 4:00:16. Could I have picked up the 17 seconds needed to break 4 somewhere on he course? Sure, but that is the way it fell and I am OK with it. Not as OK with it if I have run a 3:59:59, but OK with it anyways. Considering the rain at the start, the warmer temps than I usually like to race in, the sun and humidity in the second half of the race, and he wind for the last 5 miles, I would say this effort and run was better than the 3:58 I ran at the Albany Marathon in March.
I was a touch dizzy after the race and had a quite warm head, so I was able to get an ice bag to help cool off. Then after a short line, was able to get lots of good food and drink after the race. They even had CHOCOLATE MILK! About time race officials realize many runners would like this. Bananas, bread, cookies, cracker, chips, pizza, water, all there for the runners and it seemed like they had plenty for all. After downing a few chocolate milks, I made my way to the Go Far Challenge table and got my 3rd medal for completing the challenge. 5K on Friday and the Full Marathon on Saturday. I was able to find Mike who was not feeling well and he crashed and burned pretty bad for himself even though he finished ahead of me. To use his words, he "sucked beyond sucking". I wish when I sucked I ran that fast.
After a nice warm showers and a few pictures, we headed out on the road for home.
So in a nutshell, here are my thoughts on the race. The organization was excellent. No problems at all getting registered, picking up my packet(s), starting the race on time, and finishing area. the FargoDome was an great central marathon location for the Expo, finish line, and post race area. With the very high winds by the end of the race and the rain at the start, being inside was awesome. The past feed was good for only $10 and all you could eat with Dean Karnazes to listen to while you eat. Really cool! The course was flat and fast. A great course to PR on if you wanted to. The only problem here was the inability to run the tangents. Fan support was excellent. It seemed like everyone in all of Fargo was either in the race or on the course cheering runners on. The finishers medals were really cool, way above average, the picture later doesn't do them justice. We even got a medal for finishing the 5K. Odd? Yes, but many people in that race where 5K virgins so it was cool for them to get a medal. The middle of the Go Far Challenge medal is a spiny piece says "Go Far Challenge" on one side and "How Far Did You Go" on the other. the back of the Marathon Medal had Hebrews 12:1 engraved. If you don't know it, look it up.
The shirts were the only bad part of the entire event. Marathoners got a long sleeve thick technical black and blue shirt with a zipper to the neck. Not my style and not one I would run in later. The 5K shirt was OK but not too colorful.
So I started out coming to Fargo to keep Mike company and to get check off another state but what I received was a really awesome race. I would definitely consider running this one again and I only wish Fargo was closer to home so I could easily do so. I highly recommend this marathon and it ranks in my top 5 for sure, maybe even top 3.
I have now completed 24 marathons so my next one will be a milestone race. Which one will it be? Not sure as of now. Very well may be in the fall, Grand Rapids or Des Moines are good possibilities.
Here are a few pictures from Fargo:
Mike and I after the race. The clouds returned.
This is the outside of the FargoDome and about 500 meters from the finish line. Look at the trees and the flags to see how much the wind was blowing.
This is the Finish Line inside the FargoDome by about 75 meters. The jumbo tron in the upper right side of the picture showed all runners finishing.
Here are the finishers medals. The picture is dark to they look more colorful in person.