North Dakota

The thing I was shocked to find out most about traveling to Fargo, North Dakota? It’s a lot farther from Iowa than one might think? No, but damn it really is! Seriously it seems like it couldn’t be more than a 3 hour jaunt but it takes like 7 hours! Seven hours! But the real thing I learned? You can try and pretty up any city you want to and call it the land of milk and honey all you want to? Doesn’t mean people will want to go there – with you on a certain marathon trip or any day for that matter. Don’t get me wrong – I already had my usual running pard’ner in my aunt with me already and a driver – my uncle. But you could not get a single other friend of mine to go. They all thought anyone going to North Dakota was just plain insane… much less looking forward to it?

That did not change the fact that I was severely looking forward to going to Fargo! You could really blame the excitement on my aunt Ginger. She had told me that this was a sort of runners’ mecca marathon and that it was the most fun of all the marathons according to Runner’s World and she went on and on and got me convinced… eventually as well. Needless to say, Fargo was not about to live up to the hype that she had created. And I knew I was right when the drive took far too long. Yes, seven hours and not a lot to see along the way. Then we got there off the interstate and there was a wait to get into the parking lot? A complete pain and to just get into the expo took 15 minutes to park once we got into the lot – in a town of 100,000? Really?

Things had to improve inside… and the shirt they had was long sleeved. I seriously nearly went ballistic. I think I even threw the shirt down on the floor and considered some swears. My leg hurt and I knew I shouldn’t even be running on it in the first place! Then a long drive where it didn’t heal was not helping my sour mood. The four people I was with were probably all rolling their eyes at my mini-tantrum.

So begrudgingly I wandered over to the expo and… best expo ever! Free Dutch Crunch chips! A shirt that I still regret not buying – “I ran Fargo – yes, really”! The 50 States Marathon Club! Fantastically large course maps! A chip confirming machine that put your name up on the screen when you passed through! Traumeel so I forgot about my leg for at least ten minutes! It just seemed to go on and on and on. It seemed like all the little things were right in Fargo. Suddenly how could I expect a town to handle the traffic of an event such as this? And the event was in the Fargo Dome? Not too many cool expo venues like that. Usually in a warehouse area or somewhere off to the side, Fargo had it front and center!

Meanwhile they had the Go Far challenge and you got to see all sorts of runners coming in having just run a 5K. This had seemed at first to be some sort of cheap gimmick to get an extra $30 out of the runner. Now? I was jealous and really how hard is it to run a 5K the night before a marathon? Regrets, I’ve had a few.

Well… what about the next day – the race? Fargo did things right – they closed down a lot of the major streets and let us run these so we could see some of the coolest and nicest parts of the city. Obviously it seemed like it would be hard to get back to the Fargo Dome and the spot of both the start and finish of the race. But it wasn’t. We zoomed right through as they waited to close streets down to the last possible second and I was able to line up ten minutes ahead of time and right in the spot I wanted to be.

In marathons, it can be the little things. I was thrilled to see a high school band out there at 7 am hitting up their instruments for us first few. I hope they make it big – how many kids care enough to show up for the Fargo Marathon? The movie theatre renamed one of their movies with a running theme – such as “Marathoners are Iron Men”.  The route crawled through their old downtown showing us the cool parts of Fargo and not the suburby outsides which we visited several times when we went to find every runner’s favorite spot – Olive Garden. I may be the only runner who does not actively seek this place out before a run. Don’t believe me? Try to get into an Olive Garden the next time a marathon hits your town.

Admittedly, after a couple cool bridges and a trot into Minnesota (a lot of marathons actually travel into other states I have found) the route was back roads and not the interesting parts of town. We did go South and into a Suburbia area. And as we full marathoners weaved our way back North and back to the finish/start line and then – oh no! We met back up with the half marathoners right around mile 18. It was going to be a complete mess as the routes merged!

But it was not even close to mess at all! The halvers stayed on their side and since they started an hour behind us? Rather than get passed, I was passing halfer after halfer nonstop. The leg issues had seemed to be getting worse to the point where I was afraid to stop and walk because it hurt so much and honestly, I have never felt so horrible during a marathon. But after about a mile after the merge, I knew I wasn’t slowing down that much at all. I kept going and passing and going and bobbing and weaving – just kidding seriously the half marathoners showed total respect and just let us pass. I loved every minute of the merge (trick leg excluded). The traumeel was great for short time swings but can’t make it a full three and a half hours.

Even better at the merge with the half marathoners? The crowd size tripled and then it went down a mile later to a sparse couple her and there but the last five miles? The sides of the streets were so packed with people! You couldn’t even stop to walk for fear of letting them down! I know it isn’t true but I swear every person in the city of Fargo was out there lining the streets watching us run. I am sure I will never see that many spectators again. To even quote the race sponsors – Fargo Rocks!

And to end the course in the Fargo Dome and come in and finish inside the Dome? Really? What a complete city event from community to college and back again. The only thing that ended up being a pain about the entire race was that the dome is so large it is hard to find friends and family. But that is a small, small complaint in a marathon full of compliments. And you know what? Plenty of food including fattening pizza and lots of cookies. Nom nom nom.

And afterwards? The long sleeve T-shirt? Actually it was a pull over windbreaker top! With a sweet design that has gotten me more compliments than any other running shirt I have. Even the shirt turned out much better than expected. The time was my second best ever on a horrible leg and the only truly sad downside? I will not be running Fargo this year due to another marathon. I am still jealous of friends Brian and Adam who will be running Fargo this year for a first time. I would love to go to Fargo again very, very soon. I hope they want to hit it up in 2013 – I know I want to.

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