Another year, another great experience at the Fargo Marathon. While the event itself had a lot of the same characteristics as usual, this year was quite different than others for me.
For the first time, I participated in the Friday night 5k.
For the second time, I had the opportunity to be a pace leader and Ainsley’s Angels wheelchair runner.
All in all, this year, my 10th anniversary running in this event, was by far the most fun and the least stress-free that I can remember.
That’s it in a nutshell – read on for my more detailed recap of Fargo Marathon 2016.
I always love the expo and this year was no exception. Picked up some fun freebies, saw plenty of runner friends and made a few new ones – most notable, running coach and 11-year announcer of the Fargo Marathon, GP Pearlberg. We just started chatting and by the end of the weekend it felt like we were longtime friends. That’s just the running community I guess!
New this year, I hosted the pace team booth for part of the first day. Several people came to the table to ask about pacing and running advice in general so it was fun to share my knowledge and experience with others.
Like most large races, the 5k takes place the Friday night before Saturday’s events. The Fargo Marathon 5k typically boasts well over “5K” (5,000 – get it?!) runners and walkers; I believe the actual number is closer to the 7-8K range. So, yes, it’s a ton of people.
This year, Ainsley’s Angels was taking part in the 5k so I eagerly registered to run as a charity runner. A team of four of us took turns pushing our rider, Samantha, through north Fargo and the NDSU campus before ending back at the Fargodome. Even though we weren’t running fast, it went by so fast because we had so much fun. And, super fun bonus fact, the chair I was pushing happened to be the one donated by my employer, RDO Equipment Co. and R.D. Offutt Company. Cool, right?
I think it’s great to see so many people of all abilities take part in this event – truly a fitness event for everyone in the community. I will say one thing though; the amount of people and turns along the route, it would be really difficult to race or PR. Definitely one for fun!
All season, I was planning to pace the 2:05 hour group in Saturday’s half marathon. After three dropouts, some shuffling by our pace leader and a confirmation from me the night before, I found myself in the 2:00 spot – the most popular spot in a half marathon.
Running a sub-2 hour half is one of the top goals for racers so this was the largest group. Pretty cool, knowing I’d have a big group of excited, eager runners along the course with me but also a bit more nerve-racking, as I was going to be partly responsible for helping runners achieve this goal. Let’s face it, no one runs with this group because they want to see the two hour mark or finish in 2:01/2:02 – these runners want to reach “one-derland” so it was going to be my mission to get them to the finish around the 1:59 mark.
Another unexpected part of the 2-hour pace group, because it’s so big and so many people want that sub-2, it requires two pacers. I admit, I was a little nervous about that. What if this other pacer was super-serious and didn’t appreciate my cheering, chatting and general annoying-ness? Or what if he/she didn’t agree with the plan and pace I had in mind?
Well, that fear was quickly quashed when I met Dana. She was on the same page as me with everything and it was so much fun running with another pacer. Plus, it was helpful having another person watching the pace and calculating mile-times-to-finish-time scenarios to make sure we got our runners across the finish line right under that 2 hour mark.
The result? Dana went ahead the last 0.1 mile and led the first part of the group across at 1:59:15ish, while I hung back a bit to get as many others across, eventually crossing the line at 1:59:28. Success!
A warm, sunny, calm day – for most people, this sounds like a spectacular Saturday. For me and for many others, these were less-than-ideal conditions for a long run.
The course included plenty of tree-lined streets so, thankfully, we had shade! The aid stations were perfectly timed and frequent enough so plenty of opportunities to stay hydrated. Several spectators sprayed garden hoses (after we missed the first one, Dana and I made it our mission to be on the lookout and notify our crew whenever we saw one coming), one group of kids even came out and doused us with water guns.
On a funny course-related note, there were two underpasses along the way; we in Fargo know these as “hills.” With the partial out-and-back course format, we knew we’d hit these “hills” on the way back so we were able to give our runners a heads up, let them know to conserve early, then encouraged on the climb.
Runners are, for the most part, wonderful people. Running can also be very emotional, especially in completing a big race like this. I received so many hugs, high-fives and fist-bumps from runners who made the 13.1 mile-journey with Dana and me. Some who I got to know out on the course through chatting and storytelling, others I had no idea I inspired along the way but let us know after. That, my friends, is why I pace, and it meant so much to know I helped.
I even got a shoutout from announcer, Coach GP, at the finish line. I didn’t actually hear it, as I was in the middle of a hug with a fellow runner, but I was told by numerous sources, including GP himself who came over to congratulate me after the race. Awesome.
I harnessed my inner third base coach in the last quarter mile of the race. As we were approaching the final turn to head into the dome and with just one minute left to get across the finish line, I turned to the side, let my arm go and started “waving in” runners. That was fun.
For those of you wondering, Travis Hopkins (read more about him here) successfully completed his first half marathon. I waited in the crowd, hoping to see him finish and give him a high-five but sadly, I didn’t see him. I know he made it though so wishing him a big congrats and virtual high-five!
Chris and I closed on our new house this week so I went straight from the race to our old home to help move the final few things, then over to the new home to help unpack and organize – something we’re still doing (I’m taking a break right now to write this!) and will still be doing for awhile. It’s also probably why my legs and feet are still super-sore today.
But don’t worry – I made time to get my post-race meal of choise. Between my first trip from the old home to the new, I snuck in a trip to Jimmy John’s for a #6, no mayo and giant chocolate chunk cookie. Obviously. #LindsayRunsOnJimmy
Finally, some thank yous:
Thank you to Gwen Thomas, our fearless pace leader.
Thank you to Mark and Sue Knutson, the President and First Lady of the Fargo Marathon.
Thank you to the volunteers who, again, made the race fun, safe and rewarding.
Thank you to the cycling team members who lead the elite runners through the course, then head back out after to make sure no one veers off the course and gets lost.
Thank you to my fellow runners, especially those who put your trust in me to help you reach the finish line in your goal time.
Did you run the Fargo Marathon? What was your experience? Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.