Disclaimer: I received an free entry into the Sanford Fargo Marathonas part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!
A few weeks back (September 25 to be exact), I had the opportunity to run in the Fargo Marathon. This was my first in-person marathon since October 2009 – and it felt SO GOOD to toe the line with people again. This experience also marked my very first visit to North Dakota! So without further adieu, here’s my recap of my Fargo Marathon adventure.
Friday / Travel, Expo, & Race #1
I flew to Fargo on Friday, September 24 (the day before the race) and had no issues. Security was a breeze, the layovers in Minneapolis were actually very nice, and getting in/out of Fargo’s airport was super easy. Once I was in Fargo, I hopped in the shuttle and took the 5-minute ride over to the hotel.
This was by far the best hotel experience I’ve had on a race weekend. Why? It was LITERALLY next door to the Fargodome – which is where the expo took place AND where all events started and finished. Less than a 5-minute walk door-to-door! After getting settled, I walked over and checked out the expo. It was definitely a much smaller experience than I’ve been used to at other events, but that also made it nice – and significantly less crowded than other expos. Ultimately, this also meant NO massive lines to stand in to pick up race bibs.
Picking up my bib is where I signed up (very last minute, I might add) for the Friday Night 5k. This race, in addition to the full marathon, allowed me to be eligible for the GoFar Challenge. What’s so significant about that? A third medal for running two races!
The Friday Night 5k was a fun event, but it wasn’t without some drawbacks. Specifically, the course was VERY tight and VERY crowded for nearly the first half (1.5 miles) of the course. Part of the issue (in my opinion) was the mindset of “start at the front if you’re fast, go to the back if you’re slower” and many people lined up in a way that didn’t align with this at all. What this resulted in on the course was difficultly moving forward at a desired pace due to crowding. Aside from that criticism, the 5k was a nice event and allowed runners to enjoy a beautiful Fargo sunset before heading back into the Fargodome for the finish. After a quick post-race snack, I headed back to the hotel to clean up and get some sleep.
SATURDAY / Race #2
Surprisingly, I actually DID get some decent sleep the night before the race and since my room was so close to the start line, I didn’t even leave to head over until about 15 minutes before the race began! As most races do, Fargo had gear check, but I didn’t take advantage as the only additional item I had was my “throwaway” shirt (the walk to the ‘Dome was a bit chilly). Prior to the start, I was fortunate to meet up with Danielle, another BibRave Pro, who was running the half marathon that morning.
Corrals (or a wave start) weren’t really a thing at Fargo – which wasn’t necessarily bad, but not necessarily good either. The start was basically “if you’re fast, go to the front – if you’re slower, go to the back.” This worked pretty well (in my experience) for the marathon start on Saturday, but it could have been far worse!
The start was a little crowded, but it the field began to spread out fairly quickly. The course itself is absolutely great – AND FLAT! The only exception to this would be the rolling hills through the few parks the course passes through. Also, this course has you run through both North Dakota and Minnesota – a nice twist if you’re looking to add states to your list! Aside from that, the only real difficult spot on the entire course (for me, at least) was the overall spectator participation. While there was a pretty decent turnout overall, there were definitely large patches of the course where spectators/music/entertainment would have been a big help/motivator to push runners forward.
My only piece of feedback that I suppose could be “negative” in nature would be in regard to the aid stations. I really felt like the aid stations were too spread out across the course and I was really surprised by the overall number of aid stations (read: not as many) in comparison to some other marathons I have run. While the distance between and number of aid stations were surprising, the volunteers working the aid stations were rock stars and made sure runners were taken care of!
As for MY race, things went pretty well for the first half of the run. I decided to adopt the approach of running a 5k followed by a short walk, then repeating this process. This served me well until about mile 13 when my legs were just not having it anymore. My plan was quickly replaced by a more frequent run/walking. Once I got to mile 16, I had made the decision to switch to walking as my legs were no longer cooperating with my overall race plan(s). I did get a little boost of energy though in mile 18 when I was fortunate to run into my friend Michael King and his son Cooper! Michael is the most recent former director of the BGSU Falcon Marching band and his family had just moved to Fargo. They both greeted me wearing BGSU hoodies and Cooper was rocking out on a drum. It was great to see them and it gave me the energy to start jogging again through mile 20.
And then, near the end of mile 20, the walk of pain began.
I had nothing left in the tank. Legs were shot. Mental game, which I had maintained better than I ever had before, was now just a memory and I was done. But I didn’t go all the way to North Dakota to earn a DNF! So, I walked the rest of the way – with very few spots of running – back to the Fargodome for the finish. It hurt – A LOT – but I’m so glad I kept going! Seeing the Fargodome and eventually going back down the ramp and into the building was the highlight of my day. This was definitely not my best effort, but I went out there and finished what I set out to do.
After spending quite a bit of time sitting on the floor of the Fargodome, enjoying my post-race snacks, it was time to make the climb out of the ‘Dome and head back to the hotel. Another great perk of the hotel being so close is I knew exactly how much further I had to go until I could relax in my bed and get a shower. The added post-race bonus was getting to watch the end of the BGSU/Minnesota football game, where the end result was a Falcon victory!
Also, major thanks to the Michael & Robyn King (and also kiddos Cooper & Jules!) for an amazing post-race dinner and conversation. It was really great getting to catch up and hear about your new experiences in Fargo!
SUNDAY / Headed Home
Sunday morning brought unexpected additional miles as the hotel shuttle was not available for my super early flight. Rather than snag a taxi/Uber/etc, I opted to walk to the airport (again, only a mile or so). This was actually nice as it 1) helped keep my legs from being super sore the rest of the day and 2) I was treated to a beautiful sunrise.
As my first flight was boarding, I found myself sitting behind Fitz Koehler – the announcer and starter for Fargo Marathon race weekend! We had the chance to chat before takeoff and again during our layover in Minneapolis and I learned about her fitness journey, her adventures in writing and race announcing, and also her battle with breast cancer. It was awesome to get to meet her and I’m really excited to follow her journey going forward!
All and all, Fargo Marathon weekend did NOT disappoint and I would definitely recommend this event to anyone. The community is incredibly friendly and this event provides the feeling of running a much larger race in a much more intimate setting.