Sunday, May 20, 2007

Will run for lefse

PART II

When I said “cool things down for tomorrow,” I had not envisioned upper 40’s with a raging north wind for the start of the race. Good golly, was it blowing! But the cold weather is somewhat appropriate. Given that the Fargo Marathon embraces the area’s Scandinavian heritage (“26.2 miles? Uffda!”), I think it is only right that it be chilly! :)

We lined up on the streets outside the Fargodome to await our command. Prior to the race, there was a prayer for the runners, as well as a moment of silence for a well-respected Fargo area runner named Mark who was killed by a car during a training run. Some runners were wearing T-shirts in his honor. The silence of this crowd was incredible, and afterwards the race director said, “Everyone here has a reason to run, but in case you don’t...run for Mark.” A very touching moment.

A local Fargo a cappella group led us in a couple of stirring renditions of the Canadian (hey, we are close to the border up here, folks!) and US National Anthems, and a flyover by a helicopter capped off the pre-race festivities. The loudspeakers were blasting some loud rock music, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. And with a gunshot from the starter’s pistol, we were on our way!

The route would take us all over the city; through the North Dakota State campus, beautiful residential neighborhoods with stately oak trees, and even a quick jaunt across state lines into Moorhead before returning to the Fargodome.

If you work in an office setting, chances are you know a thing of two about negativity and pessimism, ambiguous and constantly changing rules and goals, as well as people who would throw you under the bus just to cover their own ass or make themselves look good.

Why do I bring this up? Because races are exactly opposite. Races exude a positive energy that is indescribable. The goals are simple (run, and finish). People are smiling. Complete strangers are pulling for you (spectators, as well as fellow runners), cheering you on, encouraging you to do your best. How come this doesn’t translate into other aspects of society? More people need to take up running, and not just for the health benefits.

The people of Fargo turned out for this event. The newspaper reported 9,000 runners in all of the various races, but there were also thousands along the course. Entire neighborhoods had streets lined with cheering, screaming spectators. Little kids were giving high-fives to the runners. Bands were playing. People were polka dancing. Heck, even the police officers who were doing traffic control were cheering and clapping. This was going on along the entire route. I have never seen anything like it. What awesome support from the community!

As for me, I ran my own race, and I ran pretty well. The first 2 miles were sloooooow! It was pretty congested at the start, and it took a long time for things to sort themselves out. I remember making it to the 3 mile mark in 26 minutes, and the 6 mile mark in 50, so I was able to make up some time.

At around the 4 mile mark, I got passed by a very pretty brunette. I mean, she was stunning. Just as she went by me, she cleared the phlegm in her throat and hocked up a big loogie. Perhaps it is just the runner in me, but somehow this made her seem even more attractive! Alas, she was too quick, and I could not catch her. :)

Remember how I mentioned it was windy? Funny thing, the wind was at our backs for about the first 5 miles. But then the half marathon course turned north! It felt like we were going into it for the remainder of the race! Ugh. It was challenging at times, but the good thing is when you are running in such a large pack, it is not quite as bad as it could be.

The miles felt like they were clicking by pretty quickly. I felt strong and fairly relaxed for most of the race, taking a drink from my bottle and popping some Jelly Belly “Sport Beans”....mmmmm, “berry blue” flavor....whenever needed. Of course, a little anxiousness always sets in during the last mile because I am so close, but I just kept telling myself to keep it steady.

The finish was awesome. Not only was it at the Fargodome, but it was in the Fargodome! You ran down the ramp into the building to the cheers of spectators. They have a camera focused on the finish line, and they play it up on the arena jumbotron! Very cool!

My traditional geeky self portrait back in the hotel room



Following the race, I hung out in the Fargodome for a little while to soak in the atmosphere and watch some of the other runners finish. It was fun watching the runners on the jumbotron! People were really into it, and there was a big party going on inside.

I was pleased with my results. I finished in 1 hour, 47 minutes, and 55 seconds (that was my chip time), which was only 1 minute 13 seconds slower than my half marathon PR. I obviously picked up the pace after my first 3 miles, and I was happy to have a strong finish at a big race early in the season. You can see all the half marathon results here.

This is the only race I have been to that served lefse as part of the post race chow (Norwegian-Americans, throw your hands in the air and rejoice!). I happily munched on some lefse as I washed down some Gatorade. Really, lefse is a fantastic post-race food; lots of carbs, and extremely portable. God bless the Norwegians! :)

The beautiful half marathon finishers medal



So that was my weekend. Fargo was a blast. This was, hands down, the best organized race I have been to. Everything went so smoothly, the course was beautiful, and the people of Fargo were amazing.

Thanks so much, Fargo! You have a first class event, and you were a most excellent host!

Until next time,

Jean
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