Monday, May 11, 2009

The Fargo Marathon was cool (really!)

(Sorry for making you wait so long to get to my race report. These destination races always give me so much to babble about! Without further adieu...)

The Scheels Fargo Marathon is in its 5th year, and it is becoming quite a race. The local news was citing a record 14,000 people were participating in all of the events. Since two new marathons (Stillwater and Minneapolis) were being introduced to the Twin Cities area this May, some had wondered if participation at other Midwest marathons such as Fargo would suffer as a result. Obviously, the answer is an emphatic "No."

I slept very well the night before the marathon. I was slightly concerned with how tired I was the night before, but I felt completely refreshed and was ready to run.

The last weather forecast I had seen for Fargo called for 53 and sunny on race day. When I woke up, I looked out the window and couldn't help but notice it was gray and overcast. Then I saw someone scraping the frost off of a car's windshield. Yeah, it was chilly! Temperatures were in the 30's. I would be surprised if it topped 40 during the race. The sun peeked through briefly as I walked over to the Fargodome, and that was the last I saw of it all day. The wind was starting to pick up, too.

In other words, the weather was perfect. I love running in this stuff!

At the starting line; The race crowd in front of me...

...and the race crowd behind me

At 8:00 AM, they turned us loose on the streets of Fargo. And Fargo absolutely embraces this event. Every place of business I went to leading up to the race, the marathon weekend was all anybody was talking about. We would soon see that spectators were everywhere braving the elements. Neighborhoods appeared to be having block parties. Music was playing in many locations; rock bands, bagpipes, radio stations were manning different sections, and there was even an Elvis impersonator (how come nobody ever impersonates Elvis from the early stages of his career?). At what was obviously a college house, they had a huge sign in the yard that said "Bloody Mary-thon" with plenty of folks enjoying some early morning libations. If you weren't running one of the races, chances are you were watching it and having a good time doing it!

Start of the Fargo Marathon

My race was very consistent. I found myself settled into a nice groove right from the start. With the marathoners and half marathoners having to share the recently revised course for the first half, it felt congested. It didn't slow me down, it just was slightly claustrophobic at times. Not much you can do when you have to reroute the course at the last minute due to the floods. They did a nice job with what they had.

I wasn't running as part of a pace group, but I slowly caught up to the 4 hour pacer somewhere after the 7 mile mark. Their pace suited me, so I ended up running in close proximity to them for much of the race, which gave me a good idea of how things were going.

I am not much of a talker during races. I tend to observe, and I love listening to the conversations and stories around me. At every single race, I always find some that are incredibly amusing. My favorite from this race was from two guys running behind me in the early stages:

"Last year I was running at Grandma's Marathon, and I was behind this girl wearing a gel flask on her waist. It kept pulling her shorts down. I followed her for miles."

Well, what red-blooded American male wouldn't? :)

I remember hearing a comment from Alberto Salazar where he said of a marathon, "20 miles is half way," implying that the last 6.2 miles is as difficult as the first 20. For me, half way was the 23 mile mark. A sub-4 hour race was looking like it could be in the cards up to that point. But that was where I ran head first into the proverbial "wall" and started to lose sight of the 4 hour pacer.

And then some light drizzle began to fall. This made the streets somewhat slick, as they were made of cement. There was definitely a little slippage with each step, but that is nothing I wasn't used to from running all winter. No worries, though. All was well. At the pace I was going, I was still going to trounce my previous PR.

The finish for the Fargo Marathon is really cool. They send you down the tunnel into the Fargodome, and they have a camera fixated on the finish line so you can see yourself finishing on the arena's big screen! Pretty neat. I was smiling all the way down the tunnel, and especially so after I stopped my watch. 4 hours, 4 minutes, and 12 seconds (results are here). A new marathon PR by over 8 minutes. Sweet! I suspect a lot of people might have set a new PR for themselves on this day. Like I said earlier, the weather was perfect!

About 3:30 or so, with my body now demanding something more substantial than the bag of Sun Chips I was devouring back in the hotel, I started to get extremely hungry. And when you are hungry and in the West Fargo area, there is really nothing better to do than power down a beef and bean burrito the size of your head at Paradiso Mexican Restaurant.

To the victor goes the burrito

My brother actually worked at Paradiso when he attended college in the area. I had never been here, but it came recommended from him. The food was great, and the portions enormous. It truly hit the spot. And as good as the burrito and the sides were, what I loved the most was the "extra hot" salsa that came along with the chips. Nice and fresh, with a great chile bite to it. And in case you were wondering, I ate the whole thing! :) Good stuff. With that, I retired to my hotel room for relaxation and NASCAR night racing from Darlington. The end to a very good day.

So, that was the weekend in a long-winded and very large nutshell. Fargo has a great race, and they seem to be doing a lot of things right. It has a lower entry fee compared to some other Midwest marathons, the hotel rooms are still reasonable, the city actually seems to enjoy having the event, and they put on a good show.

Well done, Fargo, and thanks for the memories (as well as the new PR)!

On to the next,

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