The 7th running of the Fargo Marathon took place on third Saturday in May.  Fargo is advertised as “Fast, Flat and Friendly.”  A good course to run a Boston Qualifier on!

When I signed up for Fargo many months ago, I also signed up for the How Far will you Go? Challenge.  This meant running a 5K on Friday night and either the full or half marathon on Saturday.  For me, I signed up for the 5K and the full marathon.  Many people thought I was kind of nuts – but it didn’t sound hard when I signed up for the races!  Training started in mid January and was going pretty well.  I was running well, powering through my runs and hitting my training times consistently.

But God chose to interrupt my training with life.  My father passed away at the end of March and training took a back seat to grief.  Running got really hard.  It became harder to gather the energy for the training runs and long runs didn’t always get completed.  The races were not going to be easy, but then life is not easy.

Race weekend arrived sandwiched in between getting ready for my son’s graduation open house, meetings and the actual open house. I arrive in Fargo and I am sure I had a bit of the “I can’t believe I am doing this” look.  I   had to stop at the 5K line to get my racing bib, shirt and chip.  Then off to the marathon line for the same stuff.  Wondered through the expo to find the pace table and see if I could figure out which pace team I would run with.

The lady at the pace table was so great.  She asked me how training had gone and I said great until 7 weeks ago.  She asked if I was injured?  In my mind I thought does a broken heart count!  I responded with the condensed version of the recent events and how it had affected my running.  She was so great.  She understood that running was now therapeutic and that I was emotionally tired.  She was encouraging and helped me to think through what might be doable for me.  I went away encouraged but still overwhelmed by the challenge ahead of me.

The 5K start was a zoo – the MC said there were 7,000 runners signed up for the 5K!  It felt like a million and I was one small pea among the masses and the confusion!  The race was being chip timed, so there was no need to hurry to the start line.  It was cold and drizzly which didn’t help my mood or mental state for the race.  The gun went off, and I began.  All I needed to do was to put one foot in front of the other and keep going for 3.1 miles!  Once I crossed the start line and began to find my stride, things fell into place.  I hit my stride somewhere near the end of the first mile and running seemed effortless for the first time in weeks.  I had no clue what pace I was running at – it just felt good.  When I rounded the last corner to see the finish line, my body just moved into auto pilot and took off.  I was able to finish strong and with a Personal Record (PR) of 27:39.  My son was handing out medals and I was able to see him.  It was very exciting and I didn’t feel winded.

After receiving my medal, I did something that I almost never do – I looked at the back of the medal and it said -” I can do all things through. . . .” and a verse from Hebrews was also engraved on the medal.  It was as if God was speaking directly to me through these verses.  It was a good feeling and I was flying pretty high for some time.

Caleb and  I stayed with friends that were about an hour’s drive north of  Fargo.  It was so fun to see familiar faces and have some time to reconnect.  However the wake up call for the marathon came bright and early after a night full of rain.  It was a wet, slippery and chilly morning.  The wait at the start line was cold, but the other runners were friendly and we had a good conversation.  About a minute before the start, I shed the solar blanket and prepared for the race.  The humidity was high and my body doesn’t like humidity, however the first half of the race went fairly well – on pace to finish at 4 hours, 15 minutes.  I was excited and started to think about my dad and thought how fun it would be to call him and tell him about the race.

Then the emotions hit hard – I can’t call him and talk to him about this or any other thing.  The tears came streaming down my face.  Now if one  cries on the race course, most people are going to think you are in pain or hurt.  But almost every mile between miles 14 and 24 had some tearful moments as the memories of my dad came crashing through.

At mile 18, a runner came along side and said, “I am going to pace with you for a bit.”  I was taken off guard since I had never been used to pace anyone and really was not doing so well myself.  He would run with me for a bit and then walk.  Just as I would begin to walk, he would show up and say, “OK come crawl with me for a while.”  He seemed to just appear when the r un would be getting hard for me.  He did this for miles 18-22.  And then I never saw him again.  He got me through the hardest part of the race.

At mile 24 I looked at my watch and realized that I could still PR and so I pushed through and ran the last 2 miles. When I rounded the last corner and saw the Fargo Dome, my body again kicked into auto pilot and began to speed up.  Running through the tunnel into the Fargo Dome is one of the most amazing things I have done.  I actually felt like a professional runner!   It was the most amazing finish as I sprinted across the finish line and a PR!

While the race didn’t go exactly as I would have liked, it was an amazing race and I finished well.  I would run this one again!  Wonder how much the Comfort Inn across the street from the Fargo Dome costs?