For as long as I have been running, the Fargo Marathon has been on my bucket list. Many months ago, I registered as soon as it announced. There was some social media drama surrounding the date – as it was changed, twice, soon after it was announced. Willing and able to shift my plans with the changes, I kept it on my schedule.
Making the journey from Florida to North Dakota takes some coordination – I was able to stay with family in Milwaukee after the previous weekends races in Ohio – and in the dark of the very early morning, my running partner Sue and I jumped in the car to make the nine-hour drive to Fargo.
The expo was staged at the Fargo Civic Center. This was an extremely organized event. Tents were placed outside for bib pick-up, which was quick. Inside there was one large room for t-shirt and bag pick-up, as well a variety of Under Armor Merchandise – and a second room with dozens of vendors.
From the Expo we traveled to our hotel, the Fargo Inn and Suites. This hotel was no frills, and about 6 miles from the start and finish lines. If I was running again I might look into other hotels in Moorhead, MN as this is actually a closer location. However the staff here was friendly and the room was clean. Most of the hotels in Fargo had much higher rates, and we were able to book a room here for $89.00. It is located a few blocks off Main Street and was very easy to get to. There is also a Starbucks less than a mile away that opens at 5:30 AM – a race morning necessity!
After getting settled and organized we headed back downtown for the 5K. This is a large community event with over 8,000 runners. The Marathon offers the option for runners of the half or full marathon to take the “goFar challenge” by adding the 7:00 PM Friday 5k – and therefore being awarded a bonus medal for completing two races.
We were warned that parking for this many runners may be challenging, so we arrived early (about 5PM), and got dinner at The Old Broadway Grill – just down the street from the start line. This also allowed us to check out parking options for the following morning, and we decided we would try to park in the same lot (on 4th and Main) for both races.
This was a great family event, with many children and school groups running with their parents and coaches. The race took runners over two bridges, into Minnesota and back.
The 5K was heavily congested, and many narrow areas became very backed up. If I had been focused on a finish time, this would have been more frustrating. The finish line proved to be frustrating to some as runners struggled to get their medals and find their families.
Once through this however, the frenzy opened up into a wonderful party in the park – where the Johnny Holm Band played, and beer flowed as runners relaxed in the warm evening sun.
My only real concern with the 5K is that there was no water stop. While I do not need water during a three-mile run, there were a lot of kids at this race. At about the 2.5 mile mark, there was a family who was trying to bring out water to the runners.
The best part for us running this 5k, was it made the next morning very easy to visualize. The finish line for this race was the staging area for the half marathon runners the next morning. (The marathon runners had a separate staging area on the other side of the bridge)
Race morning we arrived very early. After our coffee run, we were parked and sipping it as we watched the surrounding lots full up. By 6:15 our lot was full and many cars circled through. The emails and race instructions at the expo had all suggested getting there very early to make the walk to the start line around 7AM. This was early for an 8AM start, however as we watched the stress of runners looking for a spot we were glad we had come early.
At 7:30 we made our way up the hill to the start line where thousands of runners were crowded into two separate corrals, one for the full marathon, which would start and head north – the other for the half marathon which would start and head south.
There was a prayer said before the start – which did not surprise me after I saw the 5K medal had a bible verse inscribed on the back. Although there were pace signs, there were no assigned corrals, and all of the runners were released at one time with no delays. This caused the field to be tight for several miles. There was however a clearly marked “elite lane”.
There was a lot of crowd support throughout most of the route. Several neighborhoods embraced the race in true style with garage bands and block party style buffets set up. There were a few hills, but overall the course was fairly flat. There was plenty of water, poweraide, GU, and other nutrition on the course such as bananas and orange slices.
I did find that the verbiage “medical drop out” for the med stations was strange. At the stop where I took this picture, I commented on it and the staff there agreed that it was not what they would have selected, and certainly someone could stop for help and not be dropping out of the race!
The finish line was on Broadway, where runners received both their individual medal – and the challenge medal if they had completed the 5k.
A short walk away was the finish line party. Runners were offered chocolate milk, pizza, and assorted other treats.
We had to hurry off to get checked out and make the drive back to Milwaukee – but as we made our journey we were able to follow the action that was continuing back in Fargo.
The street party that began at 11AM went on late into the evening – and the race director, Mark Knutson, who had been working all day, then ran the Full Marathon course to help raise money for “Shoes for Kids“. Over the past two years the Fargo Marathon has raised money to donate over 2000 pairs of Nike Pegasus shoes to kids in need through this program. An inspirational end to a wonderful running weekend.