Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Go Far in Fargo

As I drove from St. Cloud to Fargo, I had to pinch myself occasionally, make sure that I was really here and that this wasn't a dream, that I really was getting ready to run state #49 half marathon!

I booked my hotel room months and months ago; I think it was booked even before registration opened up for the Fargo race.  The race starts and finishes inside the Fargodome and I wanted to make very sure that I had a hotel room within easy walking distance.  There are only three hotels near to the dome; all the rest are out on I-29, not within walking distance.

So when I received a phone call from the Day's Inn about a week before I departed on this trip, I wasn't surprised.  Was I still coming to Fargo?  Did I still plan to keep my reservation?  I'm pretty sure that call was prompted by an assault of last-minute calls from runners looking for a room.  I assured the caller that, Yes, indeed, I still plan to use my reservation for that room.

I arrived at the hotel very early in the afternoon on Thursday after driving from St. Cloud.  The weather forecast for race day had been changing during the week to cooler temperatures for Saturday, and I did not have a second layer to keep me warm at the start of the race.   I stopped at a Walmart and bought a man's polyester jacket on sale for $7 which should do the trick.

Once checked in, I walked across the street to the Fargodome, where the fitness expo and packet pickup were being held.  During the week leading up to the race, I'd decided to sign up for the 5k race to be held Friday night.  Doing so earns a finisher medal for the 5k and a Go Far Challege medal if I finish the 5k and the half marathon, for a total of 3 medals for the weekend.  Normally, registration for these combo races is done together, usually online. When I registered for the half marathon I didn't think to register for the 5k...I'm a dummy!

I picked up my half marathon race packet but when I found the registration desk for the 5k race, no one could answer my question: How will someone know that I qualified for the Go Far Challenge, since I didn't register for both at the same time?  No one had the answer.  Not the 5k race registration folks, not the Registration Questions desk, and not the Trouble Desk.  Feeling confident that there had to be a solution to this, I went ahead and registered for the race, and then brought my packets back to the hotel before going next door to the Applebee's for dinner.

Large selection of official race logo wear at the race expo

The next morning, I decided to walk back over to the race expo and see if anyone knew the answer to the Go Far Challenge question. It might be a new, more knowledgeable crew of volunteers, or maybe they will have been asked the question enough times that they now knew the answer.  And sure enough, the woman at the Trouble Desk didn't hesitate.  She looked me up in a computer and then pulled a decal out of an envelope and handed it to me, telling me to affix it to my half marathon race bib.  Problem solved!

I bought a foot-long Subway sandwich and ate half for lunch and tucked the other half into the minifridge in my room for dinner after the 5k.  I laid out my things for tomorrow morning's race and then spent the rest of the afternoon reading and surfing the 'net.

At 6:00 PM, I walked back over to the west side of the Fargodome and lined up with the 8,000 or so other folks to get ready for the start of the 5k.  It was a huge blob of people!  This is a fun run/walk, and the staging area was jammed!  They had several inflatable bouncy house type structures for the kids, some mascots from various schools and businesses mingling and posing for photos, and many families with kids and strollers crowding and milling about the start line area.  I was very glad to see this, as I had absolutely no intention of taking this race seriously.  I just planned to walk most of it and enjoy the sights.  In fact, I couldn't have run it if I'd tried!  Too many walkers and families to even attempt it.

5k done; just the half marathon left to do the next morning

It was invigorating to get out and do this walk.  We got to see a bit of the next day's half marathon course and the weather was spectacular!  Afterward, I returned to my room, changed into pajamas, and ate the other half of that Subway sandwich while watching TV.  Tomorrow morning is the main event!

Because of the later race start and the 11 AM check out from the hotel, I packed everything up and stowed it in the car first thing Saturday morning, and then checked out.  This morning was the coldest of my trip, but it was partly sunny and didn't feel as cold as the thermometer was reading. I'd already decided I wouldn't need that Walmart jacket, so had it packed up and in the car.

But as I started to head over to the dome, I began to have last minute second thoughts.  I had a fleece jacket which I wore the night before for the 5k, so I grabbed it. False alarm!  I ended up tying it around my waist, not needing it after all. But in the last couple of miles, when the sun went behind the clouds and we were running into a 15 mph headwind straight out of the north, I got chilled and was grateful to have it.

The full marathon runners started at 7:30 AM, and we half marathon runners started at 8:00 AM.  We lined up inside the dome and then shuffled our way toward the start line, which was just a few yards away from the ramp that led to the outside.  I tried to stay toward the back of the pack of runners, but as more and more runners moved down onto the floor of the stadium and got into the corral, I found myself too far forward.  I tried to sidle my way further back, but as the pack started to move, this became impossible!  So once we were outside and on our way, I stayed off to the side of the road so that the faster runners could get past me.

Within a mile of the start, I spotted a woman just ahead of me wearing a 50 States Half Marathon club shirt.  I picked up my pace to catch up with her, and we stayed together for the next 6 miles, until I needed to slow down to take in some Powergel and wash it down with water.

The route was very nice, winding through the NDSU campus and then heading south to the downtown area, We ran south into a pretty residential area, the mature trees arching over the road, and where lots of folks were out cheering us on along the route.  Then a turnaround at the halfway point, and we continued northbound on a parallel street, back into the downtown area, past the university campus, and then finally back into the dome to the finish line.

the race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch

All weekend I kept missing opportunities to meet up with the other 50 States club members in town for the race.  I missed them at the 5k race start, I missed them at the group photo Saturday morning in the dome before the start of the race, but I didn't miss hearing them screaming my name and waving their arms from the bleachers inside the dome as I headed for the finish line.  Of course they're all much younger than I am and therefore much faster, so they finished their race and then waited to cheer me across the finish line.  I was very touched by this!

Entering the dome to cross the finish line.  Photo taken
by a fellow 50 State club member.  

State #49 is done!!  And a nice medal haul for the weekend as well!

The medal haul from two days of events:
half marathon medal, Go Far Challenge medal, 5k medal

Here's what that map looks like now...just one tiny little state in the upper right corner of the country is all that remains.

Next on my calendar:  a quick trip to San Diego to run the Rock 'n' Roll half marathon and to visit family for a few days.


  1. Awesome!! A 5k and a half marathon. You rock!

    Have fun in San Diego.

  2. Barb, I was so happy to spot you as you finished up your 49th state. It will be an honour to celebrate your 50th state in Maine in July. Congratulations!
    Cheers, Donna Dullys.