Thursday, May 21, 2015

Race Report: Fargo Half Marathon

The day before my flight out to Fargo was my last day at a job that I held for nearly eight years.  I had booked my flight well before I had planned my last two weeks with the City, not realizing that I could’ve gotten a much earlier flight to get me from New York to Fargo by way of Minneapolis.  Originally, I would be leaving New York at around 3:45 in the afternoon, not arriving until 8:30.  I decided to cough up an extra $50 to fly standby if I could, so I stayed with my friend Donna the night before, heading to Newark airport at about 4:30am for her flight at 6:30 and my hopeful boarding of a 6:10 flight.

Quite hungover (I hosted a happy hour at a downtown bar after my last day with my coworkers), I begrudgingly got myself out of bed for the early ride to the airport.  It was a rough trip as we had to pick up five other passengers all throughout New York City, deal with a driver who incessantly smoked whenever he made a stop, and bumpy roads en route to the airport.  I got through security pretty quickly and then headed straight to gate and was able to get myself on the 6:10 flight to Minneapolis.  Huzzah!

The expo inside the Fargodome
Landing in Minneapolis, I headed straight to the connection for the flight to Fargo, where my friend Hollie would be waiting.  She had boarded a redeye from Portland to Minneapolis en route to Fargo, so she was similarly tired.  After waiting around awhile and seeing that I was being bumped out of my standby spots by folks with Medallion status, I decided to go get breakfast before trying another flight, at another gate on the other side of the terminal.

Unfortunately, that flight was booked solid too, so third time’s a charm.  Luckily there were flights every two hours from Minneapolis to Fargo, so when I got to the tiny gate for the 1pm flight, I was happy to find I was number 2 on the standby list with 3 open seats on the plane.  After three tries, I made it onto the flight, and I was going to land at roughly 2pm, 6 ½ hours earlier than intended!

The earlier flight allowed me to run the Fargo Friday Night Tailgate 5K that was to occur at 6:30 that evening. After playing around at the expo, a late lunch at Panera, visiting the woodchipper made famous in the movie “Fargo,” and checking in at our hotel half an hour outside of the city in Hawley, MN, we returned back to Fargo to run the 5K, starting outside of the Fargodome.

Having too much fun at the Woodchipper from the movie "Fargo"

Yep, I'm in North Dakota!

Chilly start at the Fargo 5k
Boy was it cold. If this were any indication for the weather we would experience the following morning, we’d be in for a very cold and chilly race, not what we were expecting for a race in May. Then again, it is North Dakota. The simple 3.1 mile course took us from the west side of the Fargodome parking lot, down 17th Avenue North, turning onto North University Drive and into the NDSU campus with an out and back down Centennial Boulevard after the first mile.  We rounded the southern part of the campus, and then headed east on 13th Avenue North, turning onto 11th Street North, a cute residential neighborhood, before returning to the Fargodome west parking lot for the finish line.

Still chilly after finishing the 5k
I completed the 5k in a respectable 29:32, despite the lack of aid stations along those 3 miles.  I would’ve at least liked one… but anyway, it was fun, and I finished 828th amongst nearly 6,500 runners for the 5K!  Afterward, we headed to Buffalo Wild Wings, where I was reunited with an old college friend, Mary, who relocated to Grand Forks with her family for her husband’s job with the Air Force.  We parted ways when several of us started to get really sleepy, having been travelling pretty much all day, so we headed back to the hotel to turn in.

My kit, ready for the Fargo Half
We woke up early yet again to ensure we got to Fargo in time to not have to deal with traffic, and also to ensure friends were able to get their bibs from us with no problems. All of the races – the full, half, and 10k, would start 30 minutes from each other within the Fargodome, respectively, beginning at 7:30. After a few Fifty Staters photos and all the necessary stops – gear check, bathroom, etc., I headed down to the floor of the Fargodome to get on my way.

The startline inside the Fargodome!
Remind you, we’re inside the arena, and it’s just a shade over 30 degrees outside.  I started off with the 2:05 pacers, and off we went, through the start line and out the Fargodome, when immediately, we are hit by a gust of wind and what felt like a stab of coldness seeping into my skin.  I soldiered on, and we were off. My GPS didn’t start actually taking readings until we were finally outside in the parking lot. We took a right turn onto 17th Avenue North, and then a left onto Albrecht Boulevard, which we would stay on for a little over a mile, running through the NDSU campus, and then turning into the residential neighborhood surrounding the campus at 13th Avenue North.  Around here was the UPS sponsored “mile,” and FINALLY a water station at roughly the 2.5 mile mark. We would stay on this street for over a mile, and then turn again onto Oak Street North for another mile, passing Mickelson Field to our right.

NDSU Alumni band playing alongside the course - with a gnome!

The beautiful treelined 8th Street South, reminiscent of Savannah
The 9-mile mark and the Fargo
Theatre sign! And me looking a
little crazy...
Just after the 5k, we would turn right onto 6th Avenue North, and then turn again onto 2nd Street North, and the closest we’d be from the Minnesota/North Dakota border on the course, with the Red River of the North to our right. We turned onto 1st Avenue North through Fargo’s Civic Center, and then turn a few more times before going southward on the treelined 8th Street South for a long stretch of road, down a residential area, well supported by spectators alongside the course.  We would make a turn all the way down at 18th Avenue South and then make our way back northward on 9th Street South, equally as beautiful and cheered on by many well-wishers.  We looped back through downtown, and then approached some similar streets we had run on earlier in the course.  At around mile 9, we passed through downtown again, seeing the marquee of the Fargo Theatre, the inspiration of the medals that we received for the weekend. We made our way back to the Fargodome, retracing the first few miles of the race (with a short three block out and back after the 12 mile mark), before rushing back toward the finish line.

Showing off the bling!
The finish was ELECTRIC.  Running back into an indoor arena with hundreds of spectators cheering us on was one of the most memorable finishes I’ve had in over thirty half marathon races. I finished in 2:08:39, a brand new 2015 PR for me.  I had the unfortunate race side-effect though, of having a toenail cut into my skin and result in some bleeding into my sock, so I quickly got myself to the medical tent to get that taken care of.  After waiting around for some other friends to cross the finish line and my customary victory headstand (OMG, I did NOT want to go back outside, haha!), I was whisked off to the Fargo Airport, because I had a 1:30pm flight to my next race… in Wilmington, Delaware!

Victory Headstand outside the Fargodome!

Such pretty bling :)

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