Fargo Half Marathon – Race Report

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This is the 7th time I’ve run this race, but it was the first time I’ve ever run as a member of a charity group (Alexa’s Hope). A friend of mine formed a team in honor of his sister (who was a runner) who died of a brain aneurysm and saved many lives through organ donation. Alexa’s Hope charity was founded by the parents of a 14-year old girl who died while waiting for a double lung replacement. Really sad stuff. I was honored to wear the bright green t-shirt in her honor. Having gone through the medical nightmare that I have over the past 6 weeks, I am very aware that I could very easily be on the other end some sort of charity run. In all honesty, I’m thankful beyond words that I’m able to toe the starting line and feel somewhat normal. One of the nicest perks about being a charity runner is having a conference room along with all of the other charity runners. Instead of standing around with thousands and thousands of others, there were about 100 people in a giant conference room. You had space to breathe. And, most importantly, bathrooms that weren’t crazy busy (or port-a-johns).

Mile 1 – 7:07 – Two months ago, I was well on my way to running a huge PR. I thought something in the 1:25-1:27 range certainly wasn’t out of line with what I thought I would be capable of. Breaking 1:30 is a huge goal of mine. Coming into this race, I had a strange few weeks of training (no fault of my own, really). I didn’t get a chance to run any other races. I hadn’t done any real speed work for 6-7 weeks. In all honesty, I had no idea what I could run. I tried to run a workout on Monday that would indicate I was in sub-1:30 pace. It failed miserably, but at least it taught me something. Not knowing what kind of time I should shoot for, I threw a dart at the wall and guessed 1:35-ish (which would be about 7:15 pace). Was hoping to be closer to 7:20 for this first mile, but overall not bad.

Mile 2 – 7:03 – A little quicker than I was hoping for, but I’m feeling good. I actually even lost about 10 seconds this mile tying my shoe, so I definitely wanted to back off a little bit, though. I’ve got no problem running 7’s, but if I’m going to do it, I’d rather run 7:20s for a few miles and progress down to it from 6-11 or something like that.

Mile 3 – 7:16 – This is more where I was hoping to be. Was hoping to see my daughter and extended family during this mile, but I missed them completely.

Mile 4 – 7:22 – Still feeling good at this point. At this point, I’m 12 seconds ahead of where I wanted to be, but I wish I would’ve went about it a different way. Still confident that I can run a strong race here which is the only real goal.

Mile 5 – 7:34 – Very pretty mile. This is a straight mile (one of only two in the whole course), which was much appreciated. Fargo may have a reputation of being somewhat of a small and/or boring city compared to other metropolitan areas, but one of the greatest things about this race is how many fans it brings out. There are no “lulls” in fan support in this race. There are literally fans lining the course 100% of the time you are running. Very awesome!

Mile 6 – 7:21 – Starting to “feel it” a little bit. I’m a little miffed because I thought given my pretty good cardio base, I wouldn’t start to feeling this discomfort for another 3-4 miles. Pushing through 3 miles of some serious discomfort is one thing, but pushing through half the race wasn’t something I was hoping for.

Mile 7 – 7:30 – We’ve reached the “turnaround” point. While the course isn’t a straight out and back, there is a two block overlap where you see runners few minutes ahead of you and a few minutes behind you. I see my friend Derek (went on to run 1:32) who is looking really good ahead of me and my friend Vaun (who went on to run 1:39) who is looking really good behind me. Why is everyone looking good and I feel like garbage?

Mile 8 – 7:30 – At this point, I know the last few miles are going to be a bit of a death march. I’ve had half marathons where I’ve felt like a world beater at mile 8 and half marathons where I’ve felt like the slowest man on the planet who spends more time contemplating the reasons why it would make sense to drop out. It wasn’t that bad at this point, but I actually was really surprised to see this mile as fast as it was. It felt like I was fat man shuffling around 10 minute pace.

Mile 9 – 8:07 – Actual mile time is a little quicker than this. For the first time, I saw my family and I stopped to say hi to my 2-year old little girl. My time wasn’t going anything I was going to brag about, so if I finish 30 seconds later than I would’ve had I not stopped, I didn’t really care at this point. I’d given my family a plan how they could see both me and my wife Sara about 3-5 times, but for whatever reasons, this was the only time I saw them on the whole course. I was a little bummed about that…

Mile 10 – 7:48 – Kept it under 8 which is the only real goal at this point. Again, this felt a whole lot slower than it actually was. I suppose that’s a positive to take out of this.

Mile 11 – 8:06 – Here’s the downside to setting your playlist beforehand. I always start the music slow and progressively build to some very fast, aggressive music towards the end. However, when you are running a full minute slower than you’d hoped to be running (and, once again, it felt even slower), you feel kind of dumb. Here I am running a pedestrian pace running to this super aggressive, pump up music.

Mile 12 – 8:35 – This mile sucked. Up until this point, I was thinking I could run in the 1:38s. I know that no matter how bad I’m feeling, I can suck it up and kick it for one mile at the end of the race if it means I can hit a certain time. At this point, I know that I’m going to be smack dab in the 1:40s (blah!). I keep a look out behind me because there was an article about a college kid who was running while juggling and hoping to be about 1:40. I don’t care how bad I’m feeling – I’m not getting beat by a juggler.

Mile 13 – 8:09 – My friend Vaun caught me this mile. I ran about a quarter mile with him. He was still strong so I let him go and cheered him on. If I were a little bit mentally tougher, I’d have try to hang in with him. Admittedly, though, I’d kind of thrown my chips in earlier this race and I just didn’t really care at this point. That’s certainly not the attitude to have and probably is something I need to work on in the future. In all honesty, though, besides the obvious fitness losses, I think going 6-7 weeks with no speed work coming into this race hurt my race day mental toughness and overall confidence. I’m hoping to develop that a little more over these next few months of training.

Last .1 – 0:49 – One of the coolest finishes of any race ever. You take a sharp left turn and head into the service entrance of the Fargodome for the last hundred meters or so. You can check out my finish here. I’m the guy in the red shorts, long black songs, backward hat and bright green shirt who’s not really kicking it in. I finished in an official time of 1:40:22 which averages out to 7:40/mi.

Overall, I’m not really pleased with my time because I think it isn’t quite an indication of all the hard work I’ve put in. Since August, I’ve been very consistent in my training. January thru March, I was running workouts at a level I’ve never run before while consistently running at least four days a week.

Because of my 6 weeks on interrupted training along with being put on a drug that slows your maximum heart rate (beta blockers), I just had six weeks of training that were mediocre at best. I actually only got off the beta blockers a few days before the race. Given all that I was dealing with, I’m 0% bothered that my time wasn’t a PR or wasn’t under my goal of 1:30 simply because I’m happy to be running and training like normal again. Had I run this race on beta blockers, I would’ve finished in 2+ hrs and would’ve been miserable in doing it. As it was, I felt sluggish towards the end of the run, but somewhat strong as a whole. I think at the end of the day, I can be proud that I trained really, really hard to run what turned out to be a mediocre race. The result was somewhat out of my hands. Had I not stopped to tie my shoe twice, say hello to my daughter, and pushed a little hard in the last few miles, could’ve I have snuck into the 1:38-ish range? Sure… maybe. As it was, though, I’m very proud to be back on the path towards hopefully one day reaching my goal.