I’ve run more marathons than most people — Saturday’s Fargo Marathon was my 54th (26th of the year). But the more I run them, the more I realize how difficult and unpredictable they are. Saturday was no exception.
I dreaded this race this week, because the weather was supposed to be pretty rough. A few days before the race, the forecast was for temps in the 80s with thunderstorms possible. The day before, it was looking like mid-70s with 25 mph winds. Whatever it was going to be, I was mentally prepared to go out and suffer for 26.2 miles. Sometimes, that’s just the way it is.
Well, I caught a break. At the start, it was about 60 degrees with wind about 5-10 mph and rain. Not optimal conditions, but better than what I was expecting. I never even looked at a course profile, because I’d heard from a friend of mine named Chris who’s run the race that it’s incredibly flat. He was right.
I took off, taking whatever I could get out of my body and the course. As has been the norm for me lately, I went out by heart rate and didn’t worry about pace. I met a guy right before the start who asked me what I was gunning for, and as is the case nowadays, I told him, “Whatever my body will give me.” I knew I was putting time in the bank early, which isn’t the greatest strategy in the world, but it’s working for me with the way my body is adapting to my race schedule, so that’s what I did.
I stayed under a 7:00 pace for probably about 5 or 6 miles and then held steady below 7:05 for a little while. I had no idea when the weather was going to get bad, so my attitude was basically that the longer I went on and stayed in a groove, the more I could minimize the bad-weather curse I was expecting.
I started feeling the pain I’ve been feeling in my right hip and piriformis at about mile 8. By mile 10 or so, I knew that I was facing a tough second half because I was starting to hurt quite a bit. The miles were flying by quickly, but I was definitely not comfortable.
I hit the half in 1:32:55 on my Garmin. It was still in the low 60s, and while it wasn’t raining, it felt a little bit humid. I didn’t pay a ton of attention to the course, because I was paying a lot of attention to my body. I was feeling a fair amount of pain and my turnover was slowing a little bit, but I could tell my stride was good.
I started to slip a little bit and turn miles in the 7:30 range. 7:15 is what I need for sub-3:10, which is what I started seriously thinking about by 16 or so. I knew a huge chunk of the day was gone and what I had been expecting didn’t matter any more. I was in a legitimate fight with the clock and I suspected it was going to be pretty close.
When I hit six miles to go, I did the math and realized I needed to average about 7:25s in to stay sub-3:10. I was hoping to catch a groove like I did last week in Cleveland from 21 to the finish, but I didn’t. I went about as hard as I could, and the best my stiff legs could crank out were 7:30s or so. The sun came out when I hit 20 or so, which made the final 10K pretty tough.
By the time I hit 24, I needed to average about 7:20s. I knew I couldn’t afford a bad mile, so I cranked it up and got my heart rate into the high 170s (my marathon HR is 170, 10K is about 182 or so). When I hit 25, it still looked like I was going to need about a 7:15 to make it. I got up into the 180s and gave it everything I had. I couldn’t smile at the spectators or even turn my head, because I was so locked in.
I spent most of the mile right between a 6:30 and 7:00 pace and really thought I had it. I knew I was going to be within 10 seconds either way. We made the final turn and headed straight into the Fargodome for the finish. It was about 200 yards up and I took a glance at my watch and knew it was going to be way too close for comfort. My max heart rate for the run was 186 and I know it was in that last 100 yards. I didn’t leave anything to chance.
I went through the finish line hard, then stopped my watch, and I saw 3:10:01. Garmin times are always a little tiny bit off from the official time. I went and checked my results, and there it was: 3:10:00. So incredibly close to a sub-3:10. But I’m ecstatic with the run. I didn’t think I’d do much better than 3:20 in Fargo.
I’d call it a pretty good run. Painful, but that will go away and I’ll still be able to look back fondly on my effort. The course was pretty nice. I don’t know how to describe Fargo. It has the small-town feel. Not rural, but it seemed pretty laid back. We didn’t run through anything glamorous, but the entire course made for a pretty relaxing (mentally) run. I’d love a course like that for my long runs. The residents came out and were pretty enthusiastic and the support on the course was good.
And that’s pretty much it, marathon No. 26 of the year. Only 34 to go!
At the finish inside the Fargodome.
The back of the medal came inscribed with, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. — Hebrews 12:1”