“It’s the final countdownnnnn!” – Fargo Marathon Race Report

Sometimes, my quest to run a marathon in all 50 states takes me to interesting and exotic places and makes people very jealous of my life. Sometimes, it takes me to Fargo, North Dakota. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that this country can really surprise you, and some of the places you’d think would be the most boring are some of the most interesting and fun. I’m very happy to report that Fargo is one of those places.

I got to Fargo around 8:30 pm on Friday night and was met by my friend Halbert, who was in Fargo to finish his quest to reach Titanium status in the Marathon Maniacs. For those of you who don’t know, the Marathon Maniacs is a group I belong to, and it was formed by people who wanted to run many marathons in a short amount of time. In order to join the club, you have to qualify by running 3 marathons in 90 days or 2 marathons in 16 days. If you do that, you may enter at Bronze level, and you’ll have 1 star. In order to reach the Titanium level, which is 10 stars, you must run a marathon in 30 states over 365 days or 52 marathons over the course of 365 days in whatever states you want. Halbert was choosing the 30 states option, and Fargo would be his last race. In addition to the fact that Titanium is a huge accomplishment, I am actually partially responsible for Halbert joining the Maniacs; my friend Maricar and I met him on the course at the ½ Sauer ½ Kraut Marathon last June and quickly convinced him to join the club. Therefore, I have ruined his life and bank account changed his life and obviously needed to be there to celebrate his accomplishment!

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So yeah, I met this guy at a race and let him pick me up about an hour later. No one ever said I make good choices.

We got some food at Granite City Brewing Company and the headed over to the North Dakota State University dorms. It’s very difficult (and expensive!) to find hotel rooms in Fargo the weekend of the race, but I happened to find out that NDSU opens its dorms to runners since school is out for the summer. For only $110 total, you get a room for two nights with your linens and towels supplied, and you can check in any time on Friday and out any time on Sunday. It’s definitely not fancy, but it’s cheap and it’s a 5 minute walk to the starting line! You’re crazy to do the marathon and stay anywhere else, honestly. It’s awesome.

The race started kind of late on Saturday – 8:15! Weather forecasts indicated that it would be in the mid-80s and probably storming for most of the day. We briefly debated the merits of doing the early start so as to avoid some of the heat, but most of the time you do miss some of the experience doing the race that way, since many of the spectators and volunteers aren’t out yet. So we decided to start with everyone else since it didn’t really matter how long it took us to finish.

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Gotta love my puffy morning face!

From pretty much right off the bat, the energy of Fargo was apparent. The city loves this race. Even in the first few miles, there were people out cheering on their lawns and entertainment out for the runners. Halbert and I came across some adorable elderly people square dancing in a parking lot to something that sounded like polka music. All the runners clapped as they ran by. Me and Halbert? We jumped in and danced with them.

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I think my look of terror pretty much sums up the entire experience.

The other runners laughed and cheered when they saw us, but no one else jumped in. This was very smart on their part, because old people take their square dancing very seriously, and apparently Halbert and I are terrible square dancers. There’s a whole routine and everything that I could not figure out for the life of me, and bless the dancers’ hearts, they tried to help, but I’m a lost cause. Nonetheless, from that moment on, I knew it was going to be a fantastic day. I also had “Final Countdown” by Europe in my head, which I chose to repeat over and over in honor of Halbert’s Titanium finish. The only problem was that the only words I knew were “IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWNNNNNN!” and then the notes that come after it. So obviously, no one found that annoying.

We ran through the downtown area in some of the early miles, and I was really surprised by how cute it was. Something about it reminded me of an old western town, even though it didn’t really look that way. The half marathoners, who had started an hour earlier than us, were streaming by in the opposite direction, and I’ve got to say – this is the way all races should be run. There was no competition for water stops, no super crowded streets, no issues with bumping into walkers the entire race. Race directors, please take note. Anyway, a few miles later, we saw some of the early starters as they came back into town while we headed out, and look who I found? A member of Team T-Rex, of course!

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Southerners unite! Yay Kevin!

It was warm, but we were running at a very easy pace for me, so I felt comfortable. It was clear that many other runners were having a difficult time, though. We saw our friend Jennifer, who was dressed as Magnum, P.I. (mustache and all) on and out and back when she was around mile 10 or so. She had been aiming for a race around 4:30, but was struggling with the heat, so she said she was going to wait for us to catch up. I didn’t really believe her, because we were pretty far behind and not going particularly fast, but sure enough, we saw her at Mile 14 and she was absolutely thrilled to see us – obviously.

About a year ago, I took another picture on a swing. Trivia question: which race was it?

As we headed back into town, we were able to take in all the sights of Fargo – including, but not limited to: painted statues of bison, polka bands accompanied by real Norwegian trolls, and more amazing spectators.

Sorry I’m not sorry for the excessive number of pictures.

Don’t believe how awesome the spectators were? Let me paint you a picture. As we were running through one of the neighborhoods in downtown Fargo, a woman comes jogging up to us holding a can of beer and says “Do you want a sip? I’ll jog next to you so you don’t have to stop!” And I said “Can we have the whole thing?” because I’m selfish like that. And of course, she said yes, and Jennifer and I were granted our mid-course beer, since Halbert doesn’t drink it. Hooray!

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What kind of marathon would it be without beer? No kind of marathon at all.

An additional example of the amazing Fargo spectators would be the world’s creepiest/best family ever, who literally stalked the runners on the course. It was amazing. I am fairly confident we saw them 9 times. Every time we saw them, they recognized us (to be fair, we were hard to miss) and said “We’re watching you.” And seriously, I don’t know how they got to each spot so quickly. We weren’t moving at the fastest pace ever, but it was still impressive. It really did feel like they were watching us, and at one point, they were even sitting right next to a band that was playing “I’ll Be Watching You.” COME ON.

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Best spectators ever, except T-Rex Mom, of course.

At mile 23, we came across Elvis, who had to have been even hotter than we were, since he was wearing a super aggressive black pantsuit. The man had a sign that said “Danny Elvis – An Intimate Musical Experience.” I shit you not. It was intimate.

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Sometimes, these blogs pretty much write themselves. This guy ruled.

We were walking most of the way by this point, running for a about a minute every few minutes or so. I was having so much fun I couldn’t have cared less. The absolute best part of the entire race, and possibly my life, occurred at mile 24 as we passed a water stop. They were playing music, and “The Cupid Shuffle” happened to come on as we were passing through. If you think we did anything other than stop in the middle of the road and immediately start doing the Cupid Shuffle, then you don’t know me at all. We danced throughout the whole song, much to the amusement of the volunteers and the disbelief of the first time marathoners around us, who were both shocked and angry that we had that much energy left at this point in the race. But come on, that song is catchy as hell, and it’s not like we were setting any speed records at that point. We were having so much fun that we forgot to take a picture of it. Sorry I’m not sorry.

At mile 25, Halbert was struggling but wanted to attempt a T-Rex, so we tried to document the occasion with a photo. Unfortunately, the T-Rex was not completed due to the super oppressive heat and humidity, but he gave it a good effort.

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Vicious as always.

The finish was one of my favorites so far – we ran straight into the Fargo Dome (Fargodome?) and finished in the middle of the stadium. The three of us held hands crossing the finish line, and I was so proud of Halbert and his huge accomplishment. Around mile 26, he said that he’s always been one of those people who finished 98% of a task, but not the whole thing. Well, he finished this one in style and inspired a ton of people along the way. I couldn’t be prouder!

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Hanging in the Fargo Dome/Fargodome with my amazing Titanium friend!

After the race, I really felt awesome. I felt like I hadn’t run at all, and I could have kept going for a long time! We finished the race in 5:40, which was significant to me because last year I ran a lot of marathons at that pace and finished in pain and exhausted. Lately, it’s been feeling like a walk in the park. I know my training is paying off, and that’s exciting! It’s nice to enjoy every second of a race again.

After the race, we continued the shenanigans and met up with a bunch of Maniacs at a local pizza place. It was literally ½ a mile from the dorms we were staying in, but Halbert and I still managed to get lost and ended up downtown, obviously. We made it eventually and had a blast rehashing the race and making plans for future events with everyone else.

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Good times post race!

After dinner, I wanted to try and find a small stuffed bison in honor of the time we spent at North Dakota State University, since their mascot is the bison. We ended up at Scheels, which is the sporting goods store that sponsors the Fargo Marathon. It is also the most amazing store I have ever set foot in. In addition to being literally the biggest sporting goods store I have ever seen, it also has a REAL FERRIS WHEEL inside. AND YOU CAN RIDE IT. If you’re wearing a marathon medal, you can apparently ride it for free. As if that wasn’t enough, they have a full café in there that makes their own fudge! EVEN SUGAR FREE FUDGE! It’s seriously amazing. I don’t know if every Scheels has such amazing luxuries, so I can’t speak for those, but you must visit the Fargo Scheels if you are ever in town. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

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Best store EVER.

So basically, Fargo is amazing. The city is really cool and the spectators are amazing and supportive. The race is top notch. There was even plenty of food, including hot pizza, and beer left at the finish when we were done. The swag is great, and the medal is cool too! You really can’t go wrong doing this race. In fact, as much as I missed Amanda and Kate, I’m kind of glad they didn’t go this year because that means I get to go back next year and do it again! I can’t recommend this race enough. DO IT.

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Rocking our awesome Fargo swag in the dorms!

54 thoughts on ““It’s the final countdownnnnn!” – Fargo Marathon Race Report

  1. I’ll do the marathon if you do run it again (I mean this a totally non-stalkery fashion). It’s not often you can get a guided tour of a marathon.

  2. I read each and every marathon report. I do. Giggle to myself and at times fall off my couch from laughing so hard. Scare the chitlins and hubster, they run in mouths agape and I’m half upside down, tears streaming down my face while I feverishly point to my iPad.
    I was a youngin in my early 20’s when I trained and ran in the LA Marathon. At the time it was the hottest on record. They ran out of water and oranges. I know this because I slipped around the cups and peels and gazed longingly at the empty tables.
    The point? I ran one marathon and that one decided my marathon future. There hasn’t been one. But had I thought about my experience as you do I bet there would’ve been more. Your goofball approach to almost every situation has me wondering if I might try it again. THEN as I re-live the training days up until a marathon through my hubsters very first one in San Diego June 2, 2013 I say HECK NO, I WON’T GO!! I’ll continue to gaze at my finish line photo (also used as my focal point during sons delivery until every single Carl’s Jr. hamburger on their menu worked WAY better), run my paltry 5K’s and continue to read your lovely yet silly blog that frightens the men in my family. Thanks for helping to keep me at 3.1 miles while endlessly enjoying your 26.2!!!

    1. The training definitely is the hardest part of a marathon (in my opinion), so I can’t say I really blame you. It’s not like people will be playing the Cupid Shuffle for you on your training runs. But if you ever do decide to run a marathon, you know where to find me. I hope your husband enjoys his first marathon! I ran that race back in 2011 for Team in Training.

  3. At the risk of sounding like a stalker, the race with a swing was the Hatfield-McCoy, one of my favorite race recaps!

  4. Sounds like it was so much fun!! I may have to go next year if you do go back!! Thanks for posting this today! I needed it!!!

  5. To qualify which option did you choose? Was Kate in MI? You must return next year if she missed it 🙂

    1. Yes, Kate was in Michigan with me. I did the 3 marathons in 90 days to qualify, although I think I did it in something like 54 days.

  6. Maybe my favorite race. Cupid Shuffle is definitely a Do Not Miss. Also had my first mid-race bloody Mary there, delish. Next time, go tour the Viking ship and Stave (?) Church, you can buy a plastic Viking hat with horns.

    1. BAH I need a plastic Viking hat with horns! I guess I have to go back now. You must be talking about the Bloody Mary-thon station – Halbert stopped there. They had a sign this year that said “5th Annual Bloody Mary-thon” and sadly it took me like 10 miles to realize that “Mary-thon” is a play on “marathon…” yeah.

  7. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this marathon and your recap definitely sealed the deal! Sounds like the most fun race EVER.
    (On another note… I ran the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut last year, too! But I did not get picked up by Halbert. Sigh.)

    1. I’m sure if you see Halbert at a race again, he’ll be happy to pick you up. You just have to ask 🙂

  8. “Intimate Musical Experience”… I’ll never get those words out of my mind…

    Your face square dancing = awesome! Totally makes up for your lack of huge hoop ruffle skirt… which could very well be your next race outfit!

  9. What a great race report! Fargo was my first marathon and this was the first year I missed it since. You captured the essence of this event to a T….Rex! You’ve now inspired me to run it again next year and just slow down a bit to take in the sights and sounds around me. The crowd support in Fargo is fantastic.

  10. I’ve had this race slated for North Dakota for a while — glad to hear it’s worth my time. Big props on finishing the race like it’s no thang and to your friend Halbert for his impressive wanderlust. Too bad it was a big roasty for the weekend, but hey, we control what we can control. Onwards!

  11. Thanks for the post on the Fargo Marathon. I live in Fargo and the full and half marathons run right by my house. It’s been fun watching the last two years! Next year I plan on participating with my son (he’ll be almost one at the time of the next marathon, so I’ll be pushing a jogging stroller). Spread the word to all your friends. Let’s make the Fargo Marathon the place to be in May!

    1. Benjamin, your city is amazing! I think this blog is going a long way towards convincing people that Fargo is the place to be in May. It’s such a great race! See you next year 🙂

  12. Thanks for coming to Fargo to run! I really enjoyed reading your post. Next year will be the 10th Annual event…so you should come back for a second show. I will be running my first marathon in my beloved city. It will be magic. 🙂

    1. Oh, not to worry – I will definitely be back next year. I don’t normally repeat marathons (especially in far away states that are expensive to fly to), but two of my best friends will be running it next year, so I’ll have a good excuse 🙂 I loved it!!!

      1. Awesome! It sounded like you liked the dorms, but I may be able to hook you up with amenities next year. I will be living a block from Broadway, and I have several friends who welcome marathon guests. 🙂

  13. I would also like to repeat Benjamin’s Thanks for sharing! I am also from Fargo. It was my first marathon, and I thought my only marathon, but I may have to reconsider! I wish I would have caught up with you guys. I finished in 5:44. Those stalkers… I was thinking I had seen the eyes sign more than once but I just thought there were maybe a group of them. Thanks for pointing them out! The beer lady, I should have asked for the whole thing. Totally going take the whole can next year. Wait, what did I just say? Ha Ha. We will see!

    1. Hahahaha you’ll be back next year – marathons are addictive! Especially one as fantastic as this one. And always, ALWAYS ask for the whole beer 🙂

  14. I’m a new follower of your blog, and I also did this one for the first time. I loved it! Wasn’t it so charming? I couldn’t have been more impressed by this event! I’ll be back next year too…hope to see you there!

    1. I will definitely be back next year, barring some type of international incident. Charming is the perfect word to describe it! It was fantastic!

    1. You got to write your own name on them – they had a little space for it. It was actually quite ingenious!

      1. Funny story about the bibs: My friend accidentally grabbed my bag (loved the bags the provided, btw!), and while I was off looking for it, she was writing HER name on my bib. So I ran the whole marathon with people cheering me on by yelling “Go Stefanie!” I could have crossed it out and put my name on there, but I thought it was so funny that I left it. I am tempted to run under a different name next year too.

        1. Hahahaha that is hilarious! I wrote T-Rex Runner on mine and people seemed to be overwhelmed by the amount of syllables, so I think next year I’ll just got for “T-Rex”

  15. I just went to Scheels I’m Salt Lake City for the first time today! It was an amazing store! I needed more time!
    You crack me up !

  16. You make a North Dakota girl blush with pride!!! This year was my 6th Half in Fargo and I am SOOOO glad you had a fabulous experience!! The community involvement is what I love about this race!!! Thank you for the fabulous race report!!

  17. Oh my gosh, I ran with Halbert at the Louisiana Marathon in Jan! He’s such a cool guy! Does he have a website, blog, FB, etc you can put me in touch with him?

    Also, I’m coming to Hatfield-McCoy, hope to finally meet you!

  18. Halbert is my neighbor here in KY! He picks me up all the time… but he’s never run a full race with me. Lucky girl!! 😉

  19. Great comments about the Fargo event. Great photos. So glad you like our town and my campus (I’m a professor at NDSU). I ran the full marathon two years ago (and the 5K the night before). Would like to know more about t-rex. May I ask your finishing time?

    1. Hi Anita! Thanks for welcoming us to your town. My finishing time this year was 5:40, as I was running with my friend Halbert and that is his pace. I have run marathons at paces anywhere from 4:14-6:20…just depends on the day, the weather, and what my goals are 🙂

  20. Great race recap! I’m looking forward to potentially doing the Fargo Marathon this coming May. Could you please tell me where I can get information about reserving a dorm room on the NDSU campus. I haven’t been able to find any information online about it yet. Thanks for you help, and happy running!

    1. Hey Angela! Thanks so much! I reserved my room online through the race website back then. I’d recommend contacting the race director – perhaps they don’t do that anymore? I hope you love the race! It is wonderful!

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