Monday, May 20, 2013

As They Say in Fargo... Uffda!

Welcome to Fargo!
Bison - the mascot of North Dakota
Well, I finally made it to Fargo North Dakota after registering for their marathon what seems like ages ago.  I was supposed to run it last year with Miri but thanks to the NATO Summit and my employment with Cook County, Fargo was a no-go. And a year later, I suspect little had changed from the year before, with the exception of the marathon course, which was altered in anticipation of potential flooding.

One thing that struck me about downtown Fargo, was this feel of still being in small town America, and somewhat one of yesteryear.  Maybe it was all of the old signage that seemed to still exist from 50 + years ago, or maybe it was the drugstore that, when you walked in, you expected to see a soda fountain. Whatever it was, it felt inviting and safe.  The city seems to have been inhabited by Norwegians who brought their Lutheran faith with them as almost every church I saw (and I saw many) was a Lutheran church.  The Norwegians even came out to the race course to cheer the runners on with their accordion music!
The old Fargo Theater

Another of many old signs

Missing only the soda fountain

My hotel - the Hotel Donaldson

I stayed in downtown in the Hotel Donaldson, which I would recommend although a little in the pricey side. But they have turn down service, which includes some delicious chocolates, dimmed lights and soft music to welcome you home from your dinner at the delicious restaurant downstairs, the HoDo.  In the morning, complimentary coffee and warm baked goods are brought to your room anytime between 7 and 10, whenever you indicate the night before. I'm not sure how the other rooms appear, but mine felt like a modern urban apartment, with exposed brick, a living area and a separate dressing area.  Each room features a local artist's work and I was in the blown glass room. To top all this off, the bathroom had a rain shower AND heated floors.  Overall, I felt pretty comfortable here, and, of course, warm chocolate chip scones never hurt!

A brief food diversion..... In addition to the HoDo, my other dining recommendations:  Monte's Downtown and JL Beers.  JL Beers had a really great beer selection.  Plus, if you're starving after a race (which I was) the food comes out lightening fast!  The only have burgers on the menu, but nothing hits the spot after a race more than a burger and a beer in my opinion.  Monte's Downtown also had great food (I recommend the coconut crusted walleye) and is what I might describe as casual fine dining.

I arrived in Fargo the afternoon before the race. I recommend renting a car for nothing more than convenience.  Cabs are available pretty much only by calling ahead and there were only 2 sitting at the airport.  I even had the same cab driver from the airport and back to my hotel after the race.  Since cabs were less than plentiful, I decided to see all the sights Fargo had to offer and walk the 2 miles to the Fargodome to hit up the expo and pick up my race packet. Here are some shots of what I saw along the way, which included parts of North Dakota State University. Go Bisons!

I know what a pub is, but what is a package place?

North Dakota State University

Go Bisons!

A true indication  you're in a college town - couch on the front lawn.

The Sons of Norway
Finally... my destination. And the start and finish spot of the marathon.

The Expo

After all that walking, I was starving so I had a delicious dinner at HoDo and went up for an early night and a good nights sleep.

Saturday's forecast called for scattered thunderstorms so I was mentally preparing for a soggy race.  Well, the 10K and half marathon runners who started earlier definitely had that, but luckily the rain stopped just before the marathon started. There were only about 2000 marathon runners, or so I heard, which was kind of nice to not be all smushed and weaving your way through people. I felt pretty good the first half as the temperature was nice and there was some good cloud coverage.  But then the sun came out and the temps began to make there way up into the 80s. Uffda indeed!  Water stations were a little sporadic, as in some areas, there was one every mile or so, and in others, there were 2 1/2 miles or so between stations.  Or maybe it just seemed like there was a lot of space between them because I was so hot! 

Wouldn't the chiropractor's office be better placed at mile 22ish?
The course was pretty nice and one of my favorite parts was running down (and later back up) 9th Street. The street was lined with some incredibly tall trees that were leaning in towards each other making a kind of green, shady tunnel for us runners. It's as though the trees themselves were out there cheering you on, sort of like when the cheerleaders at a high school football game create that tunnel of pompons for the players to run through onto the field.  It just made the running feel easier somehow during that stretch.  I'm not gonna lie though, when the course took me directly past my hotel at mile 20, I was VERY tempted to stop there.  Of course, as always, the finish was my favorite part, but this one was better than others. You actually finish inside of the Fargodome with everyone watching on jumbotrons.  You feel like a pro athlete coming into the arena with everyone cheering you on. Always my favorite feeling!

Boston of course was on everyone's mind and they were selling bands to raise funds for the victims of April's bombing. I wore mine during the race and tried to remind myself, when the heat was getting to me and my legs felt like lead, that I'm lucky to be able to do this and that running a marathon is a privilege so few experience.  So thank you to all the spectators who come out to make the experience even better, and thanks to all of you who take the time to read about my experiences out there running.  I can only hope writing of my travels allows all of you to experience it, if even a tiny bit!