Elderly woman's encouraging words help reporter through the final miles
'I made it." That's the statement echoing throughout Fargo-Moorhead today, as the more than 7,500 participants of Fargo's marathon, half-marathon, relay and 5K reflect on their Saturday accomplishments. During the past 18 weeks, it has been my as...
'I made it."
That's the statement echoing throughout Fargo-Moorhead today, as the more than 7,500 participants of Fargo's marathon, half-marathon, relay and 5K reflect on their Saturday accomplishments.
During the past 18 weeks, it has been my assignment to give a voice to what it's like to train for a first marathon.
Here's a look at what the Fargo Marathon course brought my way:
I discover the closest thing Fargo has to the Boston Marathon's Wellesley scream is on Eighth Street South.
A chute of people holding signs, shouting encouragement and blasting music fuels my energy as I get into the groove of the race. F-M Acro team members flip on a trampoline giving an awesome show.
I am shocked that 10 miles have flown by and I feel so good. I think about how five months ago, I couldn't run three miles without walking.
I realize I've come far but that I've still got to tough it through 16.2 more miles to find out whether I'll make my goal of finishing.
I run by a guy with a kazoo and a "Go Pre!" sign - a reference to legendary long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine - in a south Fargo neighborhood.
"I promise the entertainment gets better ahead!" he yells at us.
We high-five a line of Fargo North students, one of several high school groups on the course who cheered runners throughout the day. I run by belly dancers and am momentarily distracted, wondering how they move their hips like that.
I am amused as spectators by Prairie St. John's and the Downtown YMCA hum the "Chariots of Fire" theme song.
I catch up to the 4:30 pace group, which is my goal time for finishing the marathon. The group is led by a woman named Kathryn, who has run more than 80 marathons. I marvel at how Kathryn can:
- Run 26.2 miles while holding up a cumbersome sign alerting runners that she is the pace leader.
- Easily chatter on and encourage our pace group despite having just passed the 19-mile mark.
I discover what people mean when they say they've "hit the wall." My legs feel like they've been put through a meat grinder. My shoulders tense. My breathing is labored. I keep going but lose the 4:30 pace group and three training buddies from class.
I mentally break down and feel ill from some bad-tasting energy gel. I take a walking break, hoping to feel better.
I contemplate whether it would be so bad to drop out of the race. I think about what I would write for The Forum. I decide a headline of "Hey, I got tired and quit the race" probably wouldn't draw in many readers. Plus, training for five months to stop three miles from the finish line seems silly.
I ponder whether the "quitters never win" mentality is overrated, but I keep on going anyway.
Not many runners are around me at this point; a good portion of the marathon field has already finished. As I run alone, an elderly woman walks to the edge of her yard to encourage me. I muster a smile.
"Is this your first marathon?" she asks.
"Oh, you're my hero," she said.
There was something about the way she said it that made me cry.
I cried because I was tired, because everything hurt, because I felt guilty for wanting to quit and because it didn't matter to this woman that I wouldn't make my goal time.
What mattered to her was that I had gotten out on the course to attempt a marathon. She'll probably never know what her simple statement did for me as I struggled through my final miles.
I allowed myself one block to cry and then told myself to snap out of my pity party.
I cross the line in 4:37:16 - a 10:35-per-mile pace and slower than my goal time. I swear to myself I will never run a marathon again.
Ten minutes later, I dissect the race with my training partners and discuss how I will lower my time next year.
I will be back.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Melinda Rogers at (701) 241-5524