FARGO — Semehar Tesfaye graduated from Fargo South in 2008. She attended North Dakota State for one year before transferring to Iowa State, where she graduated in 2012.
She got her masters degree from the University of Arkansas in 2013. Ultimately, the educational aspect of her life won out over competitive running, so the three-time defending champion at the Sanford Fargo Marathon will not return for a shot at a four-peat.
At 28 years old, she’s retired. The amount of time it takes to train at a high level was just too much.
“To actually be prepared and the nature of how running is,” she said, “you may have a good day or a bad day but to train so long for one race was too much of a risk to put into it.”
Plus, she said, she has a new goal of becoming a data scientist and is taking online courses. Tesfaye is currently a quality assurance technologist for a food processing company in the Boston area.
Tesfaye burst upon the Fargo Marathon scene in 2016 when she won the women’s race in 2 hours, 37 minutes, 27 seconds, beating the course record by more than four minutes. It was her first-ever marathon and that fast of a time spurned questions of her potential. Such as, is she Olympic-caliber capable?
Primarily a middle-distance runner in college who finished her career at Arkansas, her speed combined with an increased endurance made it seem like a possibility. But she also dealt with minor injuries in the months leading up to a couple of Fargo Marathons.
“Running does that to you,” Tesfaye said. “You’re only going to be fit 10 to 20 percent of the year with the rest of the time being hard training and tough on you mentally.”
Combined with a full-time job, it doesn’t leave time for much else. That has changed. She doesn’t miss the long miles, although she still goes for easy runs to maintain a good fitness level.
The memories, certainly, won’t soon fade away.
Boosted by pre-race publicity, many fans along the Fargo Marathon route knew her on a first-name basis. When she crossed the finish line at the Fargodome in 2016, with a sprint no less, it was to the roar of a game-winning shot in basketball.
That first one remains the most memorable.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to finish the race,” she said. “I remember waking up, going to the Fargodome and remember the first step was just waking up and giving yourself a chance. I remember thinking I wasn’t sure how I was going to do.”
She labored in the final miles but still won her second straight in 2017. She won last year by over six minutes.
There were a lot of victories in high school, college and beyond.
“All have their own thing, each stage,” Tesfaye said. “The highlight would be the Fargo Marathon for sure. I enjoyed all three, all went well for me and the support from a lot of people that I knew and the city that I love and grew up in was great.”