FARGO — The conditions for the Sanford Fargo Marathon on Saturday were perfect — compared to training in Minot, N.D., this winter. Subzero temperatures, snow, blizzards; Val Curtis saw it all trying to train for 26.2 miles.
She conquered every obstacle in her way in taking the women’s division with a time of 2 hours, 43 minutes, 8 seconds. She reached the standard for the Olympic Marathon Trials that’s been the goal all along.
At 32 years old, Curtis is testament that athletes in long distance running can come from anywhere. She ran her first marathon in 2011 and Saturday’s effort was about an hour better than that.
“I had the best training cycle of my life,” Curtis said.
Making the training cycle all the more impressive is how she did it. She spent most of February on a treadmill. When she did get outside, she had to deal with winter in North Dakota.
“There wasn’t anything I wasn’t prepared for today,” Curtis said. “I trained through it all. The mental toughness of having to run miles on a treadmill the whole month of February when it’s negative 60, negative 50 outside; you can’t get work done outside. It’s not a place for a fair weather runner, for sure. It builds so much mental toughness so I was ready for today.”
She came from behind to win, first seeing two of the leaders at about Mile 18. That, she said, provided another level of motivation.
“I wanted that Olympic trial time so bad and that’s what kept me going,” Curtis said.
Moments after crossing the finish line inside the Fargodome, she was greeted by family members including her 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son. Family life is another issue she had to build her training schedule around.
It meant for a lot of very early mornings on weekends so she could watch their soccer games.
“So it’s definitely tough trying to get in the training around their schedules,” Curtis said. “It’s tough too because this takes a lot of energy and I still have to be a mother.”
Curtis ran one year in college at Southern Utah before deciding to take an extended break from running. She got back into competitive running a couple of years ago.
It was her second Fargo Marathon finishing in 2:54.46 last year. She was over 11 minutes faster this time around in claiming the $1,500 first prize.
Megan Smith of Denver took second at 2:44.29. Ericka Mason from Fort Worth, Texas, was third at 2:48.16.