FARGO — The tears started to form in Heidi Bock’s eyes a few steps after crossing the finish line at the Sanford Fargo Marathon on Saturday morning. It wasn’t from the previous 26.2 miles, either.
Try the previous 18 months. The 17th annual event draws inspirational stories from all over the country. Add the painful comeback from a serious knee injury that Bock overcame after getting hit by a car to that list.
The Lincoln, Neb., resident was an elementary school crossing guard when a car ran a stop sign. The accident tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus and caused her to take a year off from running.
She questioned if she would ever run again. Her 9-year-old daughter, Maddie, made sure she didn’t give up by making her a bracelet that said “don’t quit.” She wore it meandering the streets of Fargo and Moorhead.
“Six months after the accident, things got really hard, but you know what? I found the help that I needed and sometimes you gotta find the right people to get you through it at the right time,” Bock said. “There were times I was never going to run again, didn’t know what to do. But family, friends and an amazing therapist to talk to all got me through it and here we are.”
There she was, crossing the finish line in 2 hours, 58 minutes, 48 seconds for her first marathon win in nine tries. She had no aspirations of winning it, either, but a combination of perfect running weather and constant encouragement along the way was more than enough.
“I just can’t believe it,” she said. “The people here are amazing, I couldn’t have done it without them. The people get you through it; the friendliest race ever. It’s unbeatable here.”
Bock finished 3 1/2 minutes ahead of second place Cheryl Jeseritz from Savage, Minn. Haylee Hastad of Fargo was the top local finisher with a fifth-place showing. Former Fargo Shanley, North Dakota State and Minnesota State Moorhead basketball player Sarah Jacobson, who just finished her hoops career last winter, was eighth.
Bock’s best time was 2:55 at the Chicago Marathon two years ago. The fact she was a bit slower needs to be taken into context; she didn’t start running consistently until last April. That’s very little time to train for a marathon for a healthy runner, much less somebody coming back from a major injury.
Just getting through five miles, she said, was a chore.
“I barely made it five miles in April,” Bock said. “I was here to enjoy myself, smile as much as possible and see what happens.”