To make a long story short, I wanted to run in the 2012 Fargo Marathon, but a variety of issues conspired to make it virtually impossible. I decided a month ago to try the half marathon instead, and still I struggled to make it to the starting line for the 13.1 mile race yesterday. Great workouts were followed by terrible ones. Muscles that felt strong one day grew fatigued the next when walking up a flight of stairs. Tuesday, my chiropractor told me everything looked great, but that evening, after an easy 3 mile jog, my entire left leg ached so bad that I barely slept that night. Thursday, I had planned on doing a short 2 mile jog, but the bursitis in my knee was so bad that I could barely even walk, let alone run. I told Sue that I didn’t think I would be able to run the half marathon, and that we may as well just stay home. I hadn’t taken any ibuprofen for a week, so I loaded up Thursday night, and my knee felt much better Friday morning. I decided I would give it a try!

Friday afternoon and evening, I spent several hours in Fargo on my feet, and they, along with my legs, weren’t all that happy about the situation, and they let me know about it! At 4AM, I got up to use the rest room, and when I walked into the large, mirror filled cavern, I saw my upper body naked from every angle, and thought I looked flabby and weak. My weight had stayed steady during my weeks of low level training, but I suddenly feared that perhaps I had lost muscle mass, and replaced it with fat. I crawled back into bed, but my insecurities kept me awake until the alarm went off at 6. What was I doing? I would be lucky to even finish 13.1 miles, let alone do it under 2 hours.

Sue and I walked the 3 blocks to the Fargodome at 6:45, with plenty of time to spare before the 7:30 start. I saw my friend Brian, and wished him luck as he got ready to run the full marathon and hopefully qualify for Boston in the process. I was surprised when we walked outside at 7:15 so I could line up, and saw most of the other 6,000 runners already packed onto University Drive: I was going to have to be towards the end of the mob. Sue gave me a kiss for luck and then snapped a picture when I gave her a double “thumbs up.” I got my i-pod started, and I was ready to rock for the next two hours!
The starting gun went off, and the crowd started pushing towards the starting line. I realized my Garmin hadn’t been turned on yet, and since it has a tough time locating satellites when I’m moving, I inched over to the fence and stopped for a minute, allowing it to set. In that short period of time, several hundred runners walked past me, so I ended up being way in back when I finally reached the starting line. The mat activated the official Fargo Half Marathon timing chip intertwined through my left shoe lace, I hit the start button on my Garmin, and I was officially on my way!

My goal was to average 8 minute, 25 second miles during this race, which had been my average pace during the only other half marathon I had ever completed, back in October 2010. The first four miles were extremely difficult because competitors were literally running elbow to elbow, and everyone at my end of the mob was running way slower than I wanted to be going. I would follow a clump of 100 runners for a hundred feet, see an opening and sprint through it, only to have another larger clump in front of me. It was “jog and sprint,” but I did manage to finish each of these early four miles in less than 8:20, although this style of running sapped my energy quickly.

There became more space between runners after mile 4, but the going pace was still too slow for my taste. I would get lulled to sleep while running with a group of people, and look down at my Garmin to see we were going 8:45 – 9:00. I would speed up to compensate, but my average pace during the mile 5-8 stretch was closer to 8:30, and I was starting to feel tired. I stopped for the only time at the end of mile 8, for about 10 seconds, while I ate the contents of a “Gu” packet, then I was back on my way, not knowing how my body would respond down the stretch.

I knew I was just a little behind the pace of my first half marathon at this point, and if I wanted to set a personal record (PR), I would need to speed up, not slow down like most runners (including me) do at the end of a long race. I know I’m strange: Three hours earlier I was worried about even finishing, and now I was thinking about a PR! Running is all about learning to survive the peaks and valleys, both on the road and between the ears, and I realized it was up to me to decide how this race would end!

As the sugar from the “Gu” hit my veins, I felt an actual shiver go through my body as I realized I still had enough strength left to set a PR! I could do it! AC/DC’s Bon Scott started singing “TNT” on my i-pod: “T-N-T, I’m dynamite, T-N-T, I’ll win the fight, T-N-T, I’m a power load, T-N-T, watch me explode!” Little did I know that “explode” was exactly what I was going to do!

I finished the final five miles with negative splits, meaning each one got progressively faster. They were: 8:20, 8:18, 8:12, 8:09, & 7:30. I was strong. I was fast. I was confident. I was flying around people like they were standing still. I was a force of nature to be reckoned with! I once again felt like a runner, and more importantly, I felt like a winner!
My official time was 1 hour, 49 minutes, and 15 seconds (a new PR by over a minute). My stats page from the “Fargo Half Marathon” said my overall place was 955 out of 5740 finishers (top 16%). Among all men, I placed 653 out of 2189 (top 30%). For the men age 45 -49, I placed 64 out of 231 (top 28%). I passed 451 people during the final seven miles while being passed myself by only 30 others. I was tired at the end, but I also felt happy about my accomplishment. My mother said I looked satisfied in this final picture, and I think that’s the best word to describe how I feel about the day: Satisfied!

3 Responses

  1. Brian

    Great job Jim! Even after all of the trials you faced during training you set a PR! Just think what could happen with a good training cycle.

  2. James R Johnson

    You did well with the problems you had been having Congratulations on toughing it out to finish!

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