Sunday, May 18, 2014

Fargo Marathon Race Rating

Race: Fargo Marathon
Date: May 10, 2014
Location: Fargo, ND
Year Running: 10th
Registration: $60 (I think)

Race Information
Size: 708 full, 5175 half, 3482 10K, 240 relay
Course Limit: 7 hours
Min. - Max. Elevation: 900 - 908 ft
Min. - Max Temperature: 45 - 60
Charity Supported: 501(c)3

Airports: We flew into Fargo, but I think MSP and even Winnipeg are options if driving a few hours after landing is palatable.
Rental car: 99% necessary. Fargo appeared to have two bus systems, one for NDSU and one for the city. I'm not sure what all the routes were, but it might have been possible. Still, there were a lot of different locations we had to be at for the race, so using the buses would be cumbersome at best.
Host hotel: One - the Radisson downtown. There were quite a few hotels closer to downtown than the Kelly Inn, where we stayed, but their rates made me a little sick, and our hotel was right near a shuttle stop, so saving a pile of money didn't really hurt us in the end.

Communications: Great, there were regular communications leading up to race day. The only snafu was everyone's bib number emails said they were specifically for the marathon, which caused a minor panic. The race did quickly apologize and clarify the situation.
Expo: Fargo Civic Center downtown. Parking was a pain and the vendor area was a bit cramped, but there was a nice selection and it was relatively painless after we asked for directions to the shirt pick-up.
Other Activities: Pre-race speakers (including Dick Beardsley), but we opted to see more of Fargo since we had traveled so far. There was also a 5K followed by a concert. We participated in the 5K, which was fun, but we skipped the concert since it looked very...niche.

Race Day
Parking: There was plenty of parking at the mall we caught the shuttle at.
Shuttles: Shuttles took us to the starting line and were supposed to bring us back. The first morning shuttle was well organized, but the connecting shuttle was a bit chaotic. We were unable to find the post-race shuttles, so we had to follow a local to the bus station and take a normal bus back to our car. Thankfully the buses were free all day on race day, and we were parked at a major location, otherwise we would've been screwed.
Bathrooms: Four, for several hundred people. I ended up using some bushes, and Michael held out until about eight miles into the race.
On Time: About a minute late, I think, when I reconcile my gun time to my Garmin.
Corrals: Very large signs indicating paces were held up along the whole starting chute. People seemed to follow them fairly well.
Type: Loop, with some out-and-backs
Terrain: 100% concrete
Bathrooms: Plenty, I think about every four miles? The first few sets had long lines because of the starting line bathroom fiasco.
Crowding: None
Highlights: residential areas, downtown

Course Support: Aid stations about every two miles, with additional stations in the last 10K. Several rogue aid stations with water and food. The only complaint was that some weren't in the advertised location by as much as half mile. With all the turns, I sometimes got nervous there wouldn't be an aid station. There was also live music at several points.
Spectators: Plenty! Weather was great for spectating, so people were out cheering us on the whole way. I'm sure there were more for the lead pack, but I felt the love.
Local knowledge of race: Pretty good. Most people seemed to know about the race, and it seemed all downtown businesses acknowledged it in some way.
It's sad because it's true.
Food: Bananas, bagels, etc. Wide variety.
Atmosphere: A little calm, since most people were done, but all the volunteers were enthusiastic and were happy for our finish. The race had advertised a street party until 4, so it did seem strange most of the party was gone.
Party: There was supposed to be one until well after we finished, but it had stopped.
Shirt: A great light-weight gender-specific technical jacket. I love it, partially just because it fits so well. They also used different colors for men and women, so Michael and I can both wear our jackets without being matchy-matchy.
Medal: Really sweet, though it was a little strange they were all in the shape of a 10, since there actually was a 10K. 

Final Thoughts
  • This race was really well-organized. I think any kinks this year (mainly the return shuttle situation) were caused by the change in location. The RD ran the race after everyone else had finished and has done this for 10 years, so clearly he knows how to set up a race. I'm sure if they keep the location the same for next year, they'll use what they learned this year to improve it.
  • As far as I can tell, there's only two marathons in North Dakota - Fargo and Bismarck. I couldn't find anyone who had ever blogged about Bismarck, so I think Fargo is the safer bet.
  • The course didn't showcase anything extraordinary, but the neighborhoods were nice. It would've been cool to see more of downtown, but I imagine getting more permits for those streets would be difficult and/or costly. 
  • Everyone we met was friendly, and almost every business we visited at least acknowledged the marathon. I felt like Fargo really appreciated having the runners come, which isn't always the case.
  • 50 Staters: Yes. There are only two games in town, and Fargo definitely seems like the safer pick. 
  • Non 50 Staters: Yes, if you're in the area; no, if the travel would be burdensome. The course was nice, but I don't think I'd pay lots of money to see it if it didn't fulfill some further goal. But if for some reason you want to see North Dakota, this race would fit the bill.

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