The pre-race ritual before nearly every Fargo Marathon weekend has been pretty much the same.
Sitting quietly on the floor of the Fargodome concourse, the headphones slip over my ears. Methodically, gear is adjusted until each piece fits perfectly, as though it really isn’t there. A small snack. My eyes close as I review the course in my mind. The music serves as background to positive self talk.
And the waiting begins.
In just a short time, I will set out with a few thousand other runners to do one of the most demanding tasks. The race will wind down another chapter in my personal book of running.
Through 22 marathons, I’ve had a good run. Many times those races have gone better than I could have expected. There have been plenty of times — before a race — when I’ve doubted whether I could finish, make it to the first medical aid station or even go 5 miles. Each time I’ve surprised myself.
As Saturday’s race approaches, none of us knows what will happen. How will we feel on race day? Can each of run well enough to meet personal expectations? There are no guarantees, except those that we’ve made to ourselves.
A marathon takes commitment. Discipline. Sacrifice. Heart. It’s the opportunity to define your destiny. There are decisions and choices to make along the way. Each of us must determine what path we’ll take — to let off the pedal when it hurts or realize we’ve already endured greater obstacles just getting to the starting line.
Running a marathon changed my life that June day in 2008 when I crossed the finish line at Grandma’s for the first time. My life continued to change with finishes at Chicago in 2010, New York in 2014 and 2016, St. George in 2015 and Fargo and Grandma’s last year.
There are other times I’ve run for a greater purpose: to honor the memory of my mother, to celebrate the memory of of Riley, my first Golden retriever who ran beside me for years, and raise money for juvenile diabetes research.
There have been times in which I thought it might be too much work to get back to where I once had been. But that’s not a chapter I want in my book of running. I’m not wired to quit. No marathoner is wired to quit. That’s one of the great intangibles making up the magic of the marathon.