Steve and I were pretty confident that J and W weren’t going to qualify for their EDC track meet (their conference before state). My kids run long distance but they’re not fast runners. All-star runners or not, they love running, and it’s been a family tradition to run the Fargo Marathon 5K for the past few years but this year we decided to change it up. Since we knew their track season would be over before the Fargo Marathon, (student athletes are not allowed to run road races or participate in extra-curricular competitions outside of their track or XC season), we decided to try something different this year. We decided that we would run the Fargo Marathon four person relay as a family.
If you aren’t sure what a four person marathon relay is, that’s okay (I didn’t know what it was either before we moved to Fargo and started participating in the marathon events). Basically, you take the marathon distance (26.2 miles) and divide it into four legs. The math comes out to 6.55 miles per person, and after you draw it out on the course, that’s roughly what it translates to. This year (because of flooding and road construction) the legs were divided into roughly 6.75 miles, 7.25 miles, 6.5 miles, 5.7 miles. Exchange one happening at approximately 6.75 (it actually got changed last second and got moved back a little), exchange 2 at mile 14, and exchange 3 at 20.5.
I think the most nerve-racking part of the race was the exchanges. Because my kids have run XC for the last few years, I knew they could do the distance. I even knew they could handle running in cold temps and rain. But the exchange is a tricky business (especially for J). J ran the first leg which followed very closely (but also diverged) from the 10K course he’s run the last two years. We also had a guess as to how fast he’d run, but because he’s so unpredictable, we weren’t sure if our guess would be correct. I thought he’d be running around an 8 minute mile pace (but there’s a lot of factors that go into a big race like this–you could be running slower because you’re trying to pass through throngs of people or faster because of all the adrenaline), and so we calculated when we thought he’d hit the exchange. We hoped to try to cheer him on from multiple parts on his course, but with road closures we only made it to one. For about 40-45 minutes we had no contact with J whatsoever until we saw him a little past mile 5. Luckily we have lots of friends in North Fargo who were out there cheering him on and even sent us pictures of him running by with the mile he was at to help us gauge what was happening. (A thank you and shout out to Karen Weist!) Thank goodness for our village!
When J finished his leg he was really confused. He wanted to keep running (because he has always finished in the Fargodome) and he was suddenly done in the middle of an intersection waiting for the rest of us to finish our legs–almost 3 hours–in wet clothes and 45F weather. He did really, really well waiting, but we did have a couple of near meltdowns. When he was waiting in the car, he could keep it together a little better (understandably). But when we were outside waiting for Steve at the very end, J’s patience was running really low. I’m sure my stress didn’t help the situation (EXCHANGES ARE STRESSFUL!)–we wanted to try to meet Steve somewhere on the course, but we couldn’t get through downtown with all the road closures and construction. I had W doing math for me in the back seat trying to figure out when Steve would be at the Fargodome. Then a train came through downtown and we were stuck behind traffic and a train. We barely made it up to the dome on time. We got there 5 minutes before Steve came through and waited on the North East corner of the Fargodome where the wind was blowing the hardest. I couldn’t stop my teeth from violently chattering. J had no patience left waiting those 5 minutes for Steve. It was warm inside and he knew it–and there was pizza and cookie dough inside. Finally Steve came and we all ran in together. Somehow we timed it perfectly and somehow J kept it together without throwing a full-on fit. And all in in all, everyone really loved the experience! Especially J. When we were all home, showered, and warm, he told me, “I really love the marathon.”
The Beck Family Running Company. 4:00:12. We placed 35 out of 111 entries!
Our first Fargo Marathon Youth run years ago, right around the time the kids started getting into running.
To watch the highlights of our family marathon relay (and see a bit of everyone’s leg) check out my Instagram highlights at: