Mini Marathon sparsely but enthusiastically attended

A fledgling runner’s commentary

Minutes after the 10K runners had left the starting line by the Civic Center

Saturday was the second annual FM Mini Marathon and 1,600 runners participated in the three different races. Carried out on a much smaller scale, the day ended up being a rewarding alternative to the Fargo Marathon.

Though my favorite part of any run is the end, I think most tend to judge their experience by the substance of the run. I have taken part in two races now, the Fargo Marathon’s 10K last spring and after this weekend, the Mini Marathon 10K. Not to be confused with 10,000 miles, a 10K is about one fourth of a marathon at 6.2 miles.

Comparing them, my more recent run was drastically different, and not for the better.

A first race fondly recalled

I am not naturally athletic and have shunned most physical activity until early this year when I realized it takes little coordination to run in a straight line.

On May 22, the Fargo Marathon’s 10K was three times the furthest distance I had ever run without stopping. And I still managed to make it through in one hour and 13 minutes. The time was nothing to brag about but I was so proud of having finished without any serious crying fits or other hysteria.

The first time I finished running 10 kilometers I was elated. And I was so surprised; I had the feeling that I could accomplish a multitude of other things I had never thought possible.

I assumed with some light jogging upkeep over the summer that this second run would go much the same, but there were some factors that made a huge, negative difference. The main variables were the weather, the route and the number of runners.

Sun versus rain

In pictures from the Mini Marathon’s website, many of the 2009 participants wear hats and jackets to keep warm. Those who ran on Saturday encountered a beautifully atypical October morning. It was bright and warm with a breeze. Most people were finished before the sun could become at all stifling.

Last May runners were rained on for the entirety of the day, which was preferable in my opinion. It kept us cool and the gray sky masked the sun’s rising. Because there was no sun, it was more difficult to judge how long one had been on the course. During the Mini Marathon the increasing sunshine only made me more aware of time.

A scenic path versus a residential route

Last weekend’s course took 10K runners from the Fargo Civic Center over the bridge into Moorhead, through Gooseberry Park, along the Lindenwood Park trail by the river and then back under the bridge to the Civic center. It was pretty but not conducive to people coming out to watch and cheer.

I had the feeling as we ran through Moorhead neighborhoods that citizens were oblivious of the race. There were some people sitting on their front steps cheering us on and a crew of bagpipers down by the river, serenading our efforts, but I found that the run was largely solitary. I was elated to find that the organizers managed to find us the only hills in Fargo-Moorhead, which were tacked onto the last push of the course.

In May there were hundreds more people lining streets, calling encouragement out to runners. Probably because there were 20,000 runners. The crowd’s energy reinvigorated me over and over again. When you feel like people are watching you, it’s just easier to keep pushing through the discomfort.

Running happens mostly in one’s head

I don’t know much about the fine points of running, but I do know that any number of small things can affect performance. For me the reason why this run was so much more difficult and disappointing was that there were four times fewer people running along with me. There were 640 as opposed to 2,665 last May.

I was preoccupied with sticking to a pace that I hoped would be sustainable the whole way. My running partner and I were at the very back of the throng from the beginning.

Because much of running is mental, a positive attitude is vital. Something that helps me cultivate a positive attitude is passing slow pokes, and because there were fewer runners in general, there were fewer people to pass. I felt as if we were falling more and more behind and I spent most of the race trying not to panic. We finished 10 minutes slower than our first 10K.

I think that perhaps plenty of the people who signed up for the Fargo Mini Marathon were competitive runners, the types who want to run outside in October, even though our weather that day was quite idyllic. I know when I run the race next year I will be more prepared. I think if I had been this time, the weather, the picturesque course and the more competitive nature of the bunch would have been as enjoyable as finally seeing the finish line was.

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