A few weeks ago, I ran the Fargo Marathon. There were so many moments that I’ll cherish. Whether or not you're a runner, come along with me and experience the race.

1.      The Fargodome – Typically runners get to the starting line an hour before the event begins. This means a lot of standing around in the early morning hours. Most often, it's chilly which is great once we're running but a bummer while we wait. After the race, we begin to cool down and our sweaty bodies begin to shake. This race allowed us to start and finish in the Fargodome. No need to shiver!

2.      Indoor Facilities – This one speaks for itself. Would you rather take care of your business in an indoor restroom or a cold porta-pottie with nowhere to wash your hands?

3.      I knew I was in North Dakota When - The first volunteer I saw was a smiling woman in her 40s, clapping easily. She had tightly permed hair and wore big glasses circa 1970. She wore a safety vest over her big winter jacket. She was beautiful and I felt the love!

4.      Bagpipes - As we ran under a bridge there stood about a dozen men in kilts played bagpipes. There’s nothing like channeling Irish music while running 26.2 miles.

5.      Accordion Band– This was something I’d never seen before! At the end of a driveway in front of a modest home was an accordion band. They sat in neat rows on metal folding chairs under a tent. Most wore winter jackets and I’m pretty sure none of them were runners.  Their comfortable expressions looked like they were playing in a church basement instead of the sidelines of a marathon.

6.      Old Woman – In front of a big house, dressed in a bathrobe, at the end of her driveway stood an elderly woman. She was leaning on her walker and cheering as each runner went by. She inspired me to go outside the box and participate when I’m old and lonely and unable to bring excitement to my days because of my physical limitations. I want to walk to the end of my driveway and stay involved in life, no matter how difficult or awkward it is.

7.      Huge Trees – It looked like a Hallmark card along one section of the race. The big old trees folded their majestic arms over us providing a canopy of shade and beauty.

8.      2 Elvis Impersonators – Who doesn’t like to see an impersonator of ‘The King’ clad in his quintessential white jumpsuit with a huge collar and those enormous sideburns? There were two of them. Elvis lives on.

9.      Conversations – Running a marathon takes a long time. People have conversations along the way. I’m an introvert so I enjoyed listening to these ramblings as people became quick friends and encourage-rs of each other as they shared stories of their hometowns, children, and motivation to finish.

10.   Memorable Home – There was one particularly beautiful brick house with manicured plants and a circular driveway. A couple stood in the driveway holding their thermoses of coffee. They had big crystal clear speakers playing Christian music. I held my hands up in praise, so grateful for this day, the music, their support, and my faith.

11.   Flat Course – It goes without saying that running on a flat surface is much easier than going up hills (or even down them).  Fargo had many twists and turns along the course but overall it was flat as a pancake. One sign said, ‘Flat, Fast, and Fun’.

12.   Like-minded People – OK, you have to be a little crazy to run 26.2 miles. Believe me, I never intended on doing this but it’s like boiling a frog. Little by little the miles rack up and pretty soon you look forward to your 20-mile long run on Saturday morning before you meet your friends at 10:00 for brunch. At the event, I was surrounded by a whole slew of people who thought this kind of running is normal. It’s always good to be with your people.

13.   The Miles Floated By – How can I describe 4 hours of pure bliss? Running gets my heart pumping but I never pushed so hard that it hurt (well, not until the last mile). I was energized feeling my body move, seeing new streets, listening to good music, having fans cheer me on, and reading signs that said, ‘Go Ashley’ and ‘You got this Bill!’  And there is nothing quite as satisfying as seeing the finish line.

14.   ‘Shout!’ – At mile 20, someone was playing the song ‘Shout’ from Animal House. I lifted both my arms each time I hear the word shout. Why not enjoy the moment?

15.   Neighborhoods and Spectators – last November I experienced the New York City Marathon with 50,000 runners, 12,000 volunteers and over a million spectators. Although that experience was much different, Fargo was equally enjoyable as a runner. We ran through quaint neighborhoods and were supported by spectators who were less rambunctious but genuine and motivating.

16.   Music is Motivating – And coming at the perfect time was the iconic song ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. At mile 21, there couldn’t have been a better time to feel those lyrics deep down in my soul.

17.   Badass – A spectator looked right at me and said, ‘You’re such a badass!’ This was music to my ears as I happened to be reading a book called You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. How did he know? (The mind can do funny things.) As it turned out, I looked to my right and saw an older guy running with no shirt. He was the badass being referred to but I still felt like one.

18.   Passing the Pacer – During the last mile I passed a pacer. She ran alone as her pack had either sprinted ahead or couldn’t keep up. It seemed a little surreal and I wasn’t sure what it meant because I was focused on the finish line. Later I discovered it was the pacer that I had trailed for many miles telling myself that I had no business trying to keep up with that group.

19.   Sprinting across the Finish Line – Spending 48 hours carb-loading had its benefits. For the first time, I’d fueled my body correctly to endure 26.2 miles. Boy did it feel good to push over the final timing strip!

20.   My Fan was There! – As luck would have it, my faithful hubby, Mike was sitting in a comfortable seat just past the finish line. Fargo afforded the spectators comfortable seats and minimal crowds. It was so nice to see his familiar face grinning with pride. He snapped a few pics and sent me on my way towards the finisher metal and food.

Pure Joy

26.2 miles can be really fun because it’s not about the run but the whole experience. It’s about working a little harder each day towards a goal. It’s about figuring out what it takes to reach something that seems unattainable. It’s about running in a snow storm, feeling the spring rains, distracting yourself from discomfort, and doing what you love. It’s about feeling support from strangers as they take time from their day to clap as you trudge towards the finish. It’s about learning the lessons that challenges bring to you. It’s about pure joy.

What is it for you?

What is it for you? What would cause you to squeal with joy simply because you’re living life? What would it take? What’s stopping you? Can you find it in yourself to bring all you have, . . . and even more . . . to the quest?

How far will you go?