Race Report: Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon 2019

Way back in the exciting Spring months of 2019 — you know, back when we had just conquered another long winter and the feeling of hope had returned — I set aggressive goals for the races to come.

2018 ended disappointingly on the running front after a severe hip flexor strain; so I was ready to get back at it and put the training lessons I learned in the previous year to work. I had three marathons in my sights and three goals to go with them.

Goal #1: Run sub-3:15 at Fargo Marathon in May

Finished in 3:16:32 on a wet, rainy and cold day; which wasn't quite on goal but I felt it was a complete success! Lots of happy checkmarks on that goal page in my Believe Journal. That was 5 minutes cut off my ancient PR from 2011. Finally!

Goal #2: Run back-to-back (2 week) marathons 

I ran the Grand Forks Marathon and Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon two weeks apart back in 2016 and wanted to do that again for some weird reason. I had one week to recovery and one week to basically re-taper before the next race. Two marathons 2 weeks apart feels relatively sane to me — now those two marathons in one weekend things... that's nuts! (I'm no ultra runner, as I've stated before)

Grand Forks Marathon went way better than I ever could have imagined especially being sick during race week. The weather was perfect and I finished in 3:11:26! Ecstatic. The entire run felt smooth and I was fine after finishing; less soreness than previous marathons — thank you, strength training! That's another 5 minutes chipped off the PR.

Though I was able to train at the 3:05 paces, I wasn't 100% confident in pulling that off on race day and a 3:11 was a huge success for me. It was also good enough for a 1st Female finish and a realization that running a sub-3 marathon can be a reality for me. Who knew that a 3:11 marathon could feel so good?!

Goal #3: Finish 1st Female in both

This last goal was a bit lofty and I will admit it's not exactly a "healthy" goal - placing a success/or failure rating based on where you finish in the race never is. The last two races of my year were smaller in size and finishing as first gal is more realistic for me than at the bigger races. Granted, no matter how the race has gone in past years, you never know who will show up or how your run will go or etc etc. There are just too many variables in the marathon to take anything for granted!

If both races went well, there was a chance I could finish first female at both BUT everything needed to come together and there's never a guarantee for that. If the Lord opened an opportunity for me to do this, I was certainly going to be ready to take it!

Because of the crazy snow storms about to hit eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, the kids and I left on Wednesday afternoon for my mom and dad's farm. We debated on all coming to Saturday's race but I felt best leaving the kids back with my mom due to the weather.

This race was set to be cold, wet and snowy. The roads weren't bad on the way there, just some slushy mess as we got closer to Bemidji. Thankfully I had my dad with so I wasn't worried one bit!

After making it to the race and picking up my number, I was so glad to see that the race had pacers this year, as back in 2016 they didn't for my pace. It was funny to look over and see the 3:15 pacer from Fargo on the starting line of this race! This time he was pacing the 3:25 group and I set my goal to just stay ahead of them.

The plan was to race the first half marathon hard and then see what my body would give me. I needed to bank time before the hills and all the cumulative fatigue really hit me. My left foot and right knee were feeling a little glitchy and I was praying that they wouldn't flare up and knock me out of the race.
1 - 6:51
2 - 7:13
3 - 7:15
4 - 7:13
5 - 7:22
6 - 7:12 - not feeling it; legs were dead and I was already ready to be done !?
7 - 7:08
8 - 7:12
9 - 7:10
10 - 7:33 - too hot, took off the vest & had to re-pin number; decided to stop for that :)
11 - 7:16
12 - 7:20
13 - 7:29 - miserable, cold and alone (besides awesome aid station people)
14 - 7:53
15 - 8:08 - stopped at med station, volunteer borrowed me chapstick! lips and face frozen.
16 - 7:41
17 - 7:39
18 - 8:28 - enter: the hills... and more rain... and more wet
19 - 7:48

20 - 8:35 - debated on changing into a dry coat that my dad brought; decided not to
21 - 8:20
22 - 8:31
23 - 9:08
24 - 8:21 - lead biker found me; I should probably keep running...
25 - 8:15
26 - 7:37
.56- 6:55
Oh it felt EXTRA good to cross the finish after this run! 3:22:40 felt so much harder than the 3:11 only two weeks ago. The whole race felt hard; the legs weren't flowing this time, my mental game struggled and my mind was looking for any excuse to quit. Because of the Lord's strength I didn't accept those excuses; honestly they all sounded pretty good at the time.

Time to get warm and find a nice Pumpkin Spice Latte ('tis the season)!

Photo from Bemidji Pioneer

With the goal being to break my personal best on this course (3:25:36), I count that as a mission accomplished! It sure didn't feel good but I was glad to see a 3:22-something on the clock.

The Blue Ox Marathon has the most creative awards and medals, very well fitted to this land of the lumberjacks! The blue cow bells were Age Group awards this year, winners of the full marathon receive a double headed axe and runner ups receive a hatchet. 26k and half marathon winners get hatchets as well I believe.

Now that it's all said and done, this year of marathoning has been one of success and growth. I'm so grateful to whittle down that PR! Over 13 marathons, I'm noticing how easy it was to cut off chunks of time at first and now, the faster you get, the harder it is to shave off five minutes here or there. Every race and every training cycle is a learning experience. Thankfully I'm learning a new lesson each marathon and generally not repeating the same mistakes over again. I tend to think of a new mistake to make each time.

After having such a great time at the Grand Forks and Blue Ox Marathons this year, I'm going to end the back-to-back marathoning on a high note. Racing the marathons two weeks apart has been an exciting challenge but I'm counting this as a victory over the challenge and don't plan on doing it again. 

Just glad to be done! (Photo from Bemidji Pioneer)

Next Goal: Continue to chip away at that marathon time, minute by minute if I have to!


  1. Wow Amy Congrats! Two speedy marathons so close together is amazing. Dang it looked so cold! I suppose that's better than hot but still. Can you tell I don't have my winter blood yet? Haha!


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