When she was in high school, Erika Edwards loved playing volleyball and softball but rolled her eyes when coaches made her run.
“They had to chase me,” she said.
But years later, after graduating from college, she wanted a way to stay active and decided to sign up for a 5K to get motivated. This time around, Erika, a Sanford Health physical therapist, found running to be fun — and quickly became addicted.
A month after her 27th birthday, she decided on a goal: to run 27 races that year. Soon after setting the target, though, she hurt her knee and wasn’t able to run for a couple of weeks. After recovering from the setback, she was ready to tackle the first goal on the list, a 5K.
Throughout the year, she signed up for various races in the region: Fargo, North Dakota, where she lives, her hometown of Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Minneapolis. She also visited friends and ran races with them in Arizona for her first half-marathon and later in Oklahoma for another half.
The first 26 races
- 14 5Ks
- Three 10Ks
- Seven half-marathons
- A stair climb challenge (105 flights for charity)
- A mini-triathlon
The 27th race
Erika just reached her goal in May by running the full Sanford Fargo Marathon. The longest distance she trained up to was 20 miles, so when she reached miles 21 and then 22 she recalled thinking, “Wow, this is the new farthest I’ve ever run!” Once she got to miles 24 and 25, she could see the FargoDome and it seemed so far away. Finally, when she made it to the last mile, the dome loomed large and she heard people cheering.
Seeing the finish line was really exciting, especially meeting her goal of under 4 hours (3 hours and 53 minutes, to be exact). Erika remembered thinking, “Is this real life? Did I really just do that?” She wanted to run a marathon in her lifetime and to have it be the 27th race in her 27th year was so fulfilling.
When asked if she would run a marathon again, she laughed and said that’s what everyone has been asking her lately. “You know, at mile 15 or 16, I was like ‘Oh yeah, I’m doing this again’ and at miles 22 and 23 all I could think was ‘I’m sore. I’m hungry. Am I really going to do this again?’ But now, OK, yeah, I will probably do it again. I love running in Fargo,” she said. As far as other goals, she’ll continue running but doesn’t know if she’ll do as many races as this past year.
If you’re thinking about getting into running, Erika recommends to start low and slow. Be patient and gradually build up your time and speed.
The Sanford Fargo Marathon’s theme this year was “run your race,” and she took that to heart. “You don’t have to worry about anyone else’s time or people passing you. Run because you enjoy it and not because of anything else. Run for you or whatever your motivation is.”
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