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Destination – North America

This week’s destination highlight is North America – specifically, the Fargo Marathon. I have written about my experience in getting there before, but I thought it would be good to highlight this particular race since it is one coming up and many people are planning towards spring marathons now.

The Fargo Marathon will take place on May 19, 2012. Here are some of the details about the race:

  • Registration cost (through 2/28) – $75 (for the marathon)
  • Time of start – 8:15AM (for marathon)
  • Distances offered: 5K, 10K, Half-marathon, Full-marathon, Go Far Challenge (a combination of the 5K and one of the other races)
  • Fast and Flat!

How to get there:

The Fargo airport is a small one. As such, it is slightly more expensive to get there than the larger airports.. Most people that will fly in will fly into Minneapolist/St. Paul International Airport and do the over 3 hour drive to Fargo. That’s ok, if you have to do it, but it is way more convenient to arrive in Fargo. The airport is a mere mile away from the Fargo Dome (where the expo and all race events take place at) – in fact, you can see it (thanks to the flat terrain!) as you pull out of the airport.

Fargo is a great town that really thrives on the marathon weekend. You will see many signs on businesses welcoming the marathoners. The expo is fantastic (as non-major marathon expos go), the people are very nice, and crowd support throughout the marathon is great. When I ran it, it rained for the first part of the race and there were still a lot of people that came out in the rain to cheer us on!

The legacy airlines that will get you there are American Airlines (via Chicago), Delta (via Salt Lake City or Minneapolis), and United (via Chicago and Denver). To get there with miles, it takes a minimum of 25,000 miles (it can be higher, depending on the availability). With a quick check on the availability of airline awards (from Rochester), here is what is out there:

  • AA – currently 32,500 miles
  • Delta – currently 40,000 miles
  • United – currently 32,500 miles

Now, that is from my home airport and with no flexibility on dates (leaving on Friday, returning on Saturday). There will be more availability depending on where you are coming from and when you book. The two times I have I obtained tickets to Fargo, I had no problem finding low availability.

The good thing about this trip is that you can use the US Airways you collect from this offer. You will need to call US Airways (800-327-7810 ) to book it as US Airways does not allow partner bookings on their website (because of that, you will not need to pay any over the phone booking fees). I have used miles through US Air for this trip before and it worked seamlessly (the booking part anyway).

So, you can expect to use 25,000 miles and pay about $10 for a flight that will otherwise cost you over $450!

As for the hotel, given the size of Fargo, it is not exactly going to cost you much if you choose to book a hotel room outright (without points). In fact, at this point on the calendar, you may not even be able to use points for the prime hotels as they are booked out. I would not normally recommend using points in a situation such as this as there are many good  hotel deals that would give you a better value if you just paid cash instead.  If you were planning farther in advance, then you could use points for some of the more advantageously positioned hotels (nothing quite like walking out the front door of your hotel to see the starting line in front of you!).

For rental cars, again, unless you have Free Day certificates burning a hole in your pockets, just use cash to secure your car. The nice thing about car rental reservations is that advance reservations do not require a credit card. That means, as soon as you know you want to go to Fargo, BOOK YOUR CAR at the cheapest agency you can find (currently Hertz – $25 (after taxes) for a full size for one day). This way, you can go ahead and play around with Priceline and Hotwire to see if you can find a better deal. However, if you don’t, you still have your original car rental :). This has saved me a LOT of money overtime as I can never find the cheap deal I am looking for and eventually, the rental costs have doubled or even tripled. Having my original reservation saved me that headache.

If you can maintain some level of flexibility with your booking, the options for low availability greatly increase. When I look for flights outside of Rochester, low availability also increased. Flights from Chicago – Fargo are wide open, so just check the availability from your home airport.

If you plan this properly, you can make Fargo your spring marathon for a fraction of the cost of what it would be otherwise. Take it from one who has done this exact setup before and run the race before – you will enjoy it! The people of Fargo, the volunteers, and the race director make this a “must-do” race and, using tips found here, you can do it for very little cost.

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