Tesfaye becomes first runner in Fargo Marathon to win three in a row

FARGO — There was a time in the Sanford Fargo Marathon on Saturday morning, May 19, when Semehar Tesfaye was concerned about a her three-peat bid in the women’s division.
In the end, about the only worry turned out to be finding somebody to run with.
The Fargo South graduate became the first runner to win three in a row in any Fargo Marathon event, taking the 26.2-mile marathon in 2 hours, 39 minutes, 22 seconds. That was almost six minutes ahead of the next runner.
The early challenge came from Joan Massah from Andover, Minn., whose time in front didn’t last long. Jen Van Otterloo from Sioux Center, Iowa, finished second in 2:44.17 and Massah was third at 2:45.48.
“It put a little doubt in me,” Tesfaye said, “but I knew it was a long race and I trained well for this.”
She also got a helpful assist from male runner Jesse Prince, who paced Tesfaye for a good chunk of the race.
“He was with me for about 16 miles and that helped me a lot,” Tesfaye said. “He was going at a pace I wanted to go at and he was right on that.”
That pace was 5:55 per mile. Prince told Tesfaye early in the race he wanted to run a 2:36 marathon.
“Which was perfect,” Tesfaye said. “That motivated me to stay with him.”
Just like in her previous two Fargo Marathon victories, the fans on the course played a big role in her overall experience. She may have been somewhat unknown two years ago when it was her first-ever marathon.
She’s on a first-name basis with the marathon fans now, not hesitating to wave or smile at people she knew along the way.
“They were really helpful keeping my mind off the race,” Tesfaye said.
Tesfaye, who lives and trains in Boston, is planning on running some shorter races before tackling a half-marathon in December. She may or may not return to Fargo next year to go for four in a row depending on the Boston Marathon, which is held in early April.
“Boston is a challenging race,” Tesfaye said. “If I stay fit and keep myself healthy, I’ll try to do Boston. Otherwise I’ll come back to Fargo and it will motivate me again.”
She has no plans to run professionally, instead preferring the more casual approach.
“I don’t try to think of it as a profession,” she said. “I try to keep that pressure off of me. I just train my best and enjoy running.”