JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Shirley Jackson never wanted to be a marathoner.
"Never, ever," Jackson said emphatically. "It's too far."
Jackson's longtime running partner, Melissa Meidinger, a marathon finisher, had other ideas.
Beginning at 5 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 23, Jackson ran her own first marathon. Meidinger injured a foot earlier and wasn't able to do it with her.
"She talked me into this," Jackson said. "I guess I can be a marathoner at 69 1/2, so here it goes."
Jackson had been training since March for the Fargo Marathon that was rescheduled twice and eventually canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"I said 'I am not going to train three times,'" Jackson said with a chuckle. "I am just going to run it and it's just me by myself so I am going to run it virtually. I have a lot of grandkids and then there is the Buffalo City Running Club and they are going to help me get through this so I have quite a bit of support behind me."
Jackson has been running regularly for about eight years and has competed in 5Ks, fun runs, 10Ks and half marathons. The 26.2-mile event Sunday began and ended at Jackson's Jamestown, N.D., home.
"I am excited because I have run 21 miles and I want to see what I can do because I have trained so hard," Jackson said last week. "I am not nervous — I am surprised — I thought I would be nervous but I am not."
Jackson's goal was to keep an average pace of 10:30 per mile and finish the entire run in approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes. She came close Sunday with an average pace of 10:38 and finished it in 4 hours, 38 minutes and 41 seconds, she said.
"That's really good, for an old lady," she said after the run, laughing. Last week, she wasn't sure if the goal would be met.
"It all depends on how the day goes," Jackson had said. "Sometimes you can get out and go running and it's a great run and sometimes you get out there and you say 'oh my gosh this is going to be a struggle.' We'll see what the morning brings me.'"
She ran the first 14 miles by herself and then members of her family and training group helped her through the remaining distance. Her daughter-in-law was there throughout the marathon with fluids to keep her hydrated.
Jackson doesn't plan to do another marathon. One was enough, she said.
"I couldn't have done without the family and the cheer team," she said.