15 October 2014

The Pride of Proctor: 225

A former room-mate of mine was from Proctor. He was a cross country ski champion. And there was another guy from Proctor, Garry Bjorklund, who was pretty good runner- he broke high school records and was named an All-American numerous times. He also competed in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal in the 10000 meters. In Proctor I found no monument to my room mate or Garry.
Instead I found a giant of a monument at the top of the hill- a Duluth Missabe and Iron Range Yellowstone class locomotive.

2 Railroads in Duluth


The DMIR once served Duluth and the region
Actually there are more than 2 railroads operating in Duluth and Superior.
At one time there were 11. But that is entirely different topic.
Just next to I 35 sits the Lake Superior Railroad Museum
This post is going to focus on the 2 passenger railroads in Duluth. Yes, there are 2.
Most know the North Shore Scenic Railroad that has its headquarters at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum.Their operation is top notch and features numerous excursions throughout the year. Last year I rode a Pizza Train. It was a very memorable excursion up the North Shore from Duluth to a little bit past the French River. It of course included pizza and an onboard music performance. We sat in an old Northern Pacific coach and then sat in a double decker Chicago Northwestern commuter car.
GE 50T Industrial Switcher as seen from safari car
Perhaps the lesser known of the passenger railroads is the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad but that is not to say it is any less of a railroad. I only discovered this line last year after the pizza train trip on a single brochure I discovered at a hotel. The LSMRR follows a portion of route of the first line to Duluth from the Twin Cities and in fact takes its name from that first railroad. A good portion of the route is even on 100 year old track which must be traversed at less than 10 mph. A GE 50T pulls 2 old coaches and a safari car on a 90 minute jaunt along the St. Louis River and back. The all volunteer organization does a superb job of providing a quality train excursion.

03 July 2014

Born on the 3rd of July - George M. Cohan

George M. Cohan overlooks Times Square
The first lines of the musical George M! are "George who?"
Indeed the George I write of today is no other than George M. Cohan
Though he liked to claim July 4th as his birth, George most probably was born on the 3rd in Providence, RI.
My first encounter with this song and dance man draped in red, white, and blue was my freshman year of high school. I was in the cast of the Park High's fall musical George M! The biographical musical from the 1967 Broadway season is a behemoth of Cohan story and musical material. It did a fair business on Broadway and starred Joel Grey as Cohan. In an odd turn of events, the Park edition of the show had a considerable amount of re-writes, clocked in at just over 3 hours. Not sure our audience was ready for that kind of time commitment. A guy named Mike played Cohan and I was the unofficial understudy- I did not know that until he was late to one of the performances.
I think I wrote more about the Park musical in another post.
1942's Yankee Doodle Dandy is a much swifter telling of the Cohan story with some details left out but still a load of Cohan tunes.
Cagney's performance was a grand slam. It was suggested that Jack Benny may have been asked to play the role but turned it down.
Back to Cohan.
He did it all- act, write, dance, direct, produce, compose. He was a rare breed of performer. George more than likely picked up those skills from being on the vaudeville circuit with his family since infancy. Vaudeville was something akin to YouTube these days- a smorgasbord of entertainment from juggling to tumbling to stand up comedy and music. All these acts would fill a bill at a local theater- often performing multiple times a day. Then after a day or so in one town they would travel to another destination and do it again. The goal for most acts to make it to the big time- to get a steady gig and a guaranteed number of dates with one of the larger theater circuits.
I think Cohan grew tired of the Vaudeville grind and being under the thumb of producers as he reached adulthood.
By 1901 Cohan wrote, scored, directed and starred in his first musical "The Governor's Son." 
It played at the Savoy Theater on Broadway for 32 performances and then did a national tour.
His family were also in the cast.
He went on to write, direct, act in or produce more than 100 shows. He also composed upwards of 500 songs- 2 of which were cited for his receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor : Grand Old Flag and Over There. Yankee Doodle Boy and Give My Regards to Broadway are also widely popular Cohan songs.
His musical theater creations pioneered the American musical play tradition by fusing the play with music and lyrics and action which propelled the story along. Most of his musicals are largely forgotten these days- Little Johnny Jones probably being the exception. But his style of show would soon dominate Broadway and continues to this day.
List of Cohan shows 
Lengthy Bio of Cohan for Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame

21 May 2014

The social media info graphic that you never knew you needed

While breezing through the web I cam across a post about social media posts (it was actually a re-post of a re-post of a post.) The info-graphic by the MyCleverAgency offers enough tips to make you a pro at social media posting (and we need so many of those :) right?) So if you want to be a Google+ expert look below.
The tips you never knew you needed to know

12 May 2014

Fargo Marathon 2014 Super Hero Rundown: A few others

Our rundown would not be complete without a few straggling heroes out there pounding the pavement in Fargo.
 Wonder woman leads a small pack of runners through the streets of Fargo. Fortunately she did have her golden lasso of truth to round up the bad guys getting in the way of the runners.

The Justice League turned out this year running besides each other in  unity against evildoers and sore calves. Good to see Green Lantern was represented this time. Superman has also grown a beard in the time it takes him to run 26.2 miles.


And finally the superhero who should have been on more shirts this year- The Flash. How could running shirt manufacturers forget this speedster? I hoping to see more Flash in the future.

Fargo Marathon 2014 Super Hero Rundown: Spiderman/Spiderwoman

Our rundown continues. This time with one of the top franchises out there- Spiderman. Well actually Spiderman and Spiderwoman are represented here.
This Spiderman is a bit of a rebel with 2 different colored shoes. It is a bit hard to see the spider emblem on his chest.

This Spiderwoman is displacing good stride

11 May 2014

Fargo Marathon 2014 Super Hero Rundown: The Batman

Our next hero in the rundown is The Batman. From the comics I believe he was a rather fit guy. He did not have a super power per se- he was just a decent detective with a little vigilante thrown in for good measure. No Robins appears in the race so the caped crusader had to run alone. There may have been more but when a blob of runners come down the avenue trying to focus on the shirt is a bit difficult for my camera.
Oh, 2 out of 3 are women- so I guess Batgirl would be more appropriate.

She has the matching socks but no grappling hook

Original Batgirl colors.

I could actually imagine that this guy is Batman.

Fargo Marathon 2014- Digging Downtown

Marathon leaders dual it out at 12 mile mark
For those spectators who were watching for a incredible race- this year's marathon did not disappoint. Peter Kemboi of Kenya and Arturs Bareakis gave us quite a remarkable dual throughout the entire race. The competitors were running nearly cheek to cheek until the 25th mile when Kemboi decided to dig deep for a charge to the finish and shook off Bareakis. Probably the closes men's race yet. The rest of the men's elite lagged behind more than I expected. Third place arrived nearly 10 minutes later. I was expecting a few more top performances with the ideal weather and thus was surprised by the men's elite. Other Kenyans must have given up on this race.
Oh yeah- who is Bareikis? A runner with a good pedigree who is from Chicago via Latvia . Artur has racked up a few 2nd and 3rd place finishes in marathons. Seems to have been a decent runner since high school. Keeping up with Kemboi was quite the feat. He only crossed the finished a little over 30 seconds after.
The women's race had similar excitement with Kate Papenberg edging out Andrea Redinger late in the race. Like 2012 Men's winner Oliver Hoffman- Papenberg was a steeplechaser in college at the Air Force Academy.
Headlines in today's newspapers praised the decision to have the race start and end downtown. The runners generally liked it. From an atmosphere standpoint I liked it too. Downtown really brought another level to the excitement generated at the finish. And despite the known parking challenges, things seemed to work out for spectators getting to the finish. From a logistics view, downtown is filled with challenges and had potential to cause quite a bit of confusion. Fortunately that did not happen. I heard a little grumbling from volunteers on Thursday about the lack of space for registration and packet pick up but that might have just been the weather that evening. Once Friday rolled in- the show was on and the Civic Center plaza buzzed with excitement. Still, Fargo does need adequate convention space downtown for events of this magnitude. If the weather had not improved I would guess things would have been a little worse. Having everything in 1 place like the Fargo Dome makes managing the details of such a large event a bit more bearable. So I guess hats off to organizers- they did it.

Fargo Marathon 2014 Costume Rundown

A considerable amount of costumes- besides the super hero themed ones- appeared in this year's Fargo Marathon. A running Elvis did not make an appearance this year. I did see 2 guys running in button up short sleeve shirts. I do not think those were costumes. Just an unusual choice of attire for a marathon. Still, there were plenty of tutus worn too. Some costume like attire was also worn by spectators. I did not document that. What I have here is a smattering of costumed runners.
Birdman
What is worse? Being a birdman or being chased by a birdman? Oh and there were 4 birdmen.


This guys is really a glutton for pain. Kind of reminds me of that Beatles' tune "Carry That Weight:


The Cat in the small hat and the running dude. I saw the Cat downtown and she had a child in tow dresses as Thing 2. I never saw the dude again.

I do not know what to make of this outfit but I want to start singing "This Girl is on Fire"

A running luchador. 2 ladies and 2 guys made up this relay team. I saw the entire team downtown. Tough hombres. 

Fantastic way to spend a day with your twin mullet- run a marathon. 

A nerd
This lass had a great get-up. Almost like it was someone from "Big Bang Theory"

Fargo Marathon 2014 Super Hero Rundown: Captain America

What better thing to do after having a successful sequel than to run 26.2 miles in Fargo ND. The Captain did that via many runners. I was only able to capture a few. No one dared to put on the Captain's cowl but who cares- it fun to run and know you are impersonating one of the great super heroes of 20th century.


Sometimes the Captain just needs to run alone.

10 May 2014

The cheers are heard

A Lion greets runners at the Lions Club Aid Station

I am not "lion" when I say Fargo is a friendly race. The city really gets behind this event. And it is evidenced in our spectators. Bells and bands, signs and shouts- we are out there throwing out our support. And it is also good to know that the runners appreciate it. I saw runners go by and give high fives to the kids. I was thanked no less than 5 times today and I was just on the side of the road ringing a cow bell. So great job Fargo!
Below is one of those Kodak moment events of spectator/runner interaction on the course.
Kids Cheer

appreciation is given
So if you are looking for inspiration for next year just look at the above example- make a few signs, cheer, applaud. And in turn get high fives all around.

Fargo Marathon 2014 Super Hero Rundown: Superman

There were a whole bunch of super heroes represented at the Fargo Marathon this year. The 1 I missed was a lady wearing an Ironman mask in the half marathon. And let us not confuse Mike Reilly with Robert Downey Jr. The Fargo Marathon's guest Mike Reilly is the voice of the Ironman Triathlon and not the super hero character. Mike is also on Twitter: @ironmanvoice
The predominate hero was the man and woman of steel- Superman and Supergirl.
First, I bring you Fargo's original and still running Superman. He has been at this for years now.

Now the line up of super men and women- although everyone who ran is a super hero.








A grand day for marathoning - Fargo Marathon 2014

The Finish Line in Downtown Fargo
Here is to another great 10 years!
It was a fantastic day to run. The cool morning warmed up slightly in the afternoon and a Kenyan can finally claim the victor's crown for the men's marathon in Fargo after a pretty close race down to the last 2 miles between 2 men. The rest of the field were well behind. Finding other results are a bit of a challenge as nothing is posted on www.fargomarathon.com. So it will be hard for me to analyze what I saw on the streets today. Bloggers don't get media passes :(.
No wait, I found them. 2014 Results. Men's winner finished in 2:26. Women's winner finished 2:53. Pretty decent results.
A big shout out should go to 19 year old Fargoan Keith Lehman who finished 5th with a respectable 2:45 time.
Wide range of hometown were amply represented in the marathon race results this year. This certainly is not a local race.
My workmate- Chris Hass- finished in the top 20 of the half marathon. He clocked a 1:18. Great job!
O Canada, waving on your back
Speaking of this not being a local race it appears than Canadian seem to draw inspiration by wearing their national flag as a cape while running. I saw many fly by me. Which brings me to something else. The trend this year appeared to be super heroes. No all out costumes but just the shirts and maybe some socks. Under Armour had been selling Captain America, Batman, and Superman tech shirts at the expo this year so I suspect the trend may be more widespread.



Now a smatter of other things I witnessed this morning while strolling up the route from 17th Ave S.
The man doing the half on crutches was out there again. Not sure of his name or if anybody else has featured his story. He has been doing this at least for 5 years. Maybe more. I believe he may be a Vietnam veteran.



It appeared that 2 active duty representatives of the armed forces were also active in doing the half marathon in full gear and boots. A man with some big chops passed them.
.
party for the marathon

The party was on from 17th Ave upwards on both 8th and 9th St. Whole neighborhoods turned out plus some to cheer on the mass of runners this morning. The party above seemed to have some kind of theme- maybe prom, maybe 80s or maybe both. Music ranged from DJs to live rock bands. Even Elvis was out there serenading the runners. Incredible turnout for spectators just about anywhere I went. The downtown finish might have been handicapped by parking congestion but I felt this finish line was a bit more accessible to the viewers than the Fargo Dome setup. If  you got downtown you were sure to get a place to see the finish. Also just beyond the finish was a large stage for the 27th mile concert and street dance. Downtown was buzzing with excitement. 
Finally I want to post my yearly photo of Coach GP. He has become a fixture at this race- so much so that many runners sport his very same hairdo. A Fargo marathon without him would seem incomplete. So this year I did a selfie with coach GP just behind me. 
Coach GP on my shoulder giving me running advice

Running on Train Day

BNSF Hoppers sitting still in Fargo
There will be plenty of people out for National Train Day in Fargo. Most of them will be running in the Fargo Marathon. And no trains will delay the races.
Those spectating the runners from downtown Fargo can watch trains too.
There are 2 ideal spots.
On the north end of downtown off of Broadway is the old Great Northern Depot (now Great Northern Cycles). Tracks run adjacent to the depot and there are a few places to sit. Mixed freight usually passes on this former Great Northern mainline.The Amtrak Station is just next door- but don't expect to see Amtrak during daylight hours. The Empire Builder stops in Fargo in the wee hours of the morning.
On the south end of downtown at the corner of Broadway and Main is the Northern Pacific Depot. The depot is historic itself- it was designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert.
The depot is adjacent to BNSF's mainline. Plenty of traffic runs through this corridor. These days you can see plenty of unit crude oil trains heading to or from North Dakota oil country. Double stacks and trailer trains pass through daily along with unit coal trains and the occasional unit grain train. BNSF power predominates but I have seen Norfolk Southern, CSX, Union Pacific, and Kansas City Southern engines pass the depot. One day I even saw an unusual light green Erie locomotive.
Fargo is a railroad town but really does not have many historic displays of its railroad heritage. I would suggest that Fargo needs a railroading museum. 3 roads operated out of Fargo- Northern Pacific, Great Northern, and Milwaukee Road. A remaining Milwaukee Road freight depot is just east of downtown. There is some signage that commemorates its former usage. Most of the Milwaukee Road's trackage is no longer in place. One segment has been turned into a bike path.

09 May 2014

A great list of things remembering 10 years of Fargo Marathons

When you have little time but lots to write you make lists. I think David Letterman's writers must have perfected this mode of writing. I don't have 10 things but I have enough things.

1. This event draws because we are friendly.
Now with it being Fargo, we have a reputation of being cold and located someplace in the armpits of America. And thanks to a movie we are thought to be a hideaway for suspicious characters.
But really Fargo is nothing like that. We may have cold weather but mostly we are friendly (at least during the marathon.)
Case in point. While volunteering Thursday night a man from Indonesia who was in town to see his son graduate from NDSU the next week asked if he could register for one of the big races. As far as I knew only the 5K still had available spaces- every other race was closed. Still we sent him to another table to inquire about entering assuming he would be turned away again. Not long afterward he returned to our tent with registration for the full marathon! A similar story happened to my friend Chris last year.

2. The biggest game-changer for the event was organizing bands for every mile.
Prior to the "rock" theme the marathon began to take, the race was like just about every other one- you run, you might see a few spectators, get a sports drink someplace along the way, and then you finish and take your medal and goodies and leave to recover. The change created a charged atmosphere throughout but also drew out the community wherever they were near the race course. Where I typically spectate there a tons of block parties. I even got into the spirit by erecting a tent on the boulevard for a cheering party. The 27th mile party also invites participants to linger a bit longer after the races and experience a little afterglow.
I know we are not the Rock n Roll Marathon- but we do great impersonation.

3. 2nd biggest game-changer- Friday Night 5K
Organizing and placing the 5K on the Friday before the big races really spurred some remarkable growth. Most participants each year are running the 5K. Some participants even run the 5K and another event on Saturday- something that garners that runner an additional GoFar Challenge medal.

4. Greatest moments
By far the marathon's greatest moment thus far was Eric Sondag's come from behind victory in 2008. That story is remarkable in that it involved a local runner (from Grand Forks) out dueling a hardened distance runner from Kenya in the last miles of the race. What makes it even greater is the possibility that Sondag might not have been running that day had he not convinced the race director of his determination. Sondag had not recorded any remarkable times in previous events and the race director was hesitant to let him run.(I believe he still would have run but not in the elite group.) The 2nd greatest moment would be Chris Erichsen's 2:19:55 victory in 2010. His time still stands as the course record for men.
I still believe we are yet to see a great women's race o par with the Sondag run. Thus far most of the women victor's have been well ahead of the competition. Although a nod should be given to local resident Lisa Dyer's victory in 2012. She holds the 3rd top time for women.

5. Internationals and elites
Kenyans started running in the Fargo Marathon somewhere around the 3rd or 4th year. But their presence increased the excitement of the race. Oliver Hoffman from Germany was the first international to win the marathon- although I think some internationals have won the half marathon- I just don't have that info in my hands to verify. The race also attracts a fair amount of region elite runners- Chris Erichsen being one of most well known as well as Luke Watson. Chad Wallin was the first man to win the full marathon twice. No word of who will be running this year as I was bumped from Elite check in duties this year.

10 years and tents : Fargo Marathon 2014

In tents
Well, we made it! 10 years. What a run it has been blogging this event! And I still think I am the only one providing exclusive coverage the big media misses. This year will probably involve a little less coverage due to a family crisis I am in the midst. Nonetheless, there will be coverage. Watch the twitter feed @suspect_bill for my quick takes.
10 years ago I was out in a slightly snowy morning in May keeping traffic out of the race route in Moorhead. A modest turnout of runners entered the inaugural event.  Now the event is massive. Simply astounding growth.
The event was born at a zeitgeist of running enthusiasm. So much that more local and region events were spawned and likely inspired by the Fargo event's growth. There is something like 3 or 4 new marathon or half marathons in the region too.
So for this tenth year the organizers brought it back to downtown Fargo. This made for quite a logistics challenge as the Fargo Civic Arena is nothing like the Fargodome. So for the tenth year a lot of pick up locations were in tents outside of the Civic Arena. Good for a warm day in Fargo but for a cold and windy evening like Thursday it felt like that day 10 years ago. Fortunately the weather warmed up on Friday.
Another challenge for downtown is parking. There simply is not enough accessible parking for all the runners and spectators. This a problem even without an event of the scope of the Fargo Marathon. A major parking ramp for downtown was torn down a few years ago without a plan in place to replace it. The newspaper (The Fargo Forum) spent an entire page detailing how to park downtown last week for the marathon. I think your best bet for marathon watching would be in the neighborhoods just north and south of downtown. And I might add- the atmosphere is friendly. You could always walk to downtown from there too.
Despite a few challenged, I think the organizers are up to the task of bringing the event downtown for this anniversary. I think that rings true to the motto the race director uses every year- "Let us run with perseverance!"  Without something challenging we would not need to persevere. So with 10 years under its belt the Fargo Marathon continues to persevere and allows thousands to run far, run fast, run flat and run friendly in Fargo.