26 May 2016

Fargo Marathon 2016: The beards are back in town

I do not think I had posted bearded Fargo Marathon participants since before Duck Dynasty arrived on the scene. This year I saw much evidence of the that style of beard which Willie, Jase, Phil, and Si have upon their faces.
But for starters, it appears Hagrid of Harry Potter fame was an entrant in the half marathon.

This marathoner is putting it all on the line at mile 21. This beard resembles Jase's beard. Just put a stocking hat on this guy and some shades and you got Jason Robertson running a marathon- which he will probably never do.

Hanging in

This is probably the best kept beard of the bunch. It almost looks like it was just attached to his face this morning. Not sure how to categorize it. Maybe a little Grizzly Adams a la Dan Haggerty.

Party on Griz

Our final runner knows how to wear the beard in style while running. The headband, the sunglasses, the track top- this all screams "don't mess with me, I'll run circles around you...in the desert." It also has that classic 70s jogging vibe. It is as if Prefontaine still lives.

Olympic style

24 May 2016

Fargo Marathon celebrity sightings

So no Will Ferrell. And no Elvis. I think there has not been an Elvis running Fargo in half a decade.
But let me indulge my celebrity radar.
First let me get the first one off: Dick Beardsley, legendary long distance runner ( and fisherman). There he is in an orange long sleeve telling a participant to take the race by the horns. I met him once in Detroit Lakes. He was at a pasta dinner for his namesake race with Alberto Salazar.
Is that Matt Maher?
Looking closely at the image again I also notice another celebrity of sorts which I totally missed in the foreground- worship artist Matt Maher.
On the course I was surprised to see Jim Gaffigan took time from his busy schedule and decided to run. Perhaps he was doing it to jab Ferrell. I must have missed the hash tag #runfargogaffigan.
Jim Gaffigan takes it easy on the course
And finally, this year I did not miss the Fargo Marathon Maniac. This guy like runs a marathon every week.
Actually he is a classmate of mine who decided to take up running a number of years ago and got hooked on doing marathons and half marathons. He'll be running Grandma's in June.
And as a post-script, an unverified appearance of the Almighty One, King of Kings and Lord of Lords at the Fargo Dome on the morning of the race in the Bison Room.
I believe scripture says that "when 2 or more gather in my name that I am there." That is my paraphrase of Matthew 18:20. Who knows, maybe Matt Maher was there leading worship.

Other stuff along the marathon route

Watching a steady stream of runners push on through to the end of the race can be a bit monotonous. What is good is that at the heart of the Fargo Marathon route is a great big neighborhood party going on. This year those neighborhoods along 9th, 8th, and 7th St S were abuzz with activity. It is a fantastic atmosphere. 
Even the dead were grateful for the good weather for watching runners.

Then there was this interesting item on the boulevard. Appears to be some representation of Dr. Who's TARDIS sending encouragement to runners.
Of course there is lots of music. I think I saw maybe 5 bands within a the mile I strolled. Another thing I should have marked as missing this year was the list of bands and music on the route. The regular reggae band on 9th near the 21st mile seemed to be missing too. However, Elvis was still on 9th south of 13th with about 4 speakers cranked.

Band at the Temple. Not Klez.
Unusual bikes seem to crop up a lot. This one reminds me of the Surly Big Dummy, but appear to have some kind of electric assist in the crank.

23 May 2016

Fargo Marathon Superman

I think I get shots of this guy every year. He is the Fargo Marathon's own Superman.
Patrick Millard dons the full blue suit with the 'S' on his chest with cape and runs the marathon in under 5 hours.
Superman goes by

Superman says "Hi"

Were there other characters running the marathon this year? Yes. SpongeBob. But I think he was running the half.
SpongeBob Squarepants runs by

Fargo Marathon 2016: Wonderfully warm

Possibly the best weather for watching a Fargo Marathon yet although running in the warm weather may have been difficult. My volunteering marathon left me exhausted so I only posted a few things via Twitter while observing the Saturday events.
On Friday night I was tucked into the Fargo Dome helping with bib number look ups and so I missed perhaps the most competitive 5K finish for men. A just graduated Bison trackster, Brendan Skime crossed the finish line 1 second ahead of Jonathan Stoltman. You could have said it was the battle of the Falls as Skime is from Thief River Falls and Jonathan is from Little Falls. 15:31 is a pretty impressive time for a guy who did not even have the race on his radar until a few weeks ago.
In the women's division a 12 year old from Staples took the top honors. So much for experience and wisdom winning.
By the time I exited the dome on Friday most of the competitors had gone home and volunteers were readying the place for the start of the marathon the next day. Johnny Holm and his band were gone.
I wrote that Swanson's was missing from the Expo this year. However, that did not matter there were a lot of freebies to be taken. Minnesota State University Moorhead, appeared to have the most items to give out. I got stickers, shoe laces, fruit snacks, and pennants. Old Dutch, as always, was giving out lots of potato chips. Kenny's was also on hand to give out licorice and popcorn treats. And although Essentia Health were sponsoring the Expo, Sanford Health had a large representation at the event.
Below the speed limit
Come Saturday I was pretty tired but knew I needed to cross town to watch the race and take in the atmosphere. And it was probably the best weather one could want to do that. So I brought my family to the old watching spot on 9th although our friend no longer lived there and we could not have our typical marathon breakfast party. Half marathoners were trickling by as we arrived. We missed the leaders.
Oh, remember that Skime guy from the 5K above. Well I heard he won the 10K too. Incredible! He also broke the course record. Double incredible!  Now that is an impressive weekend for a fellow who missed going to regionals with the Bison track squad.      

20 May 2016

Fargo Marathon 2016: Things missing

Here I am at the Fargo Dome exercising my volunteer muscle doing registrations. It has been somewhat slow but enjoyable nonetheless. It got me thinking what to blog. So I looked to see what was missing. So here is my rundown.

  1. Swanson Health and their goodies.
    Swanson is no longer a sponsor nor an exhibitor at the Expo. I think since the were sold to an outside group the marketing relationship was cut. I miss the vitamins and stuff they gave away. Essentia Health has taken their place and makes the Expo a little different although still good. They have great giveaways like water bottles. Just not gobs of vitamins, health mixes, and soaps.
  2. Pasta/lefse feed
    I am not sure when this met the axe. May have been a few years ago. I guess it may have been a low income generating event. I would need to check if other races still have have a carb load meal. Research, I believe, has nullified the value so close to a race. Local establishment on 19th across from Fargo Dome- Labby's- was having their own pasta feed on Thursday and Friday.
  3. 5k route map
    It is not in the Fargo Marathon magazine and I did not find a poster of it at the dome. I did spy a possible handout at an info table. So 5kers follow the herd or the signs.
  4. Fargo marathon canned announcements at dome
    There was a pre-recorded message welcoming runners to the race or expo. It ran every fifteen or 30 minutes. Now there are a few live announcements during the day. Not sure I miss these
  5. 5k bib numbers for runners running 2 races or GoFar challenge.
    Biggest trouble we had for registrations was no bib number assigned to them for the 5k if the were running a 2nd race. Some were fortunate to get them in email. Others were left in dark only to be sent to the trouble table. I think there has been a bit more registration trouble this year or all the trouble seems to arrive on my shifts.
  6. Signs for 5K registration et al
    The 5k registration signs have been missing for 2 years. Common confusion for those wandering the upper concourse of the Fargo Dome

Not missing this year- Coach GP. Just saw him.

28 April 2016

Fargo Marathon 2016: The improbable half from a 5K

Interesting running related story came out the other day: 12 Year Old Girl Accidentally Runs Half-Marathon. She came ready to run a 5K but instead ran a the half. Quite an achievement for the youngster and also a scare for her parents.  The organizers of the Rochester (NY) Flower City Challenge certainly enjoyed the the free press this story generated nationwide, but for a race day consisting of a little over 3000 runners they also must be scratching their heads. Starting line and starting time confusion generated the mistake.
Perhaps it could have been prevented with better starting line discipline and communication. The half supposedly started 15 minutes prior to the 5K. I can only speculate that there must have been some congestion at the half start which may have impacted the start of the 5K. The 5K appeared to have less entrants- about 1000 for the 5K and little bit over 2000 for the half. I am surprised that the 5K did not have more runners as that has typically been the case in Fargo.
5K has usually attracted the most runners for Fargo Marathon week. Fargo race officials decided to place it on Friday night prior to the marathon which naturally avoids a dilemma like Rochester. There may have been some runners who may have mistakenly ran other races but usually it is runners wanting to run in those races after registration has been closed. There must around 7000 or more entrants amassed at the start on Saturday morn of the race. Fargo's start line is massive but orderly. The courses are clearly marked and stationed with volunteers. If you get lost on the course I am sure there will be someone out there to give directions.
Of course there is the story of Cris Estes who ran the Fargo Marathon course 3 times in 2009. Nobody bothered to tell him to stop. He kept running.
Still plenty of room to sign up for this year's events in Fargo. If you want you can run it 3 times too. There just won't be much spectating or aid stations 6 hours after the race start. 

14 April 2016

Something new and something else for Fargo Marathon

The organizers of the Fargo Marathon as not struggling for ideas on how to expand the brand and participation.
The Furgo Dog Run has been added this year to cater to the growing number of canine runners. Well, maybe it is more for the owners of those canines who like to run with their furry friends. The 1.6 mile race is set for Tuesday of race week, which is really stretching Fargo Marathon's pawprint over the entire week. I cannot say that I know of many pet runs out there but this may definitely be a good move considering the amount of cash that Americans shell out for their pets. The event also has a mascot, MJ, who apparently is training for the event. MJ has been mum on the topic since the end of March.
The 2nd addition to the races this year is the Cyclothon. On Monday May 16 bicyclers will be able to do the marathon course and receive a shirt and medal. However, you need to finish the course in under 2.5 hours. Sounds like a strenuous bike ride. In previous years I have biked a vast majority of the course without it being an race event. It is an interesting venture and perhaps may stir a bit of interest in future bike races or bike-a-thons.
And finally the Fargo Marathon will be a drug free race. Actually it has always been one and open to random drug tests by USA Track and Field. The local paper brought to light that the 2014 men's marathon winner had been associated with a coach who is under investigation for alleged doping of the runners she coached. Race director Mark Knutson and 2008 winner Eric Sondag both doubted that the runner in question, Peter Kemboi, had used performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to win the race noting that the prize money and the cost of  PEDs did not make financial sense. I believe the top prize for race winners is about $1500.
And on another note, Will Ferrell has still not signed up for the Fargo Marathon. Neither has Mike Farrell of MASH fame.

26 February 2016

A railroad hero for African American History month: John W Blair

John Blair stands 2nd from right
Scanning through titles of train books for children the other day, I came across this title: John Blair and the Great Hinckley Fire by Josephine Nobisso. At first glance does not appear to have anything do with a train. But then a 2nd glace- John Blair? John Insley Blair was a railroad magnate who at one time owned the largest rail mileage in the world. Then a 3rd look and check of Wikipedia proved that this book does not tell the story of the railroad developer but of an African American Porter on the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad. Silly me.
Hinckley after the 1894 blaze tore through town
September 1st 1894 John Blair's train came into Hinckley, MN just as a massive conflagration came busting into town. And this was no ordinary fire. Some have described it like a tornado of flames four and half miles high.
Probably over 200 passengers pressed into the train with hopes for survival in the hands of the train crew. Engineer James Root made the decision to put his engine in reverse and race the cloying inferno to a water hole he recalled seeing approximately 6 miles away. His plan worked but not without much struggle and hardship. The train started aflame during the trip and Root was badly hurt.
John Blair's role in this race with the deadly firestorm is difficult to find primary sources on the internet. The Minnesota History Center has the Charles W Blair papers in their collection and it contains his account of the Great Fire and his actions.
As Porter he no doubt aided all the individuals aboard the train during the terrible ride. I found a few accounts of him helping passengers including children escape the burning coaches and rush to the water hole known as Skunk Lake. Elsewhere there is a statement that he was final one to exit the train before it totally burned up. He did survive as can ascertained from the existence of his account. I suspect I need to read the book since author Nobisso has stated elsewhere on the 'net that researchers were employed in gathering data about Blair.
So there you have a real hero and hopefully I have brought a little more attention to him. Blair is honored at the Hinckley Fire Museum among other railroaders who did their part to help the citizens during this great catastrophe. And that link is the only place on the internet I could find a close up portrait of him.