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Fargo Marathon will be No. 100 for Cass Valley North graduate

Julie (Nepstad) Lindgren didn't do her first marathon until after her daughter left for college.

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Cass Valley North graduate Julie Lindgren has taken her love of marathons to new levels as a pacer. Submitted photo

FARGO — Running track and cross country in high school at Cass Valley North was enjoyable for Julie Lindgren. Then she took some time off.

Like a 20-year break of not running.

That seems a bit crazy this week. On Saturday, Lindgren will be running in her 100th 26.2-mile race at the Sanford Fargo Marathon, a journey that started when she and her husband, Dean Lindgren, found themselves with an empty house.

Their daughter, Amber, went off to college at North Dakota State and left her parents in their suburban Twin Cities home.

“Now what do we do?” Julie said, thinking back to that day.

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That’s when they picked up running, something that was probably just as mentally beneficial as it was physical.

“It was huge,” Julie said. “It was something we both enjoyed doing. It was a challenge and it took the focus off of our daughter leaving us.”

It started with a 5K race. Then a half-marathon. The first full was the Twin Cities Marathon and Julie was addicted from the get-go. What started in 2011 gradually evolved into a quest that not many runners have achieved across the country.

Lindgren is a member of the 50 States Marathon Club having completed at least one in every state. It required travel, of course, and some perseverance, like completing a marathon in South Carolina.

That took three tries. Bad weather canceled one, travel issues and getting stuck in Atlanta halted another attempt. The third try was in the summer — and it gets hot in the summer in South Carolina.

The 50th and final state was the Maui Marathon in Hawaii, which she accomplished before she turned 50 years old (another aspect of the goal). It came with another family tie. Her brother, Rick Nepstad, ran with her and Dean.

“He’s not a runner, but he didn’t think I would run 50,” Julie said “He said if I run 50 that he would run the last one with me and he did.”

Through the 50 States goal, Julie discovered another love of the sport: pacing. Becoming a pacer is a long distance running specialty, with runners having the innate ability to keep a certain pace per mile. Lindgren was the four-hour, 40-minute pacer for the 2018 Fargo Marathon and finished in 4:39.15. She was the six-hour pacer at Fargo in 2019 and finished in 5:59.08.

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“I like the extra challenge of trying to nail each mile at the right time,” she said.

She’s almost always within a minute of her goal. At the 2018 Des Moines Marathon, she came within seven seconds of the five-hour, 25-minute pace. She nailed the Get Lucky Half Marathon in 2019 in St. Paul on the dot at 2 hours, 15 minutes.

There’s more to the story, also. Pacers make for good on-course motivational speakers.

“I can tell if someone is struggling,” Lindgren said. “I’ll tell them, don’t talk, let me do the talking. I’ll tell stories, jokes, anything to keep them from thinking about running.”

Or keep them from not achieving their goal. It's usually slower than what she could run; her PR is 3:49 in one of her six Fargo marathons. So far in 2021, she's been a pacer for the Eisenhower Marathon in Abilene, Kan., the Anchorage Marathon and the Mad Marathon in Waitsfield, Vt.

“I’ll keep going and continue to pace,” she said. “Pacing is what I like to do. It’s what I enjoy the most.”

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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