For a change, training for Fargo Marathon will require dealing with heat

Annual event will probably go back to the spring for 2022 but for now, here are some tips for training in the summer.

Arturs Bareikis crosses the finish in the men’s full marathon race of the Sanford Fargo Marathon in the Fargodome on Saturday, May 18, 2019. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — For the first 15 Sanford Fargo Marathons, the usual time to start training coincided with a winter storm warning. Or a day with a high temperature of 5 below. Or an Alberta Clipper or even a clear, calm day at 20 degrees.

Training for the 16th annual on Sept. 25 means trading layers of clothing for an exercise in hydration. For the first time, this year’s event will be held in the fall and runners who make the marathon or half-marathon an annual event will have to deal with the heat of a Midwest summer.

The marathon was postponed in May of 2020 to that following August, which subsequently was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Executive director Mark Knutson said he doesn’t foresee the races remaining in the fall because of the popularity of North Dakota State football.

The Bison have a bye week on the Sept. 25 weekend, giving the marathon all access to the Fargodome. That may not always be the case.

“You can’t plan on that,” Knutson said. “It is nice to put the marathon in the fall; you’re not dealing with flooding and winter but the fall is also jam-packed with races.”


The Dick Beardsley Half Marathon in Detroit Lakes, Minn., is in September and the Twin Cities Marathon is held every October. The Beardsley this year will be held two weeks prior to the Fargo Marathon.

Going back to the spring would be fine with Rob Kupec, who said many runners in his Faster, Stronger, Runner club prefer training in the winter, with apparel technology a major reason.

“Running clothes have gotten so good in the winter, there’s almost no temperature you can’t run at in the winter,” he said. “But you can only take so many layers off in the summer. The cooling technology is not as good as the warming technology.”

Kupec knows weather; he’s the chief meteorologist for KVRR-TV in Fargo. He said the first training meeting in advance of the Sept. 25 Fargo Marathon was last weekend when the temperature hit 100 degrees. The club uses a 16-week marathon training program.

“We got out in the morning so you avoid the heat of the day,” Kupec said. “Still, it was hot, even that early in the morning. It was 7:30 when we hit the pavement.”

The latest newsletter from Faster, Stronger, Runner featured some tips on training in the heat from club member Adam Pangrac, who finished second in the 2018 Fargo Marathon. Among them:

Modify your schedule to work runs into the morning, choose clothing that is light in color and lightweight, be careful with alcohol or medication that have a dehydrating effect on the body, understand it takes about two weeks to acclimatize to warmer weather and find routes in town that offer more shade.

Also, consider the direction of the wind. In the winter, it’s best to begin into the wind first and use it as an advantage on the way back. In the summer, Pangrac recommends the opposite; head into the wind on the second half of the run and use it as a cooling effect.


“Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and not while you’re running, either,” Kupec said. “It’s important in the days leading up to the run to hydrate.”

The warmest day starting line temperature in Fargo Marathon history was 65 degrees in 2011 and 2012. It was 59 degrees on three separate occasions in 2013, 2016 and 2018. The humidity in 2011 was an issue and the temperature in 2013 was in the 70s with high humidity by noon. The all-time heat beast was 95 degrees for the 2012 Friday night 5K in 2012, which cooled off to the mid-60s the following morning.

Pangrac says every 5-degree rise in temperatures above 60 degrees is likely to slow your pace by as much as 20-30 seconds per mile.

"Don't be discouraged if your pace slows in the heat," he said.

As usual, it will be a week of events on the north side of Fargo with one change: the annual Cyclothon will be held on Saturday, Sept. 18 instead of the usual Monday before the marathon. The Furgo Dog Run is set for Tuesday, the Youth Run on Thursday and the 5K on Friday night.

The marathon, half-marathon, four-person relay and 10K begin at intermittent times on Saturday.

Knutson said registrations this week are around 5,000 people, or about on pace to the numbers of the 2018 and 2019 races. The weather could dictate the numbers in the marathon and half-marathon.

“A lot of people are waiting to see, will it be a hot summer and how will my training go?” Knutson said. “We get a lot of last-minute decision makers.”

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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