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For these Fargo Marathon runners, it’s not about finishing times, it’s about finish lines

One of those who finished the Fargo Marathon was Jim Simpson, an 80-year-old California man who finished in 2,122nd marathon. He retired at age 43 and needed something to channel his life.

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72-year-old Rich Holmes, left, 62-year-old Denis McCarthy, and 80-year-old Jim Simpson walk together after finishing the Fargo Marathon on Saturday, May 21, 2022, inside the Fargodome. Over 3,000 marathons have been run between the three of them with Simpson leading the group with 2,122 marathons run.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum
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FARGO — Jim Simpson was born on a dirt road 20 miles west of Atlanta. At the age of 17, after dropping out of high school, he enlisted in the Navy and worked in a machine shop.

After his military service, Simpson worked in plastic injection molding, doing high precision work. “I’m a perfectionist,” he said.

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At the age of 43, he retired in 1985. His motto: “Work hard and save your money. That’s the key to everything.”

Simpson wanted to retire early, he said, because life is short. “Most of my family worked until they died.”

But Simpson hadn’t given much thought to what he wanted to do in retirement. So he started running, and he hasn’t stopped.

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At the age of 80, Simpson completed his 2,122nd marathon when he crossed the finish line at the Fargo Marathon on Saturday, May 21. For those counting, that’s 55,596.4 miles of marathons.

It’s been quite the life’s journey since Simpson’s beginnings on that dirt road in rural Georgia. He now lives in Huntington Beach, Calif.

“I’m living the life at 80 years old,” Simpson said. So far this year, he’s run 52 marathons. “I”m looking at running 140 this year. I’m just an everyday person.”

Saturday's race, he said, was his ninth in nine days.

His advice: “Set a goal and do it.”

Simpson was one of the stragglers in Saturday’s marathon, finishing more than five hours after the starting gun. But the runners who finished toward the end of the pack came with lives forged from pounding road miles, and learning many life lessons as the miles and the years piled up.

John Wyant, 60, who has “Johnny Why Not” in white letters on his black running jersey, completed his 21st marathon Saturday since he started running marathons in 2009.

The Clearwater, Minn., resident started running years ago, in 1980, to get in shape for the Army at the advice of a recruiter. “He said run and I never stopped,” he said.

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After sobering up more than 30 years ago, he became more serious about the sport. “Then I really took up running,” he said. “That was my void filler,” something to occupy his life so he could stay clean.

Now, however, Wyant has another void in his life. His girlfriend and running partner, Paula McCarther of Brainerd, was killed when she was struck by a car while running in 2020. He was on the phone with her at the time of the accident.

“I heard her scream, ‘Oh, God!’ and I heard her phone go across the pavement,” he said. “I miss her dearly,” Wyant said. “I’m still in trauma.”

As a result of that tragedy, he urges his fellow runners to wear high-visibility, neon clothing while training and to avoid roads, whenever possible. “It’s huge,” he said. “It’s so important.”

McCarther was in his thoughts during Saturday’s marathon. At mile 17, he said silently, “Paula, this next mile’s for you.”

Alyn Park, 71, of Denver finished her 76th marathon Saturday. It was her first in 2½ years and her first since her left femur was broken when she was struck by a scooter last June. A long scar runs down her left thigh as a testament to the accident.

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Alyn Park, 71, from Colorado, smiles with her marathon finisher medal after completing the Fargo Marathon on Saturday, May 21, 2022, inside the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

She finished ahead of her 77-year-old husband, who was running his 98th marathon in Fargo and plans to notch his 100th this year. Married 31 years, the Parks partners in life and on the marathon trail.

“We don’t have to explain our craziness to one another,” Park said.

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“It was a beautiful race,” Wyant, a retired nutritionist, said after crossing the finish line.”

The stopwatch reading at the end of the race is immaterial to Park. “I don’t care,” she said. “I’m happy to be alive every day. Every day’s a good day.”

Stephanie LaBoo of Seattle is a chemical engineer who helps design to robots that sort and handle all those packages that stream out of Amazon warehouses.

The Fargo Marathon was her 18th half-marathon or marathon on her way to running in a marathon in all 50 states.

“It was good,” she said after finishing. “Yesterday I was scared because of the wind,” but Saturday was calmer.

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Stephanie Laboo from Washington state finishes out her Fargo Marathon race on Saturday, May 21, 2022, inside the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

Why does LaBoo run marathons? “Because my friends talked me into it,” she said. Although she normally runs half-marathons, she opted for the full course Saturday.

“I’m happy I finished,” she said.

Kristian Larsen of Milwaukee finished his 30th marathon Saturday. The 52-year-old marketing director is another runner out to run marathons in all 50 states. He started running at the age of 35.

“It was just a challenge,” Larsen said, adding that marathons provide motivation. “I did it to get healthy. I don’t run unless I have a big goal. So if there’s no marathon, I stop running.”

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Kristian Larsen, 52, crosses the finish line to complete the Fargo Marathon on Saturday, May 21, 2022, inside the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

Related Topics: FARGOFARGO MARATHON
Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address: pspringer@forumcomm.com
Phone: 701-367-5294
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