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Kolpack: New Fargo Marathon date could make it tempting to keep it in August

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Arturs Bareikis enters the Fargodome to the roar of the crowd as he wins the men’s full marathon race of the Sanford Fargo Marathon on Saturday, May 18, 2019. David Samson / The Forum

Fargo

It was 7 a.m. a year ago May when the WDAY-TV pace car was getting ready to bust from the Fargodome for the first mile of the Sanford Fargo Marathon route. The temperature was 45 degrees with light rain and a northeast wind of 14 mph.

We were dressed like it was weather in February, winter coat and all, with a wind that still felt like some sort of Alberta clipper. By the time Arturs Bareikis crossed the finish line inside the dome almost 2 hours, 28 minutes later, the temperature had risen all of one degree and the winds increased.

It was one cold 26.2-mile trip around the streets of Fargo and Moorhead.

In 2018, the race time temperature was better at 59 degrees but the winds were a bear, starting the day at 21 mph.

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It was 47 degrees at the start of the 2017 marathon. By noon, it was all of 51 degrees. The 2015 starting line was 35 degrees. Rain greeted us at the starting line in 2013. Heck, the marathon’s first year in 2005 had a hint of snow.

You get the idea.

The Fargo Marathon has been one of the most underlying success stories in the history of the community, growing from dreams of Mark Knutson and Mike Almquist into the reality of thousands of participants every year. But virtually every year, weather plays some sort of factor into the race every middle weekend in May, whether it’s cold, windy or rainy.

It’s been an adventure.

The adventure this year, of course, was the postponement of the May spectacle to the week of Aug. 24-29. It starts with the cyclothon on Monday, the dog run on Tuesday, the youth run on Thursday, the 5K on Friday and the Saturday marathon, half-marathon and 10K races. If the COVID-19 pandemic continues to soften in the state of North Dakota, they will go on as scheduled.

And one more thing: I’m all for making this a trial run for a permanent date.

My frozen feet last year are all for it. Fans lining the streets in parkas should be all for it. Hot coffee with a splash of Bailey’s is fine and dandy, but that only goes so far. Musicians playing instruments with cold, wet fingers should be all for it.

It’s all about weather.

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That’s what could make August tricky. It can get hot.

We saw that in 2011 when high humidity was an issue for runners. In 2012, it was in the 90s for the Friday night 5K but thankfully cooled the following day for the marathon.

An August marathon is a tough call.

It would require an earlier starting time, like 7 a.m. at the latest for the marathoners. Or why not 6 a.m.? I don’t know about anybody else but I never had quality sleep the night before I ran those damn things, anyway.

There were years early on where fans watching the race were all over the place, most likely because of the novelty of it. It was new. It was cool. The noise ordinance in Fargo for people cranking their music systems to top decibels doesn’t apply on race morning.

Over time, however, the poor May weather took its toll on fan attendance. Temperatures in the 50s and 60s are good for runners, but hard for everybody else. Ask the aid station volunteers.

Bands not only need outlets to power their instruments but it doesn’t hurt to have a portable heater on hand, either.

Competition is a factor, too. Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., is in June. The Twin Cities Marathon is in October. Would Fargo get squeezed with an August event? Then again, a Fargo half-marathon would be ideal timing for a Twin Cities marathon. And being two months different from Grandma’s, instead one, makes it much more possible to run both in the same year.

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There is also this question if you’re a Fargo regular: Would you rather do your hard training in February-April or May-July?

I took a straw poll of myself for an August race. Feet 2, Mind 0. The feet won, hands down.

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